Why the Press ‘Terrified’ Carolyn Bessette Kennedy

John F. Kennedy Jr. (JFK Jr.) and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy were one of the most talked about couples of the 1990s much to their chagrin. JFK Jr. grew up in the spotlight and therefore became accustomed to photographers following him but his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, felt uncomfortable with the onslaught of media attention. Learn why the press “terrified” her ahead.

Why Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and JFK Jr. thought their marriage ‘would not be that interesting’ to the press

The high-profile couple got married in a secret ceremony on an island off the coast of Georgia in 1996. They were so adamant about keeping the press away from their wedding, they had island residents involved with their nuptials sign non-disclosure agreements and married under the cover of darkness in case helicopters were lurking nearby.

John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy.
John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife Carolyn Bessette Kennedy arrive at the annual John F. Kennedy Library Foundation dinner and Profiles in Courage awards in honor of the former president’s 82nd birthday, May 23, 1999, at the Kennedy Library in Boston, MA. | Justin Ide/Newsmakers

After Bessette and JFK Jr. got married in 1996, they believed their lives would no longer be of interest to the press.

“They thought that people were going to be interested in the wedding, and if they could pull off the wedding being private, their marriage would not be that interesting,” a college friend of Bessette’s told Town & Country. “She’s off the market; business is done; they’re going to be private citizens.”

However, their private wedding only seemed to make the press even more curious.  

Carolyn Bessette Kennedy on the press: ‘I’m terrified of them’

JFK Jr.’s friend, John Perry Barlow once explained that Bessette Kennedy felt trapped as a result of the press. She “felt cornered” by photographers who were camped outside the apartment she shared with her husband, waiting to capture photographs of their coming and goings.

Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and JFK Jr. attend the 1998 Fire and Ice Ball. | YouTube

Barlow told People that the woman people read about in the news wasn’t the real Bessette Kennedy.

“If someone was going to steal our prince, the press and the public wanted her to be some kind of unblemished princess,” Barlow said. “She was her own self. The woman everyone has read about it not at all as she was in real life.”

Bessette Kennedy confided in Jackie Kennedy’s personal assistant about press

Jackie Kennedy’s personal assistant, Kathy McKeon, recalled in her book, Jackie’s Girl: My Life with the Kennedy Family, a conversation she had with Bessette in which she revealed her fear of the paparazzi.

John F. Kennedy and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy
John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy attend the “Brite Nite Whitney” Fundraising Gala March 9, 1999, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. | Arnaldo Magnani/Getty Images

“She couldn’t take it,” McKeon wrote in her book. “She wasn’t brought up with it. John was, Carolyn wasn’t.” She remembered Bessette’s exact words: “She said, ‘I’m terrified of them.'”

JFK Jr. and Bessette Kennedy used drugs to cope with the stress associated with press attention

In his book, The Kennedy Heirs, J. Randy Taraborrelli quoted an anonymous friend of JFK Jr.’s, who recalled a time he went to the couple’s apartment where he found them doing cocaine.

“He [the friend] walked in just in time to see Carolyn doing a line of coke from the coffee table,” Taraborrelli wrote in his book. “‘It’s been a bad week,’ John told [the friend] as he sat down and did a line.”The friend then described that JFK Jr. and Bessette Kennedy held each other. “They looked peaceful together,” they said.