Profiles in Cowardice for 2015

C. David Heymann

C. David Heymann
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Profiles in Cowardice for 2015

Most Americans, including those who run the Chappaquiddick Society, had never heard of C. David Heymann until a series of stories were published in newspapers in September, 1998. It all started in a New York Post cover story which was pre-publicity for Heymann’s soon to be released book on Bobby Kennedy entitled: “RFK: A Candid Biography.” In the Post excerpt, Heymann alleged that Kennedy had a sexual relationship with none other than Rudolph Nureyev, the great Russian ballet dancer, as well as his own sister-in-law, the widow of his slain brother, President Kennedy.

Leaders of the Chappaquiddick Society found this story repugnant and disgusting, given the fact that the celebrities Heymann were defaming were “conveniently dead,” and thus not able to defend themselves. So too outraged were many staff members of the New York Post, who had enjoyed the camaraderie of Douglas Kennedy, a son of Bobby Kennedy who had joined the staff of the Post several years earlier. After a few internal phone calls, the Chappaquiddick Society informed New York Post Columnist Neil Travis that C. David Heymann would be Nominated later that year for the annual “Profile in Cowardice Award.”  

This was just the sort of opening that outraged members of the Post staff were looking for in seeking public redemption for a story their own organization had published. Thus, on September 9, 1998, the “Neil Travis’ NEW YORK” column ran the following post: “Does ‘C’ Stand for Coward?” Travis stated: “I was pleased to learn yesterday that the Chappaquiddick Society, a loose-knit group of young Manhattan Republicans who normally bash the Kennedys, is planning to give author Heymann its annual Profile in Cowardice Award for his scurrilous accusations about the long-dead RFK.”

The publication of Neil’s story suddenly made him the go-to journalist for anyone in America who had an issue with Heymann. The very next day, September 10, 1998, Neil Travis published “So Much for RFK Writer’s ‘Source.’ ” In that post, Travis revealed that television personality Kristi Witker had her lawyer send a letter to Heymann’s publisher demanding the removal of paragraphs in the book containing quotes attributed to her that Witker said Heymann had fabricated. Heymann’s response regarding Witker’s claim was conciliatory, but Heymann reacted in fury at having been being branded a Coward by the Chappaquiddick Society.  

Neil Travis usually picked up his own phone calls, but in this case Travis wisely let Heymann’s calls go to voice mail, recording verbatim Heymann’s angry tirades while at the same time raising Heymann’s level of anger and frustration. In one such tape, Heymann claimed he threw his copy of the New York Post in the kitty litter box “but my cat wouldn’t even p - - - on it!” Heymann also repeatedly opened his threatening calls with “you Limey Faggot,” which Travis used to further question Heymann’s journalistic skills, as Travis was neither British nor gay.  

On the following day, September 11, 1998, Travis wrote in the post “Now I’m Getting C. Sick,” that back in 1983, Heymann’s publisher had to recall and destroy 58,000 copies of Heymann’s “biography” of heiress Barbara Hutton because of a claim by Heymann regarding a medical doctor that was patently fabricated. Travis also got a call from a man who attended the same Prep school with Heymann, who alleged that Heymann’s graduation was delayed because of a plagiarized essay written by Heymann. 


On September 16, Page Six of the New York Post reported in “Battle Stations over RFK Tell-All,” that 3 women had now come forward to claim that Heymann had published fabrications about them in his new book. One of them was Pat Lawford Stewart, the 3rd wife of Kennedy family in-law Peter Lawford. Heymann, in his book, had claimed that Ms. Stewart not only had been sexually involved with Senator Ted Kennedy, but that he - Heymann - had also been intimate with her. Ms. Stewart vehemently denied both allegations as fabrications on Heymann’s part.


C. David Heymann was in fact nominated later in 1998 for the Chappaquiddick Society’s Profile in Cowardice Award, and received the “Dis-Honorable Mention” for placing second in the balloting.


While exceedingly rare, there have been other cases historically in which authors have made money from books based upon fabrications. In the 1970s, Author Clifford Irving conned his publishers into believing that the reclusive tycoon Howard Hughes had authorized Irving to write his official biography. Irving was eventually sentenced to prison over this scam, the story of which became a plot line in the Orson Welles film “F for Fake.” The staff of 60 Minutes would later publish a book, “Con Men,” detailing their role in exposing Irving and others like him.


In 1996, the publishers of a book about the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 settled a lawsuit brought against them by Michael Hurley, an Agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration. The book, “Trail of the Octopus: From Beruit to Lockerbie - Inside the DIA,” was written by a man, Lester Coleman, who portrayed himself as a “double agent,” spying on the DEA on behalf of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Coleman’s book claimed that Agents of the U. S. government were responsible for the Pan Am bombing, a conspiracy theory first publicly embraced by Congressman James Traficant of Ohio and Pierre Salinger of ABC News, who had formerly worked as Press Secretary for President Kennedy. Agent Hurley was awarded compensation for the legal battle he had to wage to clear his name and reputation, and the publisher of the book destroyed all remaining copies. Congressman James Traficant was convicted in 2002 on Federal bribery charges and spent 7 years in prison. In 2004, Hurley published his own book about his ordeal, “I Solemnly Swear: Conmen, DEA, the Media, and Pan Am 103.” 

A universal tenant of the spy game is that spies are mandated to keep secret their employment as such, thus those who publicly claim to be spies reveal themselves to be liars. This phenomenom is revealed in the 1994 comedy film “True Lies,” in which Arnold Schwarzenegger portrays a real spy, whose wife is taken in by a con man who falsely claims to be a spy.

In July, 1999, the Chappaquiddick Society once again contacted Neil Travis to challenge Heymann’s new claim that he had been a spy for the Mossad, the Intelligence Agency for the State of Israel. Heymann stated he would detail his claimed exploits as a spy in his next book about another member of the Kennedy family who was now deceased and thus not able to defend themselves against Heymann’s fabrications. Heymann, along with Congressman Traficant, were again nominated for the “Profile in Cowardice Award’ for 1999. Traficant was also nominated in the year 2000 and 2002.