'Profiles in Courage' is Published

Profiles in Courage is a 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning book attributed to John F. Kennedy, describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United States Senators from throughout the Senate's history.

The book profiles senators who crossed party lines and/or defied the public opinion of their constituents to do what they felt was right and suffered severe criticism and losses in popularity because of their actions. The book was widely celebrated and became a best seller, but there are credible allegations that most of it was the work of his speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen.

Questions have been raised about how much of the book was actually written by Kennedy and how much by his research assistants. Some time after April 1957, journalist Drew Pearson appeared as a guest on the The Mike Wallace Interview and made the following claim live on air: "John F. Kennedy is the only man in history that I know who won a Pulitzer Prize for a book that was ghostwritten for him." Wallace replied "You know for a fact, Drew, that the book Profiles in Courage was written for Senator Kennedy ... by someone else?" Pearson responded that he did, and that Kennedy speechwriter Ted Sorensen actually wrote the book. Wallace responded: "And Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for it? And he never acknowledged the fact?" Pearson replied: "No, he has not. You know, there's a little wisecrack around the Senate about Jack ... some of his colleagues say, 'Jack, I wish you had a little less profile and more courage.'"

Joseph Kennedy saw the broadcast, then called his lawyer, Clark Clifford, yelling: "Sue the bastards for fifty million dollars!" Soon Clifford and Robert Kennedy showed up at ABC and told executives that the Kennedys would sue unless the network issued a full retraction and apology. Mike Wallace and Drew Pearson insisted that the story was true and refused to back off. Nevertheless, ABC made the retraction and apology, which made Wallace furious.

However, years later historian Herbert Parmet analyzed the text of Profiles in Courage and wrote in his book The Struggles of John F. Kennedy (1980) that although Kennedy did oversee the production and provided for the direction and message of the book, it was clearly Sorensen who provided most of the work that went into the end product.

In May 2008, Sorensen in his autobiography, Counselor, largely confirmed allegations that he had done much, if not most, of the writing. Sorensen wrote that he "did a first draft of most chapters," "helped choose the words of many of its sentences," and "privately boasted or indirectly hinted that [he] had written much of the book." Sorensen claimed that in May 1957, Kennedy "unexpectedly and generously offered, and I happily accepted, a sum" for his work on the book. The sum Kennedy paid to Sorensen exceeded half the book's royalties from its first five years of sales and led Sorensen to inform Kennedy that he was disinclined to push for recognition of his participation.