Betty Ford’s Tabled Resolution

Betty Ford had a what-the-hell moment—and an accomplice in photographer David Hume Kennerly

On her final day as first lady, Betty Ford told Kennerly her idea for the Cabinet Room table. (David Hume Kennerly)
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Kennerly, now 61 and working as a contributing editor for NBC, was initially hesitant to publish it at all. "As we all found out later, the first lady had a drinking problem," he says. "And in the intervening years, she confronted it—very brave—and talked about her alcoholism and wrote her book and started the Betty Ford Center and all that. I did not want people to put a martini glass in her hand and say here she is drunk on the Cabinet Room table. That would just be wrong. Because that is not what happened."

So, in 1994, Kennerly showed the photograph to the former president. "And it's like one of those cartoon moments where his eyes come bulging out, and he goes, 'Oh, Betty isn't going to like this.' Remember, he knows her better than anybody. I'm sunk. But he doesn't say anything when she comes in, and she looks at the picture and she starts laughing. She says, 'Oh, I forgot all about this. That is so great.' And I ask her, you won't mind? And Mrs. Ford says, 'No! It's a terrific picture.'

"Then President Ford says, 'Well, Betty, you never told me you did that.' And she smiles at him and says, 'There's a lot of things I haven't told you, Jerry.' "

William Booth, a reporter for the Washington Post, covers arts and culture from Los Angeles.


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