NY Times Op-Ed slamming 'Chappaquiddick' film as 'character assassination' spurs online outrage

Ted Kennedy detractors took to Twitter to slam a liberal writer and historian who condemned the new Chappaquiddick film as “character assassination” in an opinion piece in The New York Times.

The Op-Ed by Neal Gabler, who is writing a biography of the late senator, prompted an immediate backlash after The Times posted it online Friday under the headline "How ‘Chappaquiddick’ Distorts a Tragedy." It ran in the Times’ print editions Saturday.

“Let’s set aside the fact that, despite the film’s advertisements claiming to tell the ‘untold true story' of a ‘cover-up,’ the story has been told plenty, and no one but the most lunatic conspiracy theorists see this as anything but a tragic accident in which nothing much was covered up,” Gabler opines.

While calling Kennedy “a real man living out a real life,” the author also contends that many of the scenes in "Chappaquiddick" cross from “dramatic interpretation to outright character assassination.”

The film, which opened in theaters Friday, recounts the aftermath of the night Robert Kennedy campaign aide Mary Jo Kopechne drowned in 1969 when Ted Kennedy drove off a wooden bridge in Chappaquiddick after a party. Kennedy waited 10 hours to report the incident to authorities.


Gabler’s main argument appeared to garner little support on Twitter after its publication.

“Oh, my, Neal Gabler -- you best do much more research. I am just a casual history observer of the Kennedys, but even I know this was a VAST coverup!” Cindy Gower Glover tweeted. “A ‘tragic accident’ my rear end!”

“He left a woman to die,” actor James Woods tweeted in response to Gabler’s piece. “He was a cheat, a liar, and a coward.”

Mary Jo Kopechne and Sen. Ted Kennedy

Mary Jo Kopechne and Sen. Ted Kennedy (AP)

A Twitter user with the handle “Ripley” said, “Neal Gabler's take on #ChappaquiddickMovie is so disingenuous it's mystifying."

“Boomer and faux intellectual (i know, redundant) Neal Gabler is so broke he has to carry Kennedy water,” GenX Politics tweeted. “Criticizes new film but just attacks character & motive; doesn't refute a single claim of the film. Quotes Sorenson and other Kennedy body people.”

That's an awfully hot take, even for Neal Gabler,” W.K. Westfall said in a tweet. “Seriously, Neal, it's not like Mary Jo was the one who drove drunk into a pond and left him alive for up to two hours, all while worrying about her own image and political career.”

Conservative commentator John Podhoretz also went on Twitter to criticize Gabler.

“Neal Gabler's piece defending Teddy Kennedy is a good reminder that people who blow all their money stupidly and then write articles about how they blew their money and it's the culture's fault just have wretched and unseemly opinions,” he said.

Rev. William Daily, a priest in Dublin, Ireland, tweeted, “Neal Gabler’s piece on Chappaquiddick was strikingly bereft of factual challenges for an argument that the movie has the facts wrong. Op-Ed pages are funny things.”

Another twitter user, Dale Conder Jr., wrote that the Op-Ed was pure fantasy.

“He describes the event as if it were an auto accident in which a passenger died,” he said. “Teddy left Mary Jo Kopechne trapped in the car. He was not a great man!”

However, Gabler’s view elicited a compliment from Twitter user Kathyrn Dugovich.

"Glad to see sanity rule today!” she wrote. “’Many scenes cross from dramatic interpretation to outright character assassination. Fake history is no better than fake news; it’s maybe worse.'”