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JFK tried to make me have an abortion: How President Kennedy forced a teenage intern to take drugs and feared he'd made her pregnant - On our first trip

On our first trip — to Yosemite National Park — a pattern started. I came to think of it as the Waiting Game. ‘Stay put,’ JFK’s special assistant Dave Powers told me when we arrived. ‘I’ll call you when the President wants you.’

So that’s what I did. As daylight faded, I sat in a chair and just stared out of the window of my hotel room, waiting for the call.

‘I don’t recall feeling self-pity; I was thrilled to be part of the presidential entourage, and excited at the prospect of our first night together out of the White House.

I’d also been seduced by the sultanic style of Presidential travel, with its motorcades and special planes. But, unfortunately, my days as an intern were already numbered.

Having paid the fees in advance, my parents insisted that I return to Wheaton — an all-girls college in Massachusetts — to complete my second year. When I told the President, he promised to call me often, saying he’d use the pseudonym Michael Carter.

It felt as though I was abandoning him, he teased. Then he played me Nat King Cole’s version of Autumn Leaves, making me pay close attention to the line: ‘But I miss you most of all, my darling, when autumn leaves start to fall.’

Just before I left, I gave him another copy of that record, having first decorated the cover with leaves I’d collected in a park. ‘You’re trying to make me cry,’ he said.

‘I’m not trying to make you cry, Mr President,’ I said. ‘I’m trying to make sure you remember me.’

To my surprise, he did. Within a week of moving into a sophomore dormitory, I received my first phone call from Michael Carter.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised: when we were together, he was always calling friends, family and members of Congress. He averaged 50 phone calls a day and said they were his lifeline to the everyday world.

At my dorm, the only phone was on the first floor. Amazingly, though, none of the girls who picked up the phone ever recognised his voice.

His survival instincts must have told him that no young woman would ever suspect that a man named Michael Carter on a dormitory phone could possibly be the President of the United States.

Then he’d pepper me with a million little questions, as if he had all the time in the world. What courses was I taking? Were the teachers good? What was I reading? Were the girls interesting? What did they talk about? What did I have for dinner?

In temperament, he was an inexhaustibly, relentlessly curious man — and, evidently, that insatiable curiosity extended to the sophomore class at Wheaton. But it may be that he enjoyed talking to me precisely because I was so young and naïve.

‘When can you come to Washington?’ the President would inevitably ask at the end of each conversation. I’d pull out my calendar and we’d make a date.

From there, Dave Powers would handle all the arrangements: a car to pick me up from the dorm, airline tickets and a black limo to the White House. On the way, I’d catch up on homework. On my second ‘date’ trip to Washington, in October 1962, I was greeted by a president who was not his usual ebullient self. He was tense, quiet and preoccupied, with dark bags under his eyes.

Only after I left did I discover that he was in the middle of what would become the most dramatic and tense episode of his presidency: the Cuban Missile Crisis. At that point, U.S. spy planes had discovered that the Soviets were secretly building nuclear missile bases only 90 miles from the American mainland.

Ready to tell her story: Mimi Alford today, aged 69Two weeks later, the U.S. was poised to invade Cuba and the newspapers were running estimates of how many would die in a nuclear exchange. That’s when Dave Powers summoned me back again.

I went directly upstairs as usual. The President was closeted for a long time with his closest advisers, and when he joined me he looked grave. At one point, after leaving the room to take an urgent call, he came back shaking his head and said to me: ‘I’d rather my children be red than dead.’

He’d just sent a letter to the Soviet premier, promising not to invade Cuba if Khrushchev removed the missiles. Now he was waiting, along with the rest of the world, for Khrushchev’s reply.

That I was present in the residence on that evening strikes me now as surreal. God knows, I didn’t belong there. But it was intoxicating.

Although our get-togethers were always quite sexually charged, it wasn’t to be on this occasion. The President unwound by watching the Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday with Dave, and I went to sleep. An hour after I left the next day, the Soviets capitulated.

To my shame, I soon had a personal crisis of my own: my period was two weeks late. The President took the news in his stride, but he could hardly have been surprised. I knew nothing about birth control, and he never used protection with me (either because of his Catholicism or recklessness, I could never be sure).

An hour later, Dave called the dorm and told me to call a woman who could put me in touch with a doctor in New Jersey. The intermediary was a necessary precaution, because abortion was illegal.

That was pure Dave Powers: he handled the problem immediately, and with brute practicality. There was no talk about what I wanted, or how I felt, or what the medical risks might be.

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In the end, it was a false alarm. I never did contact the doctor — and neither Dave nor the President referred to the subject again.



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