In 1956, the Sunday edition of the New York Times headlined the release of the so-called "Inga-Binga letters" between Democratic vice-presidential nominee John F. Kennedy and Inga Arvad.
President Warren, Part 2The letters, which established a romantic link between Kennedy and Arvad dating to his service in the Navy during World War II, were politically devastating, for Arvad, a newspaper reporter and aspiring movie star, was suspected by the FBI of spying for Hitler. Although the charges were never proven, they would cast a shadow over her professional life - and with the release of the letters, over Kennedy's as well. The young senator, whose political career had been helped by his status as a war hero as well as his personal charisma and vast family fortune, would prove unable to shake the suspicion that he had been played for a patsy by an agent of the Third Reich because he had been unable to, as Lyndon Johnson privately put it, "keep it in his pants" with her. Kennedy, who had been considered a future presidential prospect, was now damaged goods.
The Arvad scandal would prove crippling for Kennedy's political patron President Adlai Stevenson as well. Already hurt in the South by his reluctant decision to drop Vice-President John J. Sparkman from the '56 ticket - a decision Sparkman had essentially forced on him through the Alabaman's increasingly public opposition to the President's liberal policies on civil rights - he now found himself battered in the Northeast and Midwest. In November, Republican William F. Knowland would win the presidency with 296 electoral votes.
Stevenson would subsequently earn a kind of redemption as an elder statesman, and would be returned to the Illinois governor's mansion by the voters in 1964.. Kennedy would be less fortunate: in 1958, he would narrowly lose to Boston lawyer Vincent J. Celeste. He would never again hold public office, though he remained active politically until his death from complications of Addison?s disease in 1979.
Over the years, there would be considerable speculation as to the source of the Times story which derailed the then-promising young senator's career. One popular notion fingered labor boss James Hoffa of the Teamsters, with whom Kennedy had begun to feud while in the Senate. Another suggested the source was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, known for collecting damaging and salacious material on political figures. No completely certain proof of either claim, or any other, would ever be found.