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An Epic Animosity: Bobby Kennedy Vs. Jimmy Hoffa

When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, labor leader Jimmy Hoffa was heard to say, “Bobby Kennedy is just another lawyer now.”

The animosity between Hoffa and the Kennedys dated to a famous 1957 Senate investigation, the so-called Rackets Committee, led by Robert Kennedy. That very public hearing began a lifelong feud between two powerful and dedicated adversaries.

James Neff is a Seattle-based journalist and the author of “Vendetta: Bobby Kennedy Versus Jimmy Hoffa.” Here he explains what it took to uncover the origins and consequences of their epic enmity.

Robert Kennedy believed Hoffa was “crooked and greedy.” When he became Attorney General in 1961 Kennedy created a “Get Hoffa” squad. Hoffa, who rose from poverty and only a ninth grade education to become the president of the Teamsters Union, looked on the Kennedys as “spoiled brats…who had little understanding of the working man.”

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh calls Neff’s work “not a book about a good Bobby versus a bad Hoffa. It is a study of two men who always got what they wanted staging a shootout on the streets of Laredo.”

James Neff has directed multiple Pulitzer Prize winning series as investigations editor at the Seattle Times. His books include “The Wrong Man,” “Unfinished Murder” and “Mobbed Up.” Neff spoke at The Elliott Bay Book Company on July13.  Thanks to Jennie Cecil Moore for our recording. 

Year started with KUOW: 2006