Ted Kennedy and Chappaquiddick: A new film looks at the accident that ended a political dynasty

One of the great mysteries of 20th century American politics is being resurrected in a new film that takes its title from a byword for political and sexual scandal: Chappaquiddick.

The film, directed by John Curran, tells the story of the death of Mary Jo Kopechne, a young woman who died in Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy’s car after it crashed on a small island off Martha’s Vineyard in the summer of 1969. Those facts are among the few certainties in a decades-long mystery. With Kennedy a favorite at the time for the Democratic nomination for president in 1972, the shadow cast by Chappaquiddick may well have changed the course of American political history.

The conspiracy theories and innuendo dwarf the undisputed facts of the event. What’s known is that Kopechne, who was 28, and Kennedy, 37, were at a party for staffers from Robert F. Kennedy’s 1968 campaign on Chappaquiddick on the night of July 18, 1969. They were at a cottage on the island and at some point in the evening Kopechne (portrayed by Kate Mara) and Kennedy (Jason Clarke) left the party, with Kennedy driving his Oldsmobile 88. Kennedy’s car went off a narrow bridge leading to a private beach, overturned, and submerged in Poucha Pond. Kennedy returned to his Edgartown hotel on Martha’s Vineyard, where he briefly spoke to the manager of the Shiretown Inn at 2:25 a.m.

The next morning two fishermen found the car and called the authorities, who found Kopechne’s body still in the car in several feet of water. Kennedy returned to Chappaquiddick to make calls on a pay phone before heading to the Edgartown sheriff’s office to report the incident. Over the course of the next week, the senator from Massachusetts attended Kopechne’s funeral in Pennsylvania, pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident (for which he received a suspended sentence) and gave a nationally televised address to the nation in which he asked his constituents to write letters and let him know if he should resign. Public opinion was positive enough that Kennedy stayed in office while prosecutors decided not to charge him with negligent driving or involuntary manslaughter.  Read more at Yahoo News

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