How John F. Kennedy Jr. Handled Gossip

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Terenzio and Kennedy in 1996

RoseMarie Terenzio worked as his crisis handler for five years. Now, she offers bits of advice based on years of experience.

This story first appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

From 1994 until his death in 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr. worked closely with RoseMarie Terenzio, who was his executive assistant and later, his press agent. Now she's a personal crisis PR consultant, with clients ranging from Stephanie Madoff and her late husband, Mark Madoff, to Rielle Hunter, the woman who brought down presidential candidate John Edwards. Terenzio's first and best teacher on how to handle the gossip churn was JFK Jr. himself — here's what she learned from America's favorite and favored son.

Don't Fight the Tide

John always saw gossip as part of culture, part of society. It was like the norm to him; he was born famous, and he didn't have a choice. It wasn't something that was taboo. It was just one of those things that was part of life. Part of media. And it's been around forever. Working for him at George, we were in the media. So he certainly read gossip, and we all read it, and he loved the New York Post. He didn't have that holier-than-thou kind of attitude about it at all.

Don't Take the Bait

Even when stories were printed about him that weren't true, it was sort of benign to him. When they were saying that he and [wife] Carolyn were breaking up, he didn't talk. Who cares? It didn't affect him living his life. He lived with it, but he didn't live by it, and his attitude was always, "This too shall pass."

Enjoy the Roller Coaster

I think John would've had fun with social media and the way it drives the news cycle. He would've found a way to engage in all of it, Instagram and Twitter and Facebook, in a very playful way. He would've made a little mischief with it, too, you know — he would say something or tweet something, then it would go crazy the next day and he'd be laughing at everyone for running around in circles to try to contain it. He was into that kind of thing.

Only Apologize When You're Wrong

John was careful about what he said. He thought before he spoke, but at the end of the day, I don't think he would've had the stomach to be apologizing every five minutes for something that was taken out of context. When it came to media stories or anything that was blowing up, the more crazy things would get, the calmer he would get. He wasn't going to justify himself or address every rumor and every story, and I think people do that now, to an extreme.

RoseMarie Terenzio has worked in crisis management, PR and politics for more than a decade and wrote the best-seller 'Fairy Tale Interrupted: A Memoir of Life, Love, and Loss.'

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