The 1983 TV mini-series, “Blood Feud,” chronicles the decade-long struggle between Robert F. Kennedy and James R. Hoffa.
As Attorney General, Kennedy declares war–for the first time in American history–on the Mafia. He forces longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover–who has long refused to tackle the Mob–to investigate and arrest mobsters throughout the nation.
He also brings new charges against Hoffa–and, once again, is outraged to see Hoffa acquitted.
But under the unrelenting pressures of being in the crosshairs of the FBI, Hoffa begins to crack. He tells a trusted colleague, Edward Grady Partin (Brian Dennehy) how easy it would be to assassinate Kennedy with a rifle or a bomb.
Later, Partin gets into a legal jam–and is abandoned by the Teamsters. Hoping to cut a deal, he relays word to the Justice Department of Hoffa’s threats against the Attorney General.
Now working for the Justice Department, Partin sends in reports on Hoffa’s juror-bribing efforts in yet another trial. Hoffa again beats the rap–but now Kennedy has the insider’s proof he needs to put him away for years.
Meanwhile, the Mafia despairs of the increasing pressure of the Justice Department. At a swanky restaurant, several high-ranking members agree that “something” must be done.
[Although this scene is fictional, it’s clearly based on an infamous outburst of Carlos Marcello, the longtime Mafia boss of New Orleans.
In 1962, Marcello–who had been deported to Guatemala by RFK, then illegally re-entered the country–flew into a rage when a business colleague mentioned Kennedy.
“Take the stone out of my shoe!” he shouted, echoing a Sicilian curse. “Don’t you worry about that little Bobby sonofabitch. He’s going to be taken care of!”
When his colleague warned that murdering RFK would trigger the wrath of his brother, President John F.Kennedy, Marcello replied: “In Sicily they say if you want to kill a dog you don’t cut off the tail. You go for the head.”
Marcello considered President Kennedy to be the head. And he added that he planned to use a “nut” to do the job.]
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas. “Blood Feud” clearly implies that the Mafia was responsible.
[The House Assassinations Committee investigated this possibility in 1978, and determined that Marcello had the means, motiva and opportunity to kill JFK. But it could not find any conclusive evidence of his involvement.]
Even with the President dead, RFK’s Justice Department continues to pursue Hoffa. In 1964, he is finally convicted of jury tampering and sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.
Hoping to avoid prison, Hoffa phones Robert Kennedy, offering future Teamsters support if RFK runs for President. To prove he can deliver, he tells Kennedy that the Teamsters have even penetrated the FBI.
Kennedy confronts J. Edgar Hoover, accusing him of illegally planting wiretaps in Mob hangouts all over the country.
J. Edgar Hoover and Robert F. Kennedy
Hoover retorts that this had been the only way to obtain the prosecution-worthy intelligence Kennedy had demanded: “You loved that flow of information. You didn’t want it to stop.”
Kennedy: Why did you keep the FBI out of the fight against the Mob for decades?
Hoover: “Every agency that came to grips with them got corrupted by their money.”
[So far as is known, Hoover never made any such confession. Historians continue to guess his reason for leaving the Mob alone for decades.]
RFK then mentions the CIA’s plots to employ the Mob to assassinate Cuban dictator Fidel Castro
[The agency had wanted to please President Kennedy, and the Mafia had wanted to regain its casinos lost to the Cuban Revolution.]
“The CIA, doing business with the Mob,” says Kennedy. “The FBI, leaking information to its enemies [the Teamsters].” Then, sadly: “I guess it’s true–everyone does business with everyone.”
[So far as is known, the FBI did not pass on secrets to the Teamsters. But during the 1970s, the Mafia penetrated the Cleveland FBI office through bribes to a secretary. Several FBI Mob informants were “clipped” as a result.]
In 1967, Hoffa goes to prison. He stays there until, in 1971, President Richard Nixon commutes his sentence in hopes of gaining Teamsters support for his 1972 re-election.
Kennedy leaves the Justice Department in 1964 andis elected U.S. Senator from New York. In 1968 he runs for President. On June 5, after winning the California primary, he’s assassinated.
Hoffa schemes to return to the presidency of the Teamsters–a post now held by his successor, Frank Fitzsimmons. He runs the union in a more relaxed style than Hoffa, thus giving the Mob greater control over its pension fund.
And the Mafia likes it that way.
On July 30, 1975, Hoffa disappears from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant near Detroit. He had gone there to meet with two Mafia leaders.
Forty years later:
- Labor unions are a shadow of their former power.
- The threat they once represented to national prosperity has been replaced by that of predatory corporations like Enron and AIG.
- The war RFK began on the Mafia has continued, sending countless mobsters to prison.
- Millions of Americans who once expected the Federal Government to protect them from crime now believe the Government is their biggest threat.
- The idealism that fueled RFK’s life has virtually disappeared from politics.