Nightly News   |  October 16, 2012

Exclusive: a window into Ethel Kennedy’s life

In a rare interview NBC’s Brian Williams sat down with Bobby Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, where they discussed their home life, her husband’s relationship with Lyndon Johnson, and even her grandson’s girlfriend, singer-songwriter Taylor Swift.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> hbo is debuting a documentary thursday night about the very public life of ethel kennedy . at 84, she's certainly a survivor having lost her husband and two of her 11 children. she's seldom spoken about her life, any of it. she's talked to us about the parts of her story she's chosen to reveal now.

>> i mean, how lucky could i really have been.

>> ethel kennedy makes a big distinction between counting her blessings and not looking back too much. while she does not enjoy being interviewed, she said yes to her daughter rory, a documentary filmmaker who wanted to tell her mom's extraordinary story.

>> we're making a documentary about you. [ laughter ]

>> it's a bad idea.

>> ethel skakel and bobby kennedy came from different backgrounds. various skakels dated various kennedys and she met bobby on a ski trip. her enthusiasm and devotion to him built his confidence even in his brother's shadow.

>> everything came so naturally to jack. bobby always had to struggle for it. for everything. and he always thought it was because he was at the bottom of the heap growing up.

>> it turned out she loved the life, the campaigning, the camelot years, and after jfk's assassination, when brother bobby lapsed into darkness for months, she was there at the '64 convention for something we won't see again. a 15 minute standing ovation for her husband. lbj became a looming figure, his relationship with bobby was toxic, even though johnson can be heard on white house tapes trying to be upbeat on the phone.

>> mr. president, hi, how are you?

>> fine.

>> what up close memories do you have of lyndon johnson ?

>> he wasn't a great bobby fan.

>> and visa versa?

>> yes.

>> all right, we'll leave it at that.

>> thank you.

>> bobby kennedy broke with lbj to run for president. that ended with his assassination in los angeles . a subject his widow cannot discuss until this day.

>> then we lost daddy.

>> can we talk about something else.

>> mrs. ethel kennedy gave birth today --

>> rory kennedy was born six months after her father was killed with the whole world watching.

>> i told ethel , joan and i are going to take this baby home. we think ethel has enough of them.

>> you know, i think i just couldn't help smiling.

>> ethel 's life with bobby was organized bedlam. she was pregnant for an astonishing 99 months of her life. it was a life of children and dogs, 16 at one time.

>> do you think you required a certain amount of chaos around you, to be in your natural happy state?

>> i enjoyed a lot of different things, different -- a lot of different animals. and, of course, children.

>> throw them all in the same category.

>> you all made a lot of noise.

>> thank you.

>> these days, ethel kennedy 's life is mostly about her 35 grandchildren. there always seems to be one or two running for office. and right now, one of them is dating taylor swift .

>> what's it like hanging out with taylor swift ?

>> well, what fun? i mean, she is such a delight. the thing about taylor, she's so game. she'll go sailing, she never sailed. she'll drag behind the boat, she's never done that. she plays flashlight tag at night, they're all running around bumping into each other and falling into bushes. she's remarkable.

>> our thanks for mrs. kennedy for our time together. there's more of our interview on our website nbcnightlynews.com.