An Unfaithful Husband
Finances were hardly all that separated Jackie and her husband. His philandering continued after they were married and even when he became president. Jackie most certainly knew about his affairs. On one occasion, when she found a woman's panties in her pillowcase, she asked Jack to find out who they belonged to since they were not her size. For the most part, while Kennedy put little effort into hiding his philandering from Jackie, he was also unconcerned about media exposure. While the mainstream press resisted the temptation to publish information about his philandering, other less reputable media outlets were not so reserved. Nevertheless, Kennedy was rarely concerned that these stories would receive serious attention.
J. Edgar Hoover's Surveillance
There was at least one person who was paying attention to Kennedy's sexual life. FBI director J. Edgar Hoover was keeping close tabs on the president and had a steady stream of information coming in about his affairs. It was common for Hoover to send Bobby the latest information he had uncovered. It wasn't purely for Bobby's sake that Hoover sent this information. In fact, Hoover had his own personal interest in mind — the preservation of his power.
One such liaison that Hoover learned about was Kennedy's relationship with Judith Campbell, later Exner. Kennedy was introduced to Campbell by Frank Sinatra during his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination. At the same time, Sinatra also introduced Campbell to mobster Sam Giancana, and they too began an affair. In 1961, Hoover learned of Kennedy and Campbell's affair from wiretaps placed on Mafia leader John Roselli's phone. The FBI learned that Campbell frequently called the White House and spoke with Kennedy's personal secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, who was charged with making the arrangements for her visits. With this information, Hoover went to Bobby and informed him that his brother was engaged in a relationship with a woman who was involved with mobsters. In March 1962, Kennedy broke off relations with Campbell and in May, upon Bobby's advice, he severed all ties with Sinatra.
Kennedy's affair with Judith Campbell Exner remained a secret until members of the Republican Party leaked the information to the press in 1975. In 1977, Campbell published the book Judith Exner: My Story, which was an account of her relationships with Kennedy and Sam Giancana.
Hoover also knew of another of Kennedy's affairs. This time it was with Ellen Rometsch, a twenty-seven-year-old German-born call girl. Bobby Baker, the Senate secretary to the Democrats, was responsible for their introduction. Although it was a short-term fling, Rometsch became a frequent visitor to the White House for naked pool parties during the spring and summer of 1963. On July 3, Hoover informed Bobby that Rometsch might be a spy. On August 21, Bobby had her deported back to West Germany.
This, however, failed to put an end to the matter. One month later, Bobby Baker, who frequently paired call girls with senators, came under the scrutiny of the Senate Rules Committee, which was investigating whether he was involved in unethical financial transactions. Rather then face scrutiny from his colleagues, Baker resigned on October 7. In the meantime, Bobby Kennedy came to an agreement with Baker for his silence about Rometsch. Nevertheless, on October 26 the Des Moines Register reported the story about Rometsch and “some prominent New Frontiersmen from the executive branch of Government.”
“The President came in all excited about the news reports concerning the German woman and other prostitutes getting mixed up with government officials, Congressmen, etc. He called Mike Mansfield to come to the office to discuss the playing down of this news report.”
— Evelyn Lincoln, as quoted in An Unfinished Life
In response, Bobby quietly arranged for a meeting between Hoover and Senate leaders Mike Mansfield and Everett Dirksen on October 28. Bobby wanted to make sure that the Senate refrained from investigating the Romestch matter. At the meeting, Hoover reported that there was no evidence to suggest that Rometsch was a German spy. Further, he noted that the FBI investigation had turned up interesting evidence that Baker had provided call girls to numerous senators, and he had the list of names to prove it. The meeting had the desired result. When the investigation into Baker's activities continued, Rometsch was never brought up.
Although Kennedy escaped the revelation of his tainted private life on this occasion, many details would come out after his death. In November 1975, a Senate subcommittee, which was charged with investigating the CIA's assassination plots, uncovered the details of Kennedy's affair with Campbell. Although it comprised just a small footnote, which was buried deep into the report, it was nevertheless exposed. In addition to the affair with Campbell, it was revealed that during Kennedy's administration, the CIA had given the go ahead for Sam Giancana, Campbell's other sexual liaison, to carry out a plot to kill Castro. These two revelations of sex and mobster dealings tainted Kennedy's reputation.
The Other Women
Kennedy also had an affair with Jackie's press secretary Pamela Turnure. Turnure was a twenty-three-year-old who received the job upon Kennedy's urging. She was inexperienced, having never worked in a press position, but Kennedy urged Jackie to hire her. Jackie did as he wished, and he continued on with his three-year relationship with Turnure.
At the same time, Kennedy was having an affair with reporter Ben Bradlee's sister-in-law, Mary Pinchot Meyer. It began in early 1962 after Kennedy propositioned her at a White House reception in December 1961. Meyer was from a political family and Kennedy found solace in their relationship because of her understanding of his political trials. From 1962 to 1963, she visited the White House at least thirty times. The affair was exposed in 1976. Kennedy also had affairs with the White House secretaries he called “Fiddle” and “Faddle,” and with numerous other women.
Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe
Kennedy's alleged sexual relationship with actress Marilyn Monroe has received the most interest in recent years. Evidence that they had an affair is inconclusive, but Kennedy did seek to squash rumors that he had a sexual relationship with Monroe. The rumors began when Monroe, wearing a well-fitted rhinestone gown, sang a suggestive rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Kennedy at Madison Square Garden in May 1962. This was one of the only times that Kennedy was concerned with putting a stop to gossip about his womanizing. On his behalf, he sent William Haddad of the Peace Corps to inform editors that the stories were untrue.
It did not help that Monroe was part of the problem when it came to the rumors. She talked to anyone who would listen about her relationship with Kennedy. According to Monroe, she and Kennedy had spent time together at a beach house in Santa Monica and at various hotels. While it is unclear whether theses allegations are true, there is concrete evidence that she did call the White House on numerous occasions.