John F. Kennedy Jr.'s Close Friends Speak Out About the Emotional Impact of QAnon Lies
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When QAnon followers began to fixate on John F. Kennedy Jr. about five years ago, his friends slowly and then suddenly took notice. Twitter news, the first mainstream articles about the group, and strange texts alerted them to something that years earlier seemed too bizarre to be true: right-wing extremists were claiming John, the late Kennedy, as their own. In November, hundreds gathered at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the site where President Kennedy was assassinated, believing that John Jr., who died in 1999, would appear and eventually serve as Donald Trump's running mate in 2024. Many of them had been there for weeks. They left empty-handed.
Coverage of QAnon supporters largely focuses on either the voting power the group might have or the ridiculousness of their claims, like the idea that a powerful cohort of child sex traffickers controls politics and the media. What seems lost is the cruelty that lies wreak on a human level. How grotesque it is to imagine the reappearance of a tragically lost brother, cousin and friend and set it at the scene of his father's murder.
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Brian Williams has spoken out vehemently against the conspiracies in the final days of his MSNBC show 11th Hour. "The Kennedy and Bessette families deserve our respect and grief after their devastating loss," Williams said on air in November 2021. "They don't deserve the circus of lost souls that is now besmirching the sacred place in American presidential history." He is one of the few journalists who has acknowledged how painful the rhetoric for the survivors of John, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and Lauren was must be bessette.
“What happened in Dallas was a tragic cult circus. The stories of individuals who spent their savings and left their families to "belong" in a group of like-minded people were sad enough. For them to flock to Dallas to see John Jr. return - so he could be Trump's running mate in 2024 - is beyond pathetic," he told Town & Country. "I couldn't help but take it as a personal story. The Bessette family lost two daughters, Carolyn and Lauren. Lauren left a twin sister, Lisa. Who speaks for you? Who among the deeply troubled Dallas masses — fueled by resentment or emptiness, to let a ridiculous imagination run wild — would want to trade places with a family that has buried two children? The Kennedys, so often referred to as "American Royalty," have paid an amazing price for their place in our nation's aristocracy."
Williams' words inspired the only public response to QAnon from a member of the Kennedy family, with Maria Shriver, a cousin of John, tweeting, "Well said Brian Williams. He's right, you never get over those losses. I know many others are struggling with theirs too. Go into the day in a friendly way.”
Behind the scenes, those close to John have struggled with how to respond to the painful lies. Speaking out seems unwise, if not downright dangerous. Some have already faced online harassment. "I don't want a bunch of crazy people coming after me. I've had this experience before. It's not fun," a friend tells me, explaining why they don't feel comfortable making a record. “On the one hand, I find it totally funny. On the other hand, there were very few people who had as much respect for the political process as John. For me, in my heart of hearts, I believe that if John had lived, he probably would have become president himself one day.”
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