This is one of those stories you read and think “No way. Did they really do that?” I’m sad to report to you that yes, the Associated Press really did leave out some highly relevant details in their tweet recognizing the 50th anniversary of the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.
But first, some background on what happened on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts on July 18, 1969:
U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s Oldsmobile sedan veered off a narrow bridge on Chappaquiddick Island, an extension of the resort island of Martha’s Vineyard off Massachusetts, and plunged into a moonlit pond 50 years ago Thursday. His passenger, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned.
Kennedy, 37, survived, but his presidential ambitions did not. The Massachusetts Democrat waited 10 hours to report the accident to police, and the “whys?” dogged him for the rest of his days.
Kennedy was driving after a party when his car flipped into the chilly waters, trapping Kopechne inside. She had been a campaign worker for Kennedy’s brother, Robert, who was assassinated the previous year in Los Angeles during California’s Democratic presidential primary.
Kennedy, who managed to free himself from the submerged vehicle, said he tried in vain to rescue Kopechne. He later described his failure to report the accident to police for 10 hours as “indefensible,” attributing the delay to exhaustion, shock and a concussion.
Kennedy also called his mistress Helga Wagner the morning after the incident instead of his wife Joan.
Kennedy, a Democratic party icon, wouldn’t serve a day of time for Kopechne’s death, instead going on to serve for decades in the U.S. Senate. His timeline of what he says happened that night has been under scrutiny since day one.
With all of that in mind, check out how the AP described what happened:
50 years ago today, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy left a party on Chappaquiddick Island near Martha's Vineyard with Mary Jo Kopechne, 28; some time later, Kennedy's car went off a bridge into the water. Kennedy was able to escape, but Kopechne drowned. pic.twitter.com/X7jCFJcyJw
— AP Images (@AP_Images) July 18, 2019
Oh, okay. So I guess it was the car that did something reprehensible, not Kennedy.
And “Kennedy was able to escape, but Kopechne drowned”? A better way to put it would be to say that “Kennedy was able to escape, but left Kopechne to die.”
Also, as Hot Air‘s Ed Morrissey points out, it was never determined exactly how Kopechne died – because an autopsy was not conducted:
It’s not true that Kopechne “drowned.” The coroner never autopsied the body, itself a curious omission when dealing with an unattended death of a healthy young woman. Eyewitness testimony by the person who recovered her body at the scene, as well as the position of the body, strongly suggests she suffocated after spending a significant amount of time exhausting the oxygen in the air bubble of the submerged car. Heavy covered this in the release of the film Chappaquiddick last year:
Reporting it as a drowning 50 years later is factually deficient, but that’s the least of the sins of this AP headline. Nowhere in this description is the fact that Kennedy was driving the car, and that he was speeding when he went off the bridge. Instead, the car mysteriously “went off a bridge” by itself, or perhaps with Kopechne at the wheel.
This is a more apt description of what happened than the AP‘s version :
"Drunk, Kennedy abandoned Ms. Kopechne to die while he worried about his political career, failing to report the accident for hours."#FixedIt
— Geoff Caldwell (@geoffcaldwell) July 19, 2019
Bonus take from Brit Hume:
“car went off a bridge…” Back in my wire service days, we’d use such vague formulations in initial stories about fatal car crashes when we didn’t know for sure what happened. 50 years later, there’s no doubt what happened at Chappaquiddick. He was driving and left her to drown https://t.co/9wEsTieujd
— Brit Hume (@brithume) July 19, 2019
As of this writing, the AP has not corrected their “report” in any later tweets.
— Based in North Carolina, Sister Toldjah is a former liberal and a 15+ year veteran of blogging with an emphasis on media bias, social issues, and the culture wars. Read her Red State archives here. Connect with her on Twitter. –