Washington — President John F. Kennedy used secret tape recordings of Oval Office conversations to discredit political opponents on one occasion, the Boston Sunday Globe reported.
The story says that during the height of civil-rights tensions in 1963, the Kennedy administration leaked transcripts of conversations the President and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, had with Mississippi officials about the registration of a black man, James H. Meredith, at the University of Mississippi.
The tape transcripts show that under an agreement with Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett and then-Lt. Gov. Paul B. Johnson Jr., the Kennedys agreed to stage a show of federal force at Mr. Meredith's registration. Mr. Barnett, who had twice blocked Meredith from entering the school, wanted federal agents escorting Meredith to draw their guns - forcing Barnett to step aside, and saving him the political embarrassment of appearing to go along with court-ordered integration.
Barnett later backed out of the agreement, and the issue sparked a riot in which two people were killed. According to the Globe account, the Kennedys later leaked the tapes in an unsuccessful attempt to foil Mr. Johnson's gubernatorial campaign. Barnett, however, felt the sting of the leaks and lost a later re-election bid.