In newly released audio tapes from John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy appears funny and inquisitive, canny and cutting.
Kennedy was in her mid-30s when she gave the recorded interview with White House aide Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. less than a year after her husband was assassinated.
In a breathy voice, she criticizes several prominent people, including French President Charles de Gaulle, Indira Gandhi, the future prime minister of India, and even Martin Luther King.
She was not kind to Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker either.
Looking back at a state visit to Canada in February 1961, a month after Kennedy’s inauguration, Jackie says she was bored senseless listening to the 65-year-old Ontario native.
“He insisted on telling all these Churchill stories … and calling him old Winston or the old boy or something,” she says. “You know, it was just painful.”
She and her husband were of the same mind on that point.
After a meeting with Diefenbaker in Washington, President Kennedy described the prime minister as a “boring son of a bitch,” according to Denis Smith, who wrote the book, Rogue Tory: The Life and Legend of John Diefenbaker.
Later, the young president infuriated his Canadian counterpart by mispronouncing his last name – twice.
Kennedy pushed Diefenbaker to allow U.S. nuclear weapons on Canadian soil, but the prime minister refused.
A book containing the transcripts of the newly released audio recordings is coming out this week to mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s first year in the White House.