Later that same year, in May, when Kennedy found himself criticized in a draft—yes, a draft—of a forthcoming Fortune cover story, he and Krock collaborated on a letter to the magazine’s managing editor, Russell Davenport, listing what they termed to be its “statements” and offered “observations” and corrections before concluding that it would “be useless to attempt to revise a draft so permeated with bias and incompetence.” Kennedy, with Krock’s help, was rewarded with a brand new article to replace the old one. This one, Nasaw writes, was a “puff piece.”
At the end of the decade, before it became clear that Roosevelt would break precedent and serve a third term, Kennedy, now FDR’s ambassador to England, flirted with the idea of running himself. “I think it would be a very helpful thing if agitation could be started to have me address the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committee in Executive Session,” he wrote Krock. “If you think this is worthwhile, you might start it in the works.” Krock’s response: The idea was “splendid… and I shall put it in the works. By the time you arrive, I think you will find every-thing ready…”
As part of his putative campaign, Kennedy tried to do both Krock and himself a favor by interceding in his behalf with the Times publishers to promote him to the top job. According to Harold Ickes (who was warning Roosevelt about the alleged plot), “It is reported that Kennedy has come to an understanding with Arthur Krock of the New York Times. It is expected that there will soon be a vacancy in the editorship… . Krock is doing all that he can to boost Kennedy and Kennedy is ready to support Krock financially if necessary.”
Krock did not get the job—Kennedy attributed it to the old fear of a ‘Jew in the showcase’ nervousness of the Times’s German-Jewish owners . Krock, meanwhile, continued to play publicity agent to his patron, albeit rather ungrammatically: “Your publicity continues good,” he wrote Kennedy, “and on every hand one hears golden opinions of what you are doing.”
And Kennedy’s campaign, alas, never took place. His importance on the national stage began to diminish with the ascendance of those of his second son, Jack. Krock continued to offer to help him both by pretending his pronouncements regarding national affairs were worthy of significant Times coverage, but more importantly, by far, by helping Jack’s career. The first boost came when, at Joe Kennedy’s request, to “go over it,” and “let his agent handle the publication” of Why England Slept. Next, in May 1956, JFK was, rather shockingly, awarded the Pulitzer Prize in biography for Profiles in Courage. Krock would later credit himself for convincing the jurors of the book’s merit. (In a recently published oral history, Jackie Kennedy complains about Ted Sorensen taking credit around town for having written the book for Kennedy, so it’s hard to know what, in fact, its putative author had to do with it.)
What is perhaps most shocking about the arrangement between Kennedy and Krock was how open and unashamed it was. Interestingly, no mention of Kennedy’s relationship with Krock was made in either of the two reviews published of Nasaw’s biography in the Paper of Record. The Times has repeatedly expressed its regret over its Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of Joseph Stalin by the notorious liar, Walter Duranty, during the 1930s, once it was revealed just how compromised his reporting had been. Perhaps, in light of the evidence turned up by Nasaw, another such statement of regret—if not apology—regarding Krock’s coverage of Kennedy-related matters might also be order.
It goes without saying that much has changed about the mores of journalism. Today’s top journalists have their own arrangements, of course. When, in the opening of the new Netflix series, House of Cards, an ambitious young female reporter offers the Speaker of the House a deal in which she promises to print whatever he wants her to print, the way he wants her to print it, no questions asked—all the while revealing more and more of her impressive cleavage—the notion that such a conversation might actually take place did not exactly strain credulity. We are, thankfully, through with the Arthur Krocks of the journalistic world. Whether we are really through with the kind of journalism they produced is a question for another essay.