In an amusing consideration of the good-JFK and bad-JFK now being revisited by historians and reporters, the Washington Post's Peter Carlson gives us a look at excerpts from the current Playboy (the bad JFK) and from the Atlantic (the good JFK).
But at one point, Carlson refers to Judith Campbell, later Judith Campbell Exner, as "one of his (Frank Sinatra's) favorite call girls." I don't think there is a shred of evidence in the FBI and CIA files, or among the records of the Congressional committees, to indicate that Judith was ever "a call girl." (The latter is a prostitute whom you call to come for service, and you pay her.)
I knew Judith Campbell Exner very well. She was a nice Catholic girl from a good L.A. family who, unfortunately, liked to party not wisely but too well. She admitted that she had an affair with Sinatra, which continued until he asked her to sleep with him and another woman. Then she backed out of being intimate, but they remained friends. In Las Vegas, while JFK was running for president, she met him through Sinatra. At this time, Judith resembled a voluptuous Elizabeth Taylor.
She and JFK had a long love affair in which she was ardently pursued by the about-to-be president and even after he moved into the White House. He persuaded her that he and Jackie were headed for divorce. There are hundreds of calls to Judith registered in the White House phone logs. JFK then used her as a messenger between himself and mob king Sam Giancana of Chicago. He felt she was one of the few people he could trust. But I feel positive that she never received a dime for sexual favors; she wasn't the type. (When I talked the late Malcolm Forbes into buying for his historical collection the only two gifts Judith ever received from JFK -- a small brooch and a copy of "Profiles in Courage" -- Judith first agreed to sell the items, then gave Forbes the money back. She was too sentimental to sell them.)
Yet one of the best newspapers in America fearlessly repeats the description of her as "a call girl" and the major newsmagazines and the New York Times continue to refer to her as a "gangster's moll." It's incredible. This poor, much-pilloried soul, who loved the wrong kind of men, once said to me, "I was 25 years old and in love -- was I supposed to have more judgment than the president of the United States?"
It's OK to look down on Judith's morals. But she wasn't a professional. She was never a call girl or a prostitute or a hooker or any of those terms. After her affair with JFK was revealed (not by Judith), and she was called to testify before Congress, Judith feared for her life. She remarked that many people involved with JFK had died violently or mysteriously (JFK himself, Bobby Kennedy, Johnny Roselli, Giancana, Mary Myers -- a woman killed on the Potomac towpath after having an affair with JFK -- and Marilyn Monroe.) Judith began sleeping with a gun under her pillow, while the FBI continued to hound her until her death from cancer in 1999.
I don't know if reporter Carlson has ever had an adulterous, stupid, immoral, inconvenient or ill-advised affair. But if he has, how would he like to be described for history as "a hustler" or "a call boy"? That's what he just printed with impunity about Judith Campbell Exner. And he doesn't need to feel too bad -- his cohorts at other major publications continue to jerk their knees and do the same without research or without listening to the facts.