Judith Exner (January 11, 1934 – September 24, 1999) was an American woman who claimed to be the mistress of U.S. president John F. Kennedy and Mafia leaders Sam Giancana and John Roselli. She was also known as Judith Campbell Exner, and Judith Campbell.
Judith Eileen Katherine Immoor
January 11, 1934
New York City, U.S.
|Died||September 24, 1999 65) (aged|
Duarte, California, U.S.
|Other names||Judith Campbell|
Judith Campbell Exner
(m. 1952; div. 1958)
(m. 1975; sep. 1988)
|Relatives||Susan Morrow (sister)|
She was born Judith Eileen Katherine Immoor in New Jersey; her father, Frederick, was of German descent and an architect. Her mother, Katherine (née Shea), was of Irish descent. When she was a child, her family moved to the Los Angeles area, where she grew up in Pacific Palisades. After her mother nearly died in an auto accident, Judith withdrew from school at the age of 14 and was tutored at home. Her older sister Jacqueline later became an actress and took the professional name Susan Morrow.
Marriage and family
Described as "stunningly beautiful," she claimed to have had an 18-month relationship with then-Senator John F. Kennedy, beginning in 1960, which continued after he was elected President of the United States. She had a son, David Bohrer, from a later relationship. In 1975, Campbell married again, to Dan Exner, a golfer. They separated in 1988.
John F. Kennedy
According to Michael O'Brien of the Washington Monthly, on February 7, 1960, Frank Sinatra and Campbell were in Las Vegas, where Sinatra introduced her to John F. Kennedy, then a senator from Massachusetts and presidential candidate. In her 1977 memoir, she said that she became one of JFK's mistresses for a period of about two years, frequently visiting him in the White House after he was elected president. Her account was supported by phone records and other documentation, although Kennedy staff and supporters attacked her veracity when she published her memoir. A few months later in 1960, Sinatra introduced Campbell to "Sam Flood," who was actually Sam Giancana, the leading figure in the Chicago Mafia. She also became involved with him and knew his associate John Roselli.
Exner received national media attention when she testified in 1975 before the Church Committee investigating CIA assassination attempts on Fidel Castro. Roselli testified to the committee about Mafia involvement in the CIA attempt on Castro's life. When the Church Committee report was released in December 1975, it said that a "close friend" of President Kennedy had also been a close friend of mobsters John Roselli and Sam Giancana." Campbell's identity as the close friend was leaked to the Washington Post, which publicized it. William Safire in The New York Times also published it. The Committee had sent Exner a subpoena to make her testify. By then, married to Dan Exner, Judith Exner called a press conference that month and denied any knowledge of Mafia involvement with Kennedy.
In 1977, Exner published Judith Exner: My Story. In her memoir, she said that her relationship with Kennedy was entirely personal. She also said that Frank Sinatra later introduced her to Sam Giancana, with whom she also became intimate. She said that Giancana never asked her for any information related to Kennedy. She also said that John Roselli was her friend.
Aside from her own alleged affair with JFK, Exner claimed to have knowledge of other women who had affairs with Kennedy. These affairs included one with Danish journalist Inga Arvad between late 1941 and early 1942. Exner also said that Kennedy brought prostitutes to the White House swimming pool. Journalists and some historians have also alleged that Kennedy had a number of affairs, citing a memo by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover as part of the evidence.
Exner said that President Kennedy's Special Assistant David Powers helped set up encounters with President Kennedy. Powers later stated that Kennedy never had an affair with Exner.
In a 1988 interview with Kitty Kelley of People magazine, Exner told a very different story about Giancana and Kennedy. She said that she had lied to the Church Committee and in her memoir out of fear of Mafia retaliation. She said Kennedy had asked her to contact Giancana, and she helped set up a meeting between them during the 1960 presidential election. For about 18 months in 1960–61, "Exner claimed she served as the president's link with the Mob. She crisscrossed the nation carrying envelopes between the president and Giancana, and arranged about 10 meetings between the two." She later claimed these messages concerned plans to assassinate the Cuban president Fidel Castro.
In 1997, Exner alleged more details and changed her story, in separate interviews with Liz Smith of Vanity Fair and Seymour Hersh. She said Kennedy told her of his plans related to Cuba, and used her to carry money to Giancana, as well as to arrange numerous meetings between him, Giancana and Roselli. She claimed to Smith to have terminated a pregnancy resulting from a last encounter in 1962 with Kennedy. She said that she had carried payoffs from California defense contractors to the Kennedys, including Robert F. Kennedy. A witness of Hersh's who appeared to support Exner's story of carrying money to Giancana later dropped his story.
Both liberal and conservative critics have attacked these later accounts. They depend mostly on Exner and are not supported by what is known of Kennedy and his staff. Her earlier accounts of her affair with Kennedy were supported by FBI reports, Secret Service and White House phone logs and staff documentation. She has been described as an "unreliable witness," with a history of instability, depression and paranoia and, by then, she was suffering from cancer.
In popular culture
Exner's memoir was adapted as a made-for-TV movie, Power and Beauty (2002), directed by Susan Seidelman, in which she was played by Natasha Henstridge. Material was added from accounts published after her 1977 memoir.
Judy Campbell was portrayed in the 1998 HBO movie The Rat Pack by actress Michelle Grace. In the 2004 episode "In Camelot" of the TV series The Sopranos, the character of Fran Felstein is based on Judith Exner. Campbell was portrayed by Megan Vincent in the 2011 TV series The Kennedys. In 2016, she appeared as a character in the third episode of the first season of the television series Timeless, played by Elena Satine.
- Hodgson, Godfrey (September 26, 1999). "Judith Campbell Exner" – via The Guardian.
- "Susan Morrow – The Private Life and Times of Susan Morrow. Susan Morrow Pictures".
- O'Brien, Michael (December 1999). "The Exner File: Truth and fantasy from a president's mistress". The Washington Monthly. Retrieved September 3, 2015.
- Pace, Eric (September 27, 1999). "Judith Exner Is Dead at 65; Claimed Affair With Kennedy". The New York Times. Retrieved January 18, 2008.
- Assassination Records Review Board (September 30, 1998). "Chapter 6, Part I: The Quest for Additional Information and Records in Federal Government Offices". Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board (pdf). Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office. p. 109. Retrieved May 15, 2013.
- Frum, David (2000), How We Got Here: The '70s, Basic Books, New York, New York, p. 28. ISBN 0-465-04195-7. Note: Frum's account of Safire being the first to print her name in connection to the Church Committee was contradicted by O'Brien, who said it was leaked to the Washington Post.
- Hersh, Seymour (1997). The Dark Side of Camelot. Little, Brown & Company. pp. 82–84. ISBN 0-316-36067-8.
- THOMAS POWERS, "The Sins of a President", New York Times, November 30, 1997
- Judith Exner: From the Outfit to the Oval Office Archived October 16, 2012, at the Wayback Machine