Friday, February 5, 2010

Why I Don't Believe the Kopechne Bear-Trap Story

This morning, Gordon’s “Bear Trap of the Week” winner was an account of a guy who was visiting his friend’s family in the late Seventies. Extended family members were present. On one occasion, the guy and the friend (I think the friend was the submitter) were playing ping-pong and drinking some beer and swapping jokes. The guy decides to tell a Ted Kennedy/Chappaquiddick joke. Someone tries to get him to stop telling the joke by giving him the finger-across-the-throat sign, but the guy presses on to the punch line. (Joke not specified.) A silence descends upon the room, and a man and woman leave the room, the man saying that “We don’t appreciate jokes like that.” At that point, the friend tells the joke-telling guy that the couple who left were Mr. and Mrs. Kopechne, Mary Jo’s parents. The name of the family the guy was visiting was not “Kopechne.”

Gordon vouched for this story, saying that he knew some of the people involved.

I believe Gordon believes the story and that he knows someone involved, but I don’t believe the story.

First, someone would have told any stranger to a family attending a family gathering of the presence of persons as historically significant as the Kopechnes, parents of the most famous reckless manslaughter victim in U.S. history.(1)  Not to keep the stranger from making inappropriate references, but because it is extremely interesting. If you visited a home where Marina Oswald was going to be present, don’t you think someone would have mentioned that fact to you?

Second, the story of adults hanging around while young men are playing ping-pong, drinking beer, and telling jokes doesn’t ring true.

Not that it matters much, but a prize as esteemed as the Bear Trap of the Week should be held to the highest standards of likelihood.

(1) I’m not trying to make a political statement here. There are a few investigators who think Kennedy’s failure to report the accident was nondeliberate, but not many. (These investigators thing Kennedy was not in the car at the time, contrary to his own testimony.) The inquest testimony was that she probably lived for quite awhile after Kennedy guided that Oldsmobile into the pond. For the record, however, the coroner’s verdict was accidental drowning.

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