In the netflix series “The Crown”, S2:E8 shows John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy’s visit to Buckingham Palace. In it, they portray JFK as abusive to his wife, and both him and Jackie getting administered drug cocktails before important dinners or visits. Was this true?

It is my understanding that JFK was not one to resist the urges of infidelity, but was he abusive (verbally and/or physically to his wife), and did they really frequent drug use?


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13 Jan 2018 11:58 - +586
It's well established now that Mr. Kennedy had a, if you will, *boatload* of health problems for which he was heavily medicated and used adaptive technology to counteract. Official health records and Mr. Kennedy's medical staff confirm this, in particular his debilitating back pain. Biographers have even described a power struggle among physicians treating the president over whether more exercise or continued painkiller injections was the better option for treatment. (Spoiler alert: physical therapy). Likewise, Arthur Schlesinger's (relatively) recently released interviews with Mrs. Kennedy affirm that on Inauguration Day, she took Dexadrine between the inauguration ceremony and the evening ball to get through it. So the question is really whether Mr. Kennedy's medical-treatment drug useage extended to "drugs to lift you up for the event and bring you down gently afterwards", and whether Mrs. Kennedy repeated her use of an amphetamine. The difficulty for historians is that the attention here focuses on a shady celebrity doctor named Max Jacobson, who based his treatment program, reputation, and not coincidentally income on a cocktail drug injection based around amphetamines and painkiller. The vast majority of the evidence for Mr. Kennedy's "off track betting" use of drugs comes from Jacobson's unpublished biography; he (of course) destroyed his medical records. (And not just drugs adminstered by Jacobson--he tells one anecdote of Mrs. Kennedy discovering Demerol in their bathroom and her asking *him* to convince her husband not to take it). Furthermore, Jacobson was never on the White House medical staff and does not appear among counts of official entourages for various state visits abroad. Journalist and professor Richard Reeves (*President Kennedy: Profile of Power*) seems to be one of the few writers on the Kennedys who has actually bothered to investigate the possible veracity of Jacobson's claim. Here is the evidence he gathered: * The FBI file for Jacobson asserts that Mr. Kennedy was listed as one of his patients by the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs * Jacobson visited the White House 30+ times from 1961-1962 (in late '62-'63, Mr. Kennedy's official medical staff headed by George Burkley cracked down on his more freewheeling medical treatment preferences, so the timing fits) * For a presidential trip to Vienna, Dr. and Mrs. Jacobson are listed in White House documents as booked into a room in the entourage hotel * A memory from Mrs. Kennedy's social secretary notes Dr. Max Jacobson coming to visit *her*--although I'll note that could easily refer to a discussion about her husband's health rather than her own (see the Demerol story above, for example) The Kennedy presidency was incredibly carefully stage-managed, above all by Mrs. Kennedy herself. (Who was also no slouch in the political arena, recent historiography has begun to reveal.) Sealed records, destroyed records, stigma against people with disabilities, and the eternal popularity of conspiracy theories about/involving/by/against the Kennedys complicate our ability to get a crystal clear picture. However, the evidence suggests that there was a relationship between Jacobson and the Kennedys, and it seems a fair presumption that between Jacobson and Mr. Kennedy at least it was a doctor-patient one. As to domestic violence, I can only say that (20 year rule applied) the historiography on spousal abuse and U.S. presidents/first ladies is *extremely* sparse. Almost unbelievably so. Rumors circulated that Grover Cleveland's "boorish" behavior extended to battery of his wife Frances; she went on public record denying them and affirming that their marriage was basically perfect. Rachel (Mrs. Andrew) Jackson survived an abusive marriage before marrying the future president. I caution that this is referring to physical abuse rather than verbal or emotional. No, I don't think that's the whole story even with the limitations, but scholarship on first ladies is still young and largely hagiographical/biographical. I suspect this is a "stay tuned" topic for the future.
13 Jan 2018 07:10 - +139
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13 Jan 2018 06:25 - +22
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13 Jan 2018 07:53 - +1
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