June 5 is the 40th anniversary of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination, a fact that has received considerable media coverage. With the comparison of Obama to JFK and Bobby, and Ted Kennedy’s cancer diagnosis, journalists are eager to look back, through rose-colored glasses, with great affection at the Kennedys. Even before Hillary’s unfortunate remark about the event’s timing, the attention included cover stories in Vanity Fair and New York.
But about four years ago a friend of mine, a Fleet Street journalist named Peter Evans, took a more critical approach. He wrote a book called Nemesis, in which he made the shocking claim that the Greek shipping tycoon Aristotle Onassis, who later in 1968 married JFK’s widow, was behind RFK’s assassination.
Although the book got some attention — an author interview on The Today Show, etc. — it never garnered as much interest as one might expect for such a sensational story.
Nemesis’s theory will get new attention this fall. A play called Aristo, based in part on the book, opens at the Chichester Theater Festival. Michael Sherman, best known for his London and Broadway hit Bent, wrote the play, which will star Robert Lindsay as Onassis and Elizabeth McGovern as Jackie. After that, there are plans for a movie.
Evans spent years working on the book, piecing together and substantiating his theory. Earlier he had written, with considerable input from Onassis, a well-received biography of “the Golden Greek.” He had also become friends with several members of Ari’s entourage, including his daughter, Christina. After the biography’s publication, they implied that Evans had missed the biggest story of all.
According to Evans, Onassis believed that Kennedy had once scuttled a major, highly profitable deal between him and the Saudis — he would have built a fleet of oil tankers for them, which would have cut out the American oil companies. Even more enraging was that Kennedy was preventing Onassis’s marriage to Jackie.
Onassis and Jackie may have been lovers even before JFK’s assassination. Although they had vastly different interests and tastes, Jackie craved the security of Ari’s millions. But Bobby Kennedy had launched a campaign to win the Democratic nomination, and he did not want America’s most beloved widow to marry a short, swarthy foreigner with a shady reputation.
He knew how the public would react. He made Jackie promise that she would not wed Onassis until after the November election.
Evans believes that Onassis, always sympathetic to the Palestinians, enlisted a rogue Fatah agent to engineer the plot. Sirhan Sirhan, he thinks, was a “Manchurian Candidate” brainwashed with the help of Onassis’s free-flowing cash to be the shooter. Though he tried many times, Evans was never able to interview Sirhan, and does not know if Sirhan was aware of who might have been the true instigator of the assassination.
Evans told me that the book still sells, and that he gets more mail about it now than he did when it first came out. Of course there are other conspiracy theories about Bobby’s assassination, including one involving the CIA and the LAPD.
“The mail I receive is 75 percent to 25 percent in my favor,” he says. “People say I have made a strong and convincing case that it was Onassis who was behind it.”
“We may never know for sure,” he acknowledges. “But I believe I am right.”
– Myrna Blyth, long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness – and Liberalism – to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.