First Truth, Now Chappaquiddick

Some time ago–several decades, actually–a group of us at my law firm formed a Chappaquiddick Book Club. We read three or four books on the fatal car accident that should have ended Ted Kennedy’s public career. The facts are much worse than most people realize: Kennedy presumably was drunk, but that is the least of it. After his car plunged into Poucha Pond, Kennedy saved himself but left Mary Jo Kopechne to die. In all likelihood, she could have been saved if Kennedy had simply knocked on the door of the nearest house with a light on, only yards away, and called the Edgartown rescue squad. That is what the head of the rescue squad said after he discovered Kopechne’s body inside the car, where she had wedged herself into an air pocket and probably survived for several hours, expecting help that never came.

Kennedy made no effort to save his companion. Instead, he made the long walk back to the house where he and others had been partying. He summoned his cousin Joe Gargan and tried to persuade Gargan to say that he had been driving the car. Gargan sensibly refused, but insisted that they go back to the pond and try to rescue Kopechne. Kennedy sat on the bank and watched while Gargan tried to dive down to the submerged car, unsuccessfully. Kennedy never did call the authorities, but instead returned to his hotel and attempted to set up an alibi with the night clerk.

It is a sordid story, and it soon will become a Hollywood movie. I couldn’t believe it when I learned that Rathergate was to be made into a film called TruthLies would have been a better title–and it seems equally far-fetched that anyone would want to make or invest in a film about Chappaquiddick. But apparently it is going to happen. Hollywood Reporter has the story:

Sam Taylor-Johnson, who directed Fifty Shades of Grey, is in talks to direct Apex Entertainment’s feature Chappaquiddick.

Mark Ciardi is producing the project, with its script just named to the 2015 Blacklist. Campbell McInnes of Apex Entertainment and Chris Cowles of DMG Entertainment are also producing.

“I’ve done a lot of true life stories, many sports stories, but this one had a deep impact on this country,” said Ciardi. “Everyone has an idea of what happened on Chappaquiddick…

Actually, the facts are clear. “Everyone has an idea” only because the truth has mostly been suppressed by the liberal press.

…and this strings together the events in a compelling and emotional way.

Not, you will note, in a true way. Instead, in a “compelling and emotional way.”

You’ll see what he had to go through.”

What he had to go through? Are these people crazy?

Written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan, Chappaquiddick is political thriller that unveils the true story of what is described as the seven most dramatic days of Senator Ted Kennedy’s life.

True story? We’ll see. I don’t doubt that these were the seven most dramatic days of Ted’s life–only political corruption spared him from a jail term–but more significantly, it was the last day of Mary Jo Kopechne’s life.

On the eve of the moon landing, Senator Kennedy becomes entangled in a tragic car accident that results in the death of former Robert Kennedy campaign worker Mary Jo Kopechne. The Senator struggles to follow his own moral compass and simultaneously protect his family’s legacy, all while simply trying to keep his own political ambitions alive.

[UPDATE: I meant to note the passive voice–Kennedy “becomes entangled in a tragic car accident…” Kennedy didn’t “become entangled,” he was the driver and singlehandedly caused the accident that killed Miss Kopechne. There was no “entanglement,” there was only Kennedy’s incompetence, cowardice and callous disregard for his passenger’s life.]

Kennedy’s own “moral compass” was so inadequate that he left Kopechne to die, tried to persuade his cousin to take the rap, and attempted to create an alibi by repeatedly leaving his hotel room and commenting pointedly on the time to his hotel’s night clerk. Then he attended Kopechne’s funeral wearing a neck brace to fool the public into thinking that he had been injured in the accident. Great moral compass!

I suppose you could make an interesting movie about Chappaquiddick. It would be the story of a rich man’s privileged life, one where the death of a “little person” counts for nothing compared with his political ambitions. It would be the story of a political machine whose brain trust didn’t even include Ted–considered by them to be an idiot–in the meeting where they planned a strategy to deal with his vehicular homicide. It would be a story of political corruption and of a debased electorate whose weird devotion to the Kennedys prevented Ted from paying even a minimal price for his fatal cowardice.

That might be an interesting film, but it isn’t the one that Hollywood is going to foist on the movie-going public.