The New York Times just ran a gauzy thousand word story on the marriage of Robert Kennedy Jr. and actress Cheryl Hines.
They headlined the piece “No Curbs on Their Enthusiasm,” a play on her hit HBO show called “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” but meant to convey how wonderful it all was, how they met, fell in love and here they are getting married by a Unitarian Universalist minister at fairy tale Hyannis Port. There is even a picture of Kennedy and Hines in a sailboat, gazing lovingly, and clapboard mansions behind them.
The portrait the Times paints is fantasy.
This is not another column bashing the Kennedys. I have done my share of those. Rather, it is about marriage in the modern age and the New York Times.
The reality of this scene starts with the fact that Kennedy and Hines began their affair when both of them were still married. The Times almost lovingly reports that producer Larry David first introduced them at a ski resort in Canada, then a year later at another ski resort and the following year at yet another one. Sometime over this two to three year span, they simply fell in love.
The Times refers to Kennedy as a widower, which indeed he was. His second wife hung herself only two years ago in the family barn after an 18-year marriage filled with infidelity. But she was no innocent either. After all, she began her affair with Kennedy when he was still married to his first wife. In fact, they got married only a month after he divorced his first wife, and she gave birth to their first child three months after that.
Before she hung herself she made public a diary of his from 2001 in which he talked about, among other things, his children, his dislike of Jesse Jackson and 37 sexual affairs with other women. He coded the conquests in his diary with intercourse scored as a ten. There were 16 of those in a twelve-month period.
The Times did not report any of that in their fairy-tale love story. Neither did they report that after she hung herself, the Kennedy apparatus set out to destroy her reputation, calling her a psycho and a drunk who ran over the family dog.
It would be a better world if adultery were still actionable in divorce proceedings. It used to be a determining factor in dividing the property and who got the kids. While it’s still on the books in 21 states, it is never used because we have no-fault divorce.
There used to be a thing called “alienation of affection” where Kennedy’s first wife could have sued the woman who became his second wife for luring him away from her marriage. It might have saved the second wife’s life.
It’s not like Kennedy has no conscience. He does. How do I know? Because in the diaries his second wife made public there is a steady drumbeat of conscience. He hated what he called his “lust demons.”
One day he wrote, “I’ve got to do better.” On another he wrote he had “to avoid the company of women” and didn’t have the “strength to resist their charms.” He had “to be humble like a monk.” Keep his hands to himself. Avert his eyes. This is classic advice any spiritual director would give.
On days he did not philander, he wrote, almost pathetically, “Victory.” Sometimes “victory” is scrawled across many days in a row.
When Kennedy was arrested for protesting the use of Vieques Island in Puerto Rico as target practice, he spent five days in jail and he loved it because he was away from temptations. “I’m content here. There’s no women. I’m happy.”
We can feel a profound sadness for the women in Kennedy’s life, the women he married and the women he bedded, though many of then were no doubt just as predatory as he.
We can feel profound sadness for his children who have had a philandering father and, some of them, a suicidal mother.
We can even feel a profound sadness for this very lost man who does these things and knows better but somehow cannot control the demons that rise up in his soul.
But, the New York Times is wicked. They knew all this. They didn’t have to tell it but they shouldn’t have lied to their readers about this fairy tale that is phony from stem to stern.
No wonder it is so hard for the truth about marriage to be told. No wonder we are losing the battle to save marriage, both in the public square and in the lives of the young.
To the media gatekeepers, none of this is a problem. Cheat on the first wife with your second and your second with your third. Who cares? Not the New York Times.
Odds are the train-wreck that is Robert Kennedy’s third marriage will go down the memory hole of the New York Times and they will lovingly tell the story of his fourth marriage. After all, its already been reported he cheated on Hines with a socialite from Connecticut.
What a terrible mess.
(Photo credit: Patrick McMullan)