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economic justice | government selection 2004

John Kerry's Multimillionaire Wild Wife

Stormy and eccentric, multi-millionaire Teresa Heinz Kerry is not obvious First Lady material. But with her stepdaughters she is helping her husband scoop the Democratic presidential candidacy. Suzanne Goldenberg reports
Wild wife adventures

Thursday February 5, 2004
The Guardian

The "body men", whose job it is to move a candidate through crowds, extract John Kerry and his entourage from the heaving victory party, and propel them towards the television interview room. Only this time, they have left someone behind: Vanessa Kerry, the younger daughter of the Democratic frontrunner, is caught by a surge of hug-seekers and autograph-hunters. "Can you please let me get through to my dad?," she says, tapping at unyielding backs, before erupting in frustration. "Is this the way it's always going to be now?"

Well, yes. "Dad" has just won five of the seven states in contention in the Democratic primary season on Tuesday night, transforming him into a national candidate. Unless he suffers a dramatic reversal of fortunes - and this has been a wildly unpredictable race - Kerry will be the Democratic nominee and will stand against President George Bush in the US elections in November.

If Kerry does go the distance, Vanessa, 27, and her elder sister, Alexandra, 30, will be by his side. Undoubtedly, their stepmother, Teresa Heinz Kerry, will also be making multiple appearances during the campaign, travelling solo in her private plane, the Flying Squirrel.

Americans traditionally take an interest in those who would be their first families, but in this primary season, the home lives of candidates have been on display more than ever before. Wives, children, stepchildren, mothers and brothers have been campaigning on their own, or exerting their influence behind the scenes. Kerry would not be the first divorcÚ to become president, but his "blended" family might be seen as the most unconventional to occupy the White House - unless his handlers succeed in reining in the occasionally volatile Mrs Kerry.

She inherited a fortune worth more than $550m when her first husband was killed in a plane crash. He was a scion of the food empire, as well as a longtime Republican senator who was also thought of as a presidential contender.

Back to January 19 ... Kerry is in Des Moines, Iowa, and minutes away from the victory that launched his drive to the Democratic nomination. As he takes his seat, Vanessa is talking to an aide. Alexandra, the film student, is crouched beside the television camera, and gauges the angles, tapping her shoulders to tell her father not to slouch. He gives a sheepish grin and complies.

Teresa Heinz Kerry is there as well, parrot-green scarf draped over a black trouser suit. As her husband moves around the room, meeting a selected group of campaign supporters, she is the one gently pressing on his elbow, steering him towards the major donors and the local Democratic party grandees.

The supporting role seems slightly strange for her - at least compared to the reputation that has followed her in the US media. She is seen as tempestuous, eccentric, wilful and rich. Much of the evidence for those charges is drawn from a disastrous interview the Kerrys granted to the Washington Post two years ago at home in Washington, DC.

To the reporter's delight, Heinz Kerry had a framed photograph of herself with the late John Heinz in the hall, and did not bother to correct the slip when she referred to him as "my husband". Then she had a blazing row with her living husband Kerry over a Republican from Pennsylvania who insulted the memory of her first spouse.

To Kerry's mortification, she went on to mimic him having a nightmare flashback to his days in Vietnam - beating her head and shouting "down, down, down". She also revealed that he had been in therapy seconds after Kerry tried to deny it.

Since then, Heinz Kerry has enlivened American political debate by revealing that she signed a prenuptial agreement to protect her fortune, threatened to maim her first husband if he was unfaithful, and resorts regularly to Botox.

But here is more to her than the re-circulation of such stories in the media. The daughter of a Portuguese doctor who grew up in colonial-era Mozambique, she speaks five languages, and worked at the United Nations as an interpreter before her marriage. Since her first husband's death, she has played an active role in managing charities worth more than one billion dollars. She has said she plans to continue that work if Kerry is elected.

She is also a seasoned campaigner, having accompanied her late husband through several election cycles. She knows what is expected of her, telling CNN this week that the presidential spouse's first job is supporting her partner. "I mean by that, keep your president strong, healthy, keep them honest. And then, by that I mean, remember who he is in his heart, why he got there, and help him - help him keep his ego inflated or her ego, if they get knocked too much, and deflated a little if it gets too high."

But despite that acute understanding of her situation and role, Heinz Kerry cannot seem to follow Laura Bush's example of steering smilingly away from controversy. Her evident talents do not include a proclivity for standing on stage looking adoringly up at her husband, and smiling, smiling, smiling. On the stage she fidgets or gazes off in the middle-distance, openly bored with the stump speech she must have heard countless times by now. She is not big on smiling, and tenses when her husband moves in for the ritual hug.

Her own turns at public events can be an exercise in suspense. In Iowa, at the defining event of Kerry's campaign, she got on stage to deliver a long and meandering treatise about how the American midwest reminded her of the dorps of South Africa, and how Iowa farmers had an "earthy" view of life. Her husband stood beside her, visibly wincing. In smaller forums, she has been known to hector Democratic supporters about how eating organic can prevent cancer.

Such unscripted moments are the dread of Kerry's campaign handlers. But so far, they appear to be doing no harm, and to the discomfiture of the rightwing press, Americans appear to be taking to Heinz Kerry.

For all her foibles, she shows up the human side to a candidate who desperately needs it. With his thin frame, sepulchral face, and old-fashioned speaking style, Kerry seems cold, a flinty New Englander incapable of connecting to ordinary Americans. His wife makes him seem like a romantic.

The morning chatshows have taken note of their age difference - she is 65 and he is 60 - and their first real date, a moonlit walk to the Vietnam war memorial after a Washington dinner party. There are also approving comments on her loyalty to the memory of her first husband, to whom she was married for 25 years.

Such exhaustive examinations of family life have become routine for American politicians. No matter what changes have affected the workplace and the home over the past decades, American voters expect to see the entire family before they pass judgment on a candidate.

That is what Howard Dean discovered when he tried to break the mould. His campaign for the Democratic nomination began to lose momentum, in part because of speculation about his absentee wife. Judith Steinberg Dean stayed at home in Vermont looking after her medical practice and their two children. She was too busy with her work to campaign, she told reporters, and she did not watch her husband on the stump because she is not that keen on television.

Other candidates have been careful to cultivate an image of happy families. John Edwards has travelled the country with his wife, Elizabeth. She gave up work as a lawyer and in her late 40s underwent fertility treatment to have two more children. (An older daughter is at university. Their first child was killed in a car crash). General Wesley Clark has his wife, Gertie, a non-working military wife, and his outspoken son, Wes Junior.

Kerry has his three women to bring out his human side: Heinz Kerry, Vanessa and Alexandra. All three have often been brought out centre stage at campaign events, oozing the personal warmth that somehow eludes the man in their lives, and softening up the crowds.

At times, the daughters play a double act, joking about their father's attempts to be cool, reminiscing about family holidays. Sometimes, they play back-up to their stepbrother, Chris Heinz, who has natural charisma and seems to have built up a campaign act based on Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions. Of Kerry's two daughters, Vanessa appears far more comfortable with the limelight. A graduate of Yale - like her father - and a medical student at Harvard, she took the year out so she could campaign for him, and has been on a speaking tour of college campuses.

However, Alexandra has also been meeting campaign workers in California, where she lives. She has plenty of admirers in the chat rooms of Kerry supporters who marvel at her ability to hit the campaign trail and complete her film project thesis. (She has a small role in a new David Mamet thriller about two US special agents seeking the missing daughter of a senior government official).

All of this has helped Kerry. Now his success on the campaign trail appears to be helping his wife as well. As he continues his quest from front-running candidate to Democratic nominee, Teresa Heinz Kerry is is in the process of her own, equally public, transformation. At first, she told CNN this week, she had reservations about his candidacy. "I was a little afraid of it. Not a little. It really is an awesome thing," she said. "I made peace with that ... I soldiered behind him."

homepage: homepage: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections2004/story/0,13918,1141394,00.html

Good Article 05.Feb.2004 22:03

The Sane Left

She's right. Organic food CAN prevent cancer. Somehow we've got to get you Indy Media folks to help elect the most progressive President in history.

'the INsane Left' 05.Feb.2004 23:16


in what way are multimillionaire Skull & Bonesmen "progressive" ?

Sane Left, why support Kerry? 06.Feb.2004 00:27

Adammonte9000 adammonte9000@aol.com

Sane Left, you've said many times that Kucinich and Kerry are the only two progressives in the race, and you're supporting Kerry. Please, convince me that this guy who voted for the PAtriot Act, the Iraq War Resolution, No Child Left Behind, NAFTA, and has taken more lobbyist money than any other senator is more progressive than Dean or Clark and is a true progressive and would be a good president, different than any we've had in a while. If you can, I'll gladly support him, but right now I just don't see that.

Mrs. Bush murdered an ex-boyfriend 06.Feb.2004 12:46

A yahoo subscriber

Kerry claims to stand up to powerful interests," writes Ann Coulter in
her latest column, "but he can't even stand up to his own wife."

Coulter's bill of particulars includes the charge that Heinz Kerry
made Kerry request the annulment of his first marriage to heiress
Julia Thorne despite the fact that the senator has two children from
that union.

Coulter also claims Heinz Kerry demanded a prenuptial agreement to
protect her $700 million fortune from her new husband.

Kerry, according to Coulter, is "a gigolo" and a fortune hunter who
has been sponging off rich women all his life.

Coulter's indictment was gleefully picked up and trumpeted by Rush
Limbaugh. It is a soap operatic theme you will be hearing a lot from
now on: Kerry as kept man, Teresa Heinz Kerry as domineering wife.



Of course the democrats could put a stop to this right now if they
would bring up Bush's wife Laura the horra and the infamous "traffic
accident" in which she blew a stop sign in front of witnesses and
killed a former boy friend. An open-and-shut case of manslaugher at
the least, yet she was never charged with anything! But that would be
fighting fire with fire and gutless democrats don't approve of that.

Disaster of Convenience - John Heinz' Widow Marries John Kerry 06.Feb.2004 19:18


President Ronald Reagan . . . was implicated in the Iran-Contra situation. . . . funds secretly given to the Iranians were skimmed off to finance the counter-revolutionaries in Nicaragua, to evade the Boland Amendment, prohibiting the U.S. from financing the Contras as they were called.

At the time Daddy Bush, as Vice President, denied he knew anything about this. He said he was "out of the loop" and thus not told what was going on. Later facts brought out by the Independent Counsel showed otherwise. In later years, some Congressmen an d other insiders admitted that they thought about impeaching President Reagan but thought it would be a bad thing for the nation. Working on a report on the Iran-Contra mess was a commission headed by Senator John Tower (R. Texas). For short, it was cal led the Tower Commission. In 1991, when he was unfairly defamed in being rejected by the Daddy Bush Administration for Secretary of Defense, Tower began grumbling he was going to bring out some dirty secrets of the elder Bush then President. Convenient ly, Tower perished with his daughter in an apparent sabotaged plane crash in April, 1991. About the same time, Senator John Heinz (R., Penn.), heir to the Heinz Ketchup fortune was himself snuffed out when his airplane was hit fro! m below by a helicopter. Although some believed it was foul play, others contended the helicopter pilot, examining whether the Heinz plane could not lower the landing wheels, slammed into the plane. Others raised the sinister version that the whirlybir d pilot wanted somehow to commit "suicide". Heinz' widow married Senator John Kerry (D., Mass.), long connected to the American CIA. Senator Kerry in investigating the dope traffic through his subcommittee, conveniently covered up the role of the espion age agency money laundry, Bank of Credit and Commerce International, BCCI, that also financed the campaigns of a group of senators including Kerry.


Please note. Senator Kerry is no sweet angel. He is an expert reputed blackmailer and cover up artist. He is married to the widow of the late U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, John Heinz, heir to the ketchup and canned beans fortune. Heinz died in a sabotaged plane crash in 1991, just as he was planning to expose U.S. government complicity in several domestic and foreign political assassinations.

As to the infamous BCCI, Sen Kerry himself had a conflict of interest in that he headed a group of U.S. Senators who accepted campaign funds from the worldwide spy-money laundry-murder machine BCCI. Kerry's subcommittee refused to delve into the highly pertinent Chicago branch office of BCCI and their Chicago twin, a branch of Italy's largest bank, owned in part by the Vatican, Banca Nazionale Del Lavoro, BNL. [Suppressed BNL records as to the secret private partnership of the Elder Bush and Saddam Hussein were the subject of my exclusive story, in Spotlight, August 19, 1991, referred to earlier.]

Kerry? 06.Feb.2004 22:31

blah blah blah blah

Vote for Kerry and get "business as usual"....

And then the American people wake up one day and scratch their heads and say...what happened???

Question 03.Mar.2004 08:14

Lance Carter IV

What happened to John Kerry,s first wife? Who was she (name) and where did her wealth come from. I think they were divorced, if so did she remarry and where do they live?

His first wife was....... 21.Mar.2004 16:10


John Kerry's first wife was Julia Thorne, a woman from Philadelphia whose family is worth about a half-billion dollars, but what they're money came from I have no idea.

john kerry's first wife 25.Mar.2004 17:22


Wondering how Julia Thorne's Philadelphia family made the fortune?

Teresa's ex 01.Aug.2004 11:04


Lets' have more info on the connection of Teresa's ex investigating the gov'ts role in bumping off foreigners. This smells like the war against saddam & farenheight 9-11. I predict Kerry is the next president!