The high season for the wealthy who winter along Florida’s southeast coast was winding down to a whisper when the story broke like a monster wave. A 30-year-old woman said she was raped at the Kennedy family’s compound at Palm Beach, 90 miles north of here.
Overnight, it seemed, hordes of reporters from all over the world were prowling tony Worth Avenue and haunting exclusive drinking establishments in search of news about the incident. Satellite trucks lined the beachfront road near the estate, but news has been scarce.
“Our lobby is filled with media,” Linda Rawls, managing editor of the Palm Beach Daily News, said Wednesday. “CNN, CBS, the London Express, the Washington Post, all of them desperate for a sound bite, something to film.
“And with the police getting more tight-lipped, they’re turning to anything that moves. And right now, that’s us.”
What is known is that the woman said she was raped at the oceanfront estate after meeting Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), his son Patrick, 24, and a nephew, William Kennedy Smith, 30, at a Palm Beach bar early Saturday morning. Smith is the son of Edward Kennedy’s older sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, and the late Stephen Smith, a businessman.
The woman told police that after meeting the Kennedys she returned to the compound “for a couple of cocktails,” according to one report.
Spokesmen for Edward and Patrick Kennedy have said they were not involved in the alleged rape. Smith issued a statement Wednesday in Washington calling news reports on the allegation inaccurate and saying that “any suggestion that I was involved in any offense is erroneous.”
“The news reports circulating about events last weekend at the Kennedy family residence in Palm Beach, Fla., are inaccurate and have unfairly embarrassed my uncle, Sen. Ted Kennedy, and my cousin, Patrick Kennedy,” Smith said. “I make this statement in the hopes that it will help stem the tide of unwarranted suspicions.”
The woman, whom police have declined to identify, has reportedly told them the name of her attacker, but authorities Wednesday refused to name him or say if he had any connection to the Kennedy family.
However, the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reported Wednesday that Smith was the subject of the investigation.
Also on Wednesday the Palm Beach Daily News, the Palm Beach Post and television station WPTV filed suit in Circuit Court in an effort to have the rape report made public.
In comments to reporters Wednesday in Boston, Edward Kennedy said: “I think that all of the members of the Kennedy family are obviously distressed by the reports that have come out of Florida in the period of the last few days.
“I think all of us are hopeful that all of the parties will be treated fairly and that there will be a full and complete investigation.” He said he did not know the name of the woman.
The Washington Post reported that the woman’s identity was circulating widely through the Palm Beach social set.
The Post said the alleged victim was described by friends and acquaintances as the single mother of a 2-year-old girl. They said she frequents several Palm Beach clubs, including the swank Au Bar where she was introduced to the senator, Patrick and William Kennedy Smith last Friday night.
Times researcher Anna Virtue contributed to this story.