(AFP) -- Hours of newly released interviews made with Jackie Kennedy soon after JFK‘s assassination show both the tenderness of the most iconic of US first ladies -- and her acid side.
The unprecedented trove of interviews recorded by historian Arthur Schlesinger in 1964, four months after John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, was presented in a two-hour special on ABC television Tuesday and published in a book and CDs set Wednesday.
In more than eight hours of interviews, Jackie’s love for her husband shines through and despite candid comments on many topics she never mentions his serial infidelities -- an aspect of the Kennedy White House that the media also deliberately ignored.
He was “the most unselfconscious person I‘ve ever seen,” she says, then aged 34.
She recounts how her deceased husband, who was 12 years her senior, used to teach their daughter Caroline how to swim, and how he would read books in the bath, at the table, and even while dressing. The president, she says, liked to take his naps in pajamas.
Self-effacingly, Jackie Kennedy also insists her role was always to serve her husband and never to enter politics herself.
“I get all my opinions from my husband... How could I have any political opinions, you know? His were going to be the best,” she said.
Her marriage, she explained, was “Victorian or Asiatic,” meaning that she did not expect independence. Her role was to create “a climate of affection and comfort and detente when he came home.”
“I think a woman always adapts, and especially if you’re very young when you get married. You know, you really become the kind of wife you can see that your husband wants,” she sad.
But that deliberately humble self-portrait is combined in the tapes with a sassy, provocative bluntness about what she observed from her privileged perch in world affairs.
She spills the beans on her husband‘s apparent disdain for his own vice president, Lyndon Johnson, recalling him saying: “’Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon was president?‘”
She is scathing about a string of revered international figures, calling French leader Charles de Gaulle “full of spite” and the French in general “not very nice” and “all for themselves.”
Indira Gandhi, who was to become Indian prime minister, was a “bitter, kind of pushy, horrible woman.”
And even US civil rights icon Martin Luther King comes in for her acid tongue: he was a “phony.”
In an interview with ABC, Caroline Kennedy said her own children were “absolutely horrified” at Jackie Kennedy’s apparently pre-feminism views on the wife‘s role in marriage.
“Of course time has moved on and it shows you both there are many timeless things in here but it really is a snapshot of a world that we barely recognize,” Caroline Kennedy told ABC.
The book and audio set is titled “Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy.”