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CBS Remembers JFK Jr. As Both an 'Icon' and 'A Regular Guy'

At the top of Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith marked the ten-year anniversary of the death of JFK Jr. by declaring: "He was such an icon in the city [New York], and we're going to remember JFK Jr. a little bit later on this morning."

In the later segment, Smith described Kennedy as "a paparazzi magnet" who was "crowned the sexiest man alive." Smith went on to exclaim: "Now ten years after his tragic death, the public fascination continues. People magazine has just released these never before seen photos."

In addition to touting Kennedy's tabloid popularity, Smith alluded to his potential as a political player: "John attended private school and then headed to Brown University and NYU Law School, but he did not follow in his father's footsteps." The segment featured Peter Canellos, editor of the book 'Last Lion: The Rise and Fall of Ted Kennedy,' who observed: "So many people who, you know, remember the Kennedy presidency always assumed that someday he would go into politics."

Smith then turned to the broader legacy of the Kennedy family: "And with the ailing health of his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, the family's legacy is being remembered." Canellos added: "Ted Kennedy has carried the family torch for 40 years, and there's a real question now whether there'll be another Kennedy family member who can step forward and be a national leader."

Following the taped segment, Smith remarked that "it was like a pall that was cast over the city" when JFK Jr. died. Co-host Maggie Rodriguez went further: "Well, that was the case everywhere, all over the country." Smith continued: "He was such a presence in New York City, and you know, it was kind of made almost sort of a joke. It was in Seinfeld. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss's character was always talking about...wanting to run into John F. Kennedy Jr. or whatever. But he was here." Rodriguez added: "And that was the great thing. People did run into him, and he was just like a - a regular guy...Such a loss."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:01AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: I find it hard to believe it was ten years ago tonight that JFK Jr.'s plane crashed. He and his wife and her sister died. He was such an icon in the city, and we're going to remember JFK Jr. a little bit later on this morning.

7:30AM TEASE:

SMITH: Coming up in this half hour, it's hard to believe, but it has been ten years since John F. Kennedy Jr. died in a plane crash. We're going to take a look back at his life and legacy.

7:37AM TEASE:

SMITH: Up next, ten years later, we'll remember the life and still shocking death of John F. Kennedy Jr.

7:40AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Ten years ago today, John F. Kennedy Jr. died when the plane he was piloting to a family wedding crashed. Here's a look back at his life and legacy. On a hot July night a decade ago, Americans learned JFK Jr. had died.

DAN RATHER: Once again, the Kennedy family is steeling itself tonight to deal with tragedy.

SMITH: The son of Camelot was killed in a plane crash, with his wife Carolyn and her sister Lauren. The man, once a paparazzi magnet and crowned the sexiest man alive, was dead at 38. Born in 1960, the son of President John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr. spent his early years living in White House with his older sister Caroline.

WALTER CRONKITE: President Kennedy died.

SMITH: After his father was assassinated in 1963, the family moved to New York City, where John attended private school and then headed to Brown University and NYU Law School, but he did not follow in his father's footsteps.

JOHN F. KENNEDY JR.: Ladies and gentlemen, meet George.

SMITH: In 1995 he decided to start his own magazine.

KENNEDY: You know, I've been lucky to have a lot of opportunities and feel very fortunate that there is this energy associated with it.

PETER CANELLOS [EDITOR, LAST LION: THE RISE AND FALL OF TED KENNEDY]: So many people who, you know, remember the Kennedy presidency always assumed that someday he would go into politics.

SMITH: Now ten years after his tragic death, the public fascination continues. People magazine has just released these never before seen photos. And with the ailing health of his uncle, Senator Ted Kennedy, the family's legacy is being remembered.

CANELLOS: Ted Kennedy has carried the family torch for 40 years, and there's a real question now whether there'll be another Kennedy family member who can step forward and be a national leader.

SMITH: Living here was so interesting because it was like a pall that was cast over the city when that happened.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: I can imagine.

SMITH: It just was so, sort of, unimaginable.

RODRIGUEZ: Well, that was the case everywhere, all over the country.

SMITH: And it was - but he was such a presence in New York City, and you know, it was kind of made almost sort of a joke. It was in Seinfeld. Julia Louis-Dreyfuss's character was always talking about-

RODRIGUEZ: Elaine.

SMITH: Yeah exactly, talking about wanting to run into John F. Kennedy Jr. or whatever. But he was here. I mean, people said-

RODRIGUEZ: And that was the great thing. People did run into him, and he was just like a - a regular guy.

SMITH: Yeah. Ten years goes by quickly, doesn't it?

RODRIGUEZ: Such a loss.

SMITH: Mm-hmn.



-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center.