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The Time JFK Called the Air Force to Complain About a 'Silly Bastard'

Jul 26, 2014 | 136-part series
Video by Scott Calonico

During the summer of 1963, President John F. Kennedy and his family vacationed in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. Jackie Kennedy was eight months pregnant at the time, so a nearby Air Force base set aside a ward to be used as a delivery room. Soon afterward, as this humorous documentary explains, the Washington Post published an article about the cost of the ward's renovations.

President Kennedy was irate about the story—"What the hell did they let the reporters in there for?" he asked on a phone call recorded in the Oval Office. "Are they crazy up there?"—and the brunt of his anger was directed toward Ernest Carlton, a lowly public information officer who worked on the base. "He's a silly bastard!" Kennedy says in the recording. "I wouldn't have him running a cathouse!"

In 2013, filmmaker Scott Calonico tracked down Carlton, who now lives in Tampa, and played Kennedy's call for him. (He had never heard it.) His reaction? A lot of laughter, and a barb of his own: "I could probably run [a cathouse] better than the U.S. government could."

Author: Chris Heller

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