fb-pixel Skip to main content

Joan Kennedy denies working with son on his new book

Joan Kennedy (center) and close friend Margo Nash (right) were seen during a formal ceremony to dedicate the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in March. Nash was speaking for Kennedy on Monday.
Joan Kennedy (center) and close friend Margo Nash (right) were seen during a formal ceremony to dedicate the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in March. Nash was speaking for Kennedy on Monday.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File/Globe Staff

Joan Kennedy, speaking through a close friend, is disputing her son Patrick’s claims that he had consulted and kept his mother aware of his controversial new book that makes highly personal revelations about his father, the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

“I had no knowledge that Patrick was writing a book and did not assist him in the project in any way,’’ Joan Kennedy, the senator’s first wife, is quoted in an e-mail sent to the Globe Monday by her close friend Margo Nash, a Cape Cod lawyer. “I was not given a copy of the book and have still not seen it or read it.”


Nash said Joan Kennedy, her college classmate and a personal friend, would not comment further and was not available for an interview.

“I spoke to her this morning, and that’s the only comment she wants to make,’’ said Nash, who said she was not acting as a lawyer for Joan Kennedy, but as a friend.

Patrick Kennedy’s spokesman, Jeff Valliere, stood by the account given to the Globe over the weekend and took issue with Joan Kennedy’s statement.

“That goes against what the process was,’’ Valliere said. “She was aware and participated and has been very supportive of his efforts as an activist for mental health and addiction.”

Valliere said Joan Kennedy was also interviewed for the book by her son’s co-author, Stephen Fried.

In an interview with the Globe Sunday, Patrick Kennedy, a 48-year-old former congressman from Rhode Island, described his mother as the book’s lone supporter within the family.

Asked if Joan Kennedy had been aware specifically of what Patrick was preparing to write about his father, Valliere said Monday: “I can’t comment on any back-and-forth conversation. The fact she didn’t get an advance copy of the book would lead me to believe she did not know what was in it.”


The public dispute between mother and son further highlights the controversy surrounding Patrick Kennedy’s book, “A Common Struggle: A Personal Journey Through the Past and Future of Mental Illness and Addiction,” which has attracted national attention.

The private disagreement also burst into the public realm just as the Kennedy family is struggling over a bitter management dispute at the John F. Kennedy Library in Dorchester.

Joan Kennedy’s comments come a day after Patrick’s brother, Edward M. Kennedy Jr., released a statement claiming that his younger sibling had painted an “inaccurate and unfair portrayal of our family” and that he was “heartbroken” over the release of the book.

In the book, Patrick Kennedy writes about his own struggles with drug addiction and alcoholism and says he has bipolar disorder.

But he also details some of his father’s problems with alcohol.

He says he believes his father suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after living through the assassinations of both of his brothers, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

And he writes that his father’s struggles with alcohol were such an issue that he declined to attend his father’s 60th birthday party in 1992 unless his father stopped drinking.

Valliere said Patrick Kennedy was not immediately available for comment Monday because he was on a tight schedule for his book tour.

Kennedy first talked about his book in an appearance on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday and in an interview with the Globe the same day.


Frank Phillips can be reached at phillips@globe.com.