Michael Blanding | July 30, 2019
It was the summer of ’69, and Matt Storin was waiting anxiously in the U.S. Capitol press gallery for the Senate’s return from its August recess. A month before, Massachusetts’ junior senator, Ted Kennedy, had driven off a bridge on the island of Chappaquiddick and plunged into a pond. Kennedy had swum free of the vehicle and left the scene of the accident, but his 28-year-old passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, was trapped inside the car and drowned.
Since the accident, Kennedy had been holed up silent in his family’s Hyannis Port compound, while rumors festered about whether he’d been drunk and why he had waited until the next morning to report the accident. As The Boston Globe’s Washington correspondent, Storin ’64 was determined to get the first interview.
“I know Teddy’s coming back, and he’s got to talk to somebody someday,” Storin says now, recounting the story over lunch at a seaside restaurant near his home in Camden, Maine. “I’m going to make sure it’s me.” Finally Storin spotted Kennedy on the floor of the Senate, wearing a dark, pinstriped suit and looking terrible. “Can you get Senator Kennedy off the floor?” he asked a page.
In those days of limited media outlets, senators were beholden to their hometown newspapers for coverage, and even a Kennedy knew where his bread was buttered. Kennedy came up, and he and Storin made small talk for a few minutes. Finally, Storin asked the question he’d been preparing — how the senator and presidential hopeful felt about Kopechne’s death. “I can live with myself. I feel the tragedy of the girl’s death,” Kennedy said. “But what I don’t have to live with are the whispers and innuendoes and falsehoods. Because those have no basis in fact.”
Read more here.