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JFK’s alleged student mistress shares story

The Independent logo The Independent 31/08/2021 Namita Singh
John F. Kennedy sitting at a desk: File: US President John F Kennedy’s affair with Diana de Vegh reportedly continued for about four years  - AFP via Getty Images © AFP via Getty Images

File: US President John F Kennedy’s affair with Diana de Vegh reportedly continued for about four years

- AFP via Getty Images

An 83-year-old woman claiming to have been a former lover of 35th US president John F Kennedy has publicly opened up about the alleged affair for the first time.

Diana de Vegh said she first met Kennedy in 1958 when she was 20 years old at a ballroom in Boston, where he was on a re-election tour for senator.

“The senator was standing directly across the table. And he was looking … at me. ‘Oh, God, don’t let me blush’, I prayed. Useless, of course,” she wrote in an essay published in Air Mail News on Saturday.

“Give me your seat, so a tired old man can sit next to a pretty girl,” she recalled him saying to her date.

Ms De Vegh, a student at the time, said he would often tell her she was “special” and had a “spark”.

“‘I’m expecting great things from you, ya know.’ Always laughing, always looking at me in what I hoped was a special way,” she wrote. “I didn’t realise then that I’d simply been netted, separated from the other students, who might have offered some emotional ballast in this situation.”

She said the #MeToo movement “has provided a specific context for needed re-evaluation,” as she reflected on the “inequality and idealisation” of being in a relationship with the president, who was assassinated in 1963.

The affair reportedly continued for about four years.

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But it was “not a romantic story” Ms De Vegh wrote, adding it took “years to recover” from the affair and “almost as many years to finally write this”.

She claimed a driver would pick her up from her off-campus residence and chaperon her to wherever Kennedy was campaigning.

The alleged relationship went downhill after she began feeling Kennedy did not “care” for her and their meetings reduced, despite her moving to Washington after his 1960 presidential win.

Ms De Vegh said she managed her feelings “by clutching my substantive job ever more closely as a marker of identity,” referring to her work as a research assistant at the national security council.

Then in 1962, Kennedy discovered that her father was Hungarian economist Imrie de Vegh, who he had been consulting with over political affairs.

“He had nothing against me, but he realised it could really be a problem because a lot of people knew my dad, but he couldn’t just drop me, so we had to kind of dwindle,” she explained, in an interview to the New York Post. “I didn’t realise quite what was going on, but then things shifted radically.”

The relationship ended after Ms De Vegh resigned from her position and moved to Paris, where she learned of his assassination.

“I just went completely numb,” she told the New York Post. “I was having dinner in a bistro in my neighbourhood and it came on the news and I thought, this can’t be true.”

Thinking back on her alleged relationship with Kennedy, Ms De Vegh, who still maintains her private psychotherapy practice of 20 years, said though she “was past the age of consent”, she wonders if Kennedy should have thought about the “power differential”.

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