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Bobby Baker


John Simkin
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I picked up an interesting book yesterday. Entitled “Hustlers and Heroes” it was published in 1971. The book’s author is Milton Viorst, a journalist who worked for Esquire Magazine. It is a collection of articles about political figures he knew. The article that interested me was on Bobby Baker.

I have been interested in Bobby Baker ever since I read this passage from Joachim Joesten in 1964 (Oswald, Assassin or Fall Guy?): "The Baker scandal then is truly the hidden key to the assassination, or more exact, the timing of the Baker affair crystallized the more or less vague plans to eliminate Kennedy which had already been in existence the threat of complete exposure which faced Johnson in the Baker scandal provided that final impulse he was forced to give the go-ahead signal to the plotters who had long been waiting for the right opportunity."

Viorst admits he was a close friend of Baker and refuses to believe he was a rogue. He describes him as “a small-town kid who got caught up with a fast crowd”. However, the article includes some interesting information. This includes the following passage:

“Bobby Baker, like many other Senate Democrats, did everything he could to get the nomination in 1960 for Lyndon Johnson, the Majority Leader. But his influence lay in a body which - to Johnson's particular dismay - had very little to do with picking the Presidential nominee. What distinguished Baker from the rest of Lyndon's entourage, however, was that he, almost alone, argued that Johnson, failing to get the top spot, should agree to run with Kennedy as the Vice-Presidential nominee. Johnson's other friends, aware of the power of which the Majority Leader disposed, felt this was nonsense. Why Bobby persisted in this argument is by no means clear. After all, his whole orientation was toward the Senate. He knew the Vice-Presidency was an impotent office. He had no great fondness for Jack Kennedy. Yet perhaps he understood better than Lyndon that, from the parochial power base of Texas, the prospects of his becoming President were remote. Baker regarded a Kennedy-Johnson ticket as unbeatable and he thought, perhaps, that only through the Vice-Presidency did Johnson have a hope of getting to the White House. But whatever the reasons, Bobby Baker, exercising his powers of persuasion long before anyone else in the entourage, was undoubtedly an important influence in Johnson's ultimate acceptance of second place on the Kennedy ticket.”

This supports something that Edward Jay Epstein wrote in December, 1966 (Esquire Magazine). According to Epstein, Don Reynolds, a business associate of Baker, gave information to the Warren Commission on the death of John F. Kennedy. Reynolds said that Bobby Baker had told him that Kennedy "would never live out his term and that he would die a violent death." Baker had also told him that "the FBI knew that Johnson was behind the assassination".

Milton Viorst also provides information on Bobby Baker’s secretary Nancy Carole Tyler. I argued on another thread that Tyler might have been murdered on 10th May, 1965 (she died as a result of a two-seater plane crash) because of what she knew about the assassination.

Viorst points out that Tyler was more than a secretary. In fact, they would go everywhere together (Baker’s wife was the mother of five children and was rarely seen in public with him). Viorst writes:

“After a hard day at the Senate, when anyone else would be glad to get home to bed, Bobby Baker would be starting the evening's fun with the Mexican hat dance. The frolic might go on till dawn. Bobby's secretary was Carole Tyler, a Tennessee beauty with whom he was often seen in public. Carole's place in Southwest Washington, an upper-middle-class redevelopment area of closely packed high-rises and town houses, became the center where Bobby's friends, male and female, often met. How Bobby spent his off-duty hours was more or less common knowledge on the Hill, but those were the days when Bobby was on top, when there seemed nothing unusual about his diversions and when no one thought that, as Senate practices go, there was anything there to get excited about... “

He also reveals that Baker was the owner of the house that Tyler lived in with her girlfriend. Viorst appears to be unaware that the girlfriend was Mary Jo Kopechne, George Smathers’ secretary. Smathers was another of Bobby Baker’s business partners. Mary Jo Kopechne was later to become Robert Kennedy’s secretary and was to die in Edward Kennedy’s car on 17th July, 1969.

Viorst reveals that Baker was with Tyler when she decided to take a ride in a Waco biplane in front of his Carousel Motel. The plane malfunctioned and crashed into the Atlantic directly in front of the motel.

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I picked up an interesting book yesterday. Entitled “Hustlers and Heroes” it was published in 1971. The book’s author is Milton Viorst, a journalist who worked for Esquire Magazine. It is a collection of articles about political figures he knew. The article that interested me was on Bobby Baker.

I have been interested in Bobby Baker ever since I read this passage from Joachim Joesten in 1964 (Oswald, Assassin or Fall Guy?): "The Baker scandal then is truly the hidden key to the assassination, or more exact, the timing of the Baker affair crystallized the more or less vague plans to eliminate Kennedy which had already been in existence the threat of complete exposure which faced Johnson in the Baker scandal provided that final impulse he was forced to give the go-ahead signal to the plotters who had long been waiting for the right opportunity."

Viorst admits he was a close friend of Baker and refuses to believe he was a rogue. He describes him as “a small-town kid who got caught up with a fast crowd”. However, the article includes some interesting information. This includes the following passage:

“Bobby Baker, like many other Senate Democrats, did everything he could to get the nomination in 1960 for Lyndon Johnson, the Majority Leader. But his influence lay in a body which - to Johnson's particular dismay - had very little to do with picking the Presidential nominee. What distinguished Baker from the rest of Lyndon's entourage, however, was that he, almost alone, argued that Johnson, failing to get the top spot, should agree to run with Kennedy as the Vice-Presidential nominee. Johnson's other friends, aware of the power of which the Majority Leader disposed, felt this was nonsense. Why Bobby persisted in this argument is by no means clear. After all, his whole orientation was toward the Senate. He knew the Vice-Presidency was an impotent office. He had no great fondness for Jack Kennedy. Yet perhaps he understood better than Lyndon that, from the parochial power base of Texas, the prospects of his becoming President were remote. Baker regarded a Kennedy-Johnson ticket as unbeatable and he thought, perhaps, that only through the Vice-Presidency did Johnson have a hope of getting to the White House. But whatever the reasons, Bobby Baker, exercising his powers of persuasion long before anyone else in the entourage, was undoubtedly an important influence in Johnson's ultimate acceptance of second place on the Kennedy ticket.”

This supports something that Edward Jay Epstein wrote in December, 1966 (Esquire Magazine). According to Epstein, Don Reynolds, a business associate of Baker, gave information to the Warren Commission on the death of John F. Kennedy. Reynolds said that Bobby Baker had told him that Kennedy "would never live out his term and that he would die a violent death." Baker had also told him that "the FBI knew that Johnson was behind the assassination".

Milton Viorst also provides information on Bobby Baker’s secretary Nancy Carole Tyler. I argued on another thread that Tyler might have been murdered on 10th May, 1965 (she died as a result of a two-seater plane crash) because of what she knew about the assassination.

Viorst points out that Tyler was more than a secretary. In fact, they would go everywhere together (Baker’s wife was the mother of five children and was rarely seen in public with him). Viorst writes:

“After a hard day at the Senate, when anyone else would be glad to get home to bed, Bobby Baker would be starting the evening's fun with the Mexican hat dance. The frolic might go on till dawn. Bobby's secretary was Carole Tyler, a Tennessee beauty with whom he was often seen in public. Carole's place in Southwest Washington, an upper-middle-class redevelopment area of closely packed high-rises and town houses, became the center where Bobby's friends, male and female, often met. How Bobby spent his off-duty hours was more or less common knowledge on the Hill, but those were the days when Bobby was on top, when there seemed nothing unusual about his diversions and when no one thought that, as Senate practices go, there was anything there to get excited about... “

He also reveals that Baker was the owner of the house that Tyler lived in with her girlfriend. Viorst appears to be unaware that the girlfriend was Mary Jo Kopechne, George Smathers’ secretary. Smathers was another of Bobby Baker’s business partners. Mary Jo Kopechne was later to become Robert Kennedy’s secretary and was to die in Edward Kennedy’s car on 17th July, 1969.

Viorst reveals that Baker was with Tyler when she decided to take a ride in a Waco biplane in front of his Carousel Motel. The plane malfunctioned and crashed into the Atlantic directly in front of the motel.

John... excellent. I believe the Bobby Baker affair is WHAT PRECIPITATED THE ASSASSINATION. Lyndon knew his goose was cooked unless drastic action was taken. His cronies and backers realized it too. That ignited the fuse for Dallas.

Jack ;)

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I also got a copy of Robert Kennedy: His Own Words yesterday. It includes details of several interviews he gave on Bobby Baker. Kennedy told Anthony Lewis about how LBJ responded to the Bobby Baker corruption scandal. He was confident of keeping Republicans quiet about the case. Apparently he had files on all the Republican politicians who wanted to make use of the story. Robert Kennedy rejected the idea and insisted Baker had to be investigated. LBJ wanted to use the same tactic when another of his advisers, Walter Jenkins, was arrested on a morals charge in October, 1964. It seems that LBJ had access to Hoover’s secret files.

Robert Kennedy also tells an interesting story about why his brother offered LBJ the opportunity to become vice president. None of them wanted him in the post. However, they had heard on the grapevine that LBJ would turn the job down as he knew he would have much more power as Democrat leader in the Senate. JFK was shattered when LBJ accepted the job. It then turns out that Bobby Baker got LBJ to change his mind by telling him he was certain that JFK would not see out his term in office.

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I have discovered this morning that Karyn Kupcinet was in the same class at school as Mary Jo Kopechne. Kupcinet, a Hollywood actress, was murdered on 28th November, 1963. Kupcinet’s father, Irv Kupcinet, was a journalist who was a close friend of Jack Ruby. Rumours circulated that his daughter was murdered in an attempt to keep him quiet (and others) about what he knew about the assassination. Maybe there was another reason for her death.

Baker seems to have used Nancy Carole Tyler to supply women for the parties he held for his businesses associates. Mary Jo, as she lived in the house, obviously attended these parties. Maybe Mary Jo invited Karyn Kupcinet along to these gatherings. (Howard Hughes used to hold similar parties where he invited actresses). It was probably at these parties that Tyler, Kopechne and Kupcinet leant too much for their own good.

I believe that Baker’s parties were also used to obtain information about politicians in order to blackmail them into silence. In an interview that Robert Kennedy gave to Anthony Lewis suggests this was the case.

I wonder if it is possible to trace any other young women who attended Bobby Baker’s parties?

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