Chappaquiddick: The Forgotten True Story


Monday, April 16, 2018

“If the [Kopechne’s] don’t blame you, why should America?”

On April 6, 2018, director John Curran debuted the anticipated film, Chappaquiddick, documenting the tragic accident on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts, when former Senator Ted Kennedy crashed his Oldsmobile into a nearby river, resulting in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne. Kopechne was the former political strategist of the Robert Kennedy campaign. The following investigation and another Kennedy tragedy became a national scandal that was largely overshadowed by the moon landing. The story, forgotten by many generations, was brought to life this past weekend.

I recently had the opportunity to witness this historical film. Overall, the film was very objective, kept me interested, and presented the truth. Fifty years in the waiting, Curran presents a moving screenplay combined with intense drama. The story lost in the headlines of the moon landing, brought back for brand new audiences.




The movies opens, reminding the audience of the Kennedys’ political dynasty with radio excerpts of their assassinations and the grief following America. An underlying theme of the movie is the alleged ‘curse’ on the Kennedy family and that tragedy follows them wherever the go.

The very beginning of the movie tells the story completely. Ted Kennedy just finished an interview discussing the legacy of his brother, John F. Kennedy. The film proceeds through the events leading up to the accident, introducing Kopechne. Kopechne was struggling with the decision to go back to Washington after Robert’s death. However, Ted offered her a job on his presidential campaign. Later at a cabin on Chappaquiddick Island, Kennedy and Kopechne drove off, drunk and not focused, and Kennedy drove off into the shallow river.

The very epitome of the scandal unfolds. Kennedy finds himself able to escape, but doesn’t recall how. The rest of the scene is hidden, and Curran decides to cut the scene short, making the point that the story of what really happened seems to change repeatedly. Towards the end of the movie, the crash scene is completed and the truth comes out.

I’m not going to lay out the movie detail for detail, but I will tell you what I thought was important and what the audience can take from the movie.

First, Ted Kennedy repeatedly tried to make himself the victim. Congruent with modern leftist theory, you’re the victim no matter what. Kennedy was falsely diagnosed with a concussion, wore a neck brace (for no reason) to Kopechne’s funeral, and often reminded others why the accident was not his fault. Even his senior advisor tried to make it clear that he was not the victim.

Second, in order to avoid the scandal being blown out of proportion, the blame needed to be shifted. Heaven forbid it be Kennedy’s fault. A scapegoat was needed. Ultimately, he told the truth in his televised confession, but he still omitted details that would prove him guilty, like that he was under the influence during the accident and the dinner party never happened. However, he shifted the blame on others throughout the scandal. It was his advisor’s fault that he didn’t stop the press release; it was the undertaker’s fault for not signing the death certificate; it was never his fault.

Third, Kennedy had to win back the confidence and trust of the American people. Using victimhood as his ally, he need to convince the American public that he made a mistake but he was learning to move on and leave the accident in his past. Even though I vehemently disagree with his victimhood status, he was able to overwhelmingly convince Massachusetts to re-elect him as Senator. Though his presidential campaign of 1980 failed, he ultimately became the fourth longest-serving senator in the United States.

Finally, Ted Kennedy was able to successfully avoid the charge of manslaughter. Kennedy was only sentenced on the charge of ‘fleeing the scene.’

Chappaquiddick is an interesting story because there is plenty to learn from the accident. From an objective, facts first point of view, Curran does a good job telling the story as is, with no spin and no political agenda. The truth is presented and the audience can form their own opinion with the given information. Void of humor (a few scenes had some dry humor that you would only get if you were historically proficient), Curran recounts the story with calm intensity. Basically, the director presented to us the ultimate ethical dilemma.

Chappaquiddick teaches us that we should expect integrity from our elected officials, that they should be held accountable for their actions just like the people. It also shows the amount of cover up that happens behind the scenes, the real life ‘swamp.’ Corruption isn’t new and it isn’t going away any time soon.

Ted Kennedy was not a martyr. He was not innocent. And he was definitely not a victim.

Chappaquiddick recounts the lost story of Kopechne’s death for a new generation weary of political domination. It teaches us that corruption is no further away than the steps of your own state capitol, and that victimhood isn’t new. It’s an idea the left has used for decades, even for personal gain.

Kennedy should’ve resigned. His senior advisor was right. But if the Kopechne’s didn’t blame him, why should America? Now the reasons are transparent.

Clay Robinson is an Economics student at Arizona State University. You can catch him tweeting, watching Parks and Recreation, or ordering an iced caramel macchiato.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Clay Robinson

Arizona State University

Clay Robinson is an Economics student at Arizona State University. You can catch him tweeting, watching Parks and Recreation, or ordering an iced caramel macchiato.

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