TODAY   |  February 09, 2012

Woman reveals ‘dark side’ of JFK affair  

Mimi Alford, the former White House intern who says she had an affair with President John F. Kennedy, tells TODAY’s Ann Curry that at the time, she never felt guilty knowing that the president was a married man.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 8:09 with the woman who claims she had an affair with president john f. kennedy during her time as a white house intern. we'll talk to mimi alford exclusively in just a moment. but first, her story. for mimi alford , then mimi beardsley, it was a secret that started in the summer of 1962 rks when the 19-year-old debutante from a prominent new jersey family began what she says was an 18-month affair with president john f. kennedy . her secret was first revealed in 2003 , when historian, robert dallek wrote in his biography of jfk ha a tall, slender, beautiful white house intern was rumored to be among the president's many paramours. at the time, mimi wasn't offering details. she released a short statement confirming the affair, and then disappeared. now in a tell-all book, "once upon a secret," she reveals explicit details about her alleged affair with jfk, which include close encounters in this white house swimming pool , losing her virginity to the president in jackie kennedy 's bedroom. sleep-overs at the white house and trips with the 35th president. mimi alford , good morning to you. and welcome. thanks for being here.

>> thanks for having me.

>> watching the interviews that meredith vieira did with you last night. you watched it as well --

>> i did.

>> i was struck by how you are still sad after 50 years. by all that's happened. what makes you most sad?

>> what really makes me most sad is not having been able to talk. not having been able to talk about what i was part of, what had happened to me. and that's what makes me the saddest.

>> you write --

>> and also that you know, going back and from hindsight, looking back as that relationship i had with president kennedy was, was so imbalanced. though there were lots of positive things about it for me. it was also imbalanced. so it wasn't, it didn't help me learn how to have a real relationship with a man.

>> so you're sad in part for that 19-year-old, happy, joyful, fun-to-be around girl, who suddenly lost her innocence?

>> yes. but she also had fun. i also had fun. so i'm sad for that, that she -- but i had a good time. i was there.

>> you write that for years afterwards, you were quote emotionally crippled. and you were struggling to overcome the consequences of that relationship. do you think we would ever be sitting here if you had not been outed in 2003 ?

>> i can't say for sure. but i don't think so. because so many things would have been different in my life, and what's given me the confidence to tell my story and to talk about my story now, is that i have a life and a relationship that has given me space to be myself. all of me. and i think that that's, that's what changed.

>> and so you tell the story now of this intern who on her fourth day as an intern at the white house , was invited to join the president, essentially, in a swimming pool . and then later on, being led then to private quarters, and then, invited by the president on a tour to mrs. kennedy 's bedroom. what happened in that bedroom, mimi ?

>> well the president had invited me to take a tour of the white house . of the upstairs of the white house . and i followed along behind him. and as i say in my book, really feeling as if i was being pulled by a magnet. and in the last room that we went into, was the bedroom. i learned that it was mrs. kennedy 's bedroom. and the president came very close to me and put his hands on my shoulders. and guided me down to the edge of the bed. and i lost my virginity right there. i feel that i was, it wasn't something that i had planned. and certainly not something that i was expecting to have happen. on the other hand, i think i allowed it to happen.

>> you didn't say no?

>> i didn't say no.

>> but at 19 years old, as you were in this situation, that you didn't expect, what did you think was happening to you?

>> i'm not sure i knew what was going to happen. and i think i was taken by surprise. and i think that i felt -- if i can recall my feelings from that moment, it would have been that it was almost what i was supposed to be doing. it's very odd to feel that way. but it was, i didn't, i didn't say no. and i didn't, i didn't feel like i was really being forced.

>> but you were definitely in a state of shock afterward?

>> i think i must have been, yes.

>> were you in a state of shock , do you think, during?

>> no. i don't think so.

>> you didn't tell your parents. you went home.

>> yes.

>> you didn't want to be around anyone. you took a shower.

>> well i went home, no the to my parents' home, but to where i was living in georgetown. and my roommate there, she wasn't home. and i did, i took a shower and i just tried to put my mind around what had happened. and i really, i didn't call my parents.

>> why not? why didn't you call your parents and tell them what had happened?

>> i don't know. i think it was an era when we really, when i didn't really have that kind of a relationship with my parents, that i would have told them. and that makes me sad, and i regret that today. i regret that my parents don't know. maybe not even at that moment, if i hadn't told them. but later on, because they would have known more about me.

>> but did you feel that they would have comforted you? do you think that would have understood? or do you think when you talk about this being that era, are you thinking that they would have condemned you?

>> i think at the time, i didn't think that. i just thought, this has happened. and i was just trying to understand it myself. so i didn't reach out to them.

>> after that, you were invited to another swim.

>> yes.

>> and there was a pivotal, you call it a pivotal moment.

>> uh-huh.

>> because you were pretty shocked as you write about it in the book, but you said yes.

>> i know.

>> why did you say yes?

>> well, you have to understand what it was like to be in the white house at that time. and this is president kennedy . and this was, i was being included in a small group of people that knew him. it was very, it was almost like being swept away.

>> but at the same time, you say you always called him mr. president. you didn't call him jack.

>> always mr. president.

>> there was always a separation. he was an older man, you were 19.

>> right.

>> you didn't have conversations about world events.

>> no.

>> he never kissed you?

>> that is right. the relationship was very imbalanced. i was 19, he was 45. but i accepted that imbalance. because i think i felt very special from having been included.

>> do you believe that if your story is true, do you believe that president john f. kennedy abused his power in having a relationship with a 19-year-old intern?

>> you know, as i've said before, he was extremely powerful. he was very alluring. he was very, he made you feel, made me feel as if i was the only person in his presence. and if that's an abuse of power, yes. but i didn't ever feel abused.

>> did you feel that you were in some ways being abusive, in the sense that he was married? did you think about mrs. kennedy ?

>> no.

>> were you aware, i'm having an affair with the president of the united states , who is married?

>> i hate to admit today, that i didn't feel guilty. but i was 19 years old. and i was very young. and i was being included in something so glamorous and special, that i didn't feel guilty. and today, i regret that.

>> do you feel guilty today?

>> i feel guilty about not having felt guilty about mrs. kennedy , yes.

>> what's also surprising is that at some point, you started to spend the night at, and you would actually walk past some of the president's i guess secret service agents on the way back downstairs to go back to work where you were an intern. how many people knew about this mimi ?

>> i don't know how many people knew. but certainly secret service that were there at the elevator on the second floor would have known. the thing that's so amazing to me is that those, that all felt very natural. and that's what's so interesting to me. looking back. i didn't feel like i was really hiding. i felt like it was natural.

>> so if what you're saying is true, it begs the question -- how was the president able to live in this kind of way? with a wife and children being present, being the united states and having as you put it, a relationship with a 19-year-old? there's something that mrs. kennedy said in some oral history just a few months after her husband's death. that it's interesting to listen to as we talk about this. let's take a listen to what she had to say.

>> he really kept his life in compartments, and the wonderful thing is that everyone in every one of those compartments was ready to die for him.

>> you wrote that the president's compartmentalizing allowed him to effectively segregate people in all areas of his life.

>> right. well that's how i felt and i also had read that. i hadn't heard mrs. kennedy 's tapes. but i had read that in ted sorenson 's book. a lot of people felt he compartmentalized. was good at that. and i think that's exactly what he did.

>> an example of that would be what you write about the president, as he was dealing with the cuban missile crisis , having you upstairs, in his bedroom.

>> yeah.

>> while he was negotiating a standoff with khrushchev. describe that time?

>> it's really ludicrous that i was there. i realized that today. but i wanted to be there. and obviously the president wanted me there, too. and i was there.

>> you also write about some very tough stuff that meredith also asked you about last night. let me ask you about, you say in the book, that the president encouraged you to try a drug at a party at bing crosby 's house. that the president emotionally abused you by suggesting that you sexually service another person, and that at one point you thought you were pregnant and you called the president. and what was his reaction?

>> it was to get help for me, to take care of that. but you know my, i included these dark, this dark side and these dark memories i have of the president in my book. because first, i had them in. then i would take them out, and then i would put them back in and take them out. and i really felt that i needed to do that. i needed to include them, because my book is about being honest. and i -- if i had kept all of that out, it would have been just another layer of a secret, really.

>> at the same time, mimi , you know that all the principles who principals are not around to defend themselves. what do you say to people who say look, you're profiting off a story. you're making money.

>> i know.

>> off of this. what do you say to that?

>> i wrote this book because of the secret that i held. and that was the focus of my book. there's no way i could have separated the kennedy 's name from the book. because that's part of the story. and that's how i feel. people will have their judgments. and they're entitled to them.

>> what about caroline, who is still alive? she's going to have to deal at some point with the fact of this. did you think about, as you talk about, unburdening yourself? the idea that you burdened other people with this?

>> well i don't intentionally burden someone else. i'm telling my story. and that is what i needed to do.

>> any push-back from the kennedy family ? yes or no?

>> no.