Some People Think JFK Jr. Is Actually Still Alive Because of a QAnon Conspiracy Theory

The plane crash that killed JFK Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, has spawned national despair and conspiracy theories.

Jamie Lerner - Author

Jun. 14 2024, Published 12:42 p.m. ET

John F. Kennedy Junior at the opening of Hudson News today in Grand Central Station
Source: Getty Images

In 1999, John F. Kennedy Jr. made headlines after he and his controversial wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, disappeared in a private jet flying toward Martha’s Vineyard. Five days later, their remains, along with those of Carolyn’s sister, Lauren Bessette, were found off the coast. Now 25 years later, conspiracy theories have run rife about what really happened that fateful night.

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In the years since and investigations into JFK Jr.’s relationship with his wife, people have come up with plenty of theories about what happened because of the Kennedy family’s lore. But police and official investigators were also able to ascertain the cause of the plane’s crash and it’s not so outrageous.

JFK Jr. at a fundraising event (1984)
Source: Getty Images
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Why did JFK Jr.’s plane crash? It was deemed pilot error.

En route to Rory Kennedy’s wedding, JFK Jr. decided to pilot a private jet with his wife, Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy, and drop off her sister, Lauren Bessette, in Martha’s Vineyard on the way. However, the night took a turn when poor visibility conditions led to a fatal crash for all three passengers, whose remains were found a few days later near the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.

According to the Washington Post, JFK Jr.’s plane spiraled downward after he reported becoming disoriented due to thick fog. “Fresh radar tracks made available to the investigative team showed the Piper Saratoga plummeting from 2,200 feet to 1,100 feet in a span of 14 seconds Friday night, a rate far beyond the aircraft’s safe maximum,” the outlet wrote.

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JFK Jr. speaks at a fundraising event
Source: Getty Images

When experts investigated, they learned the plane had passed its annual inspection less than a month earlier and declared that pilot error was the cause of the crash. In fact, because of this, the Bessettes actually sued the Kennedys and settled out of court for compensation, blaming JFK Jr.’s “recklessness.”

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Historian Steven M. Gillon, a friend of Kennedy, told People at the time, "At the first sign of danger, he should have done what a lot of pilots did that night and flew inland, away from the ocean, spend the night somewhere and then pick up the next morning … It was [John's] poor judgment that led to his death and the death of his wife and his sister-in-law, and there's no way around that. John bears the responsibility of his recklessness that night and John alone."

John F. Kennedy, Jr. editor of George magazine, gives his wife Carolyn a kiss on the cheek during the annual White House Correspondents dinner May 1, 1999
Source: Getty Images
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There are plenty of conspiracy theories about JFK Jr.’s death.

Many people at the time actually found a way to blame Carolyn for the plane crash, saying that her alleged cocaine use and a delayed drug deal led her to be late for take-off, forcing them to fly at night in the harsher visibility conditions. However, this has never been proven and to put the blame on Carolyn for drug use is irresponsible and misogynist in holding women more accountable than men.

Today, however, there are some more popular (and questionable) conspiracy theories. One of the biggest is that JFK Jr. actually faked his own death and has been lurking in the shadows to take down the deep state. This theory began on QAnon forums by another anonymous member who called themselves “R.”

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They alleged that JFK Jr. was disillusioned with American politics after his father was assassinated, and that he may have believed one of the many conspiracy theories that the government (and the “deep state”) was responsible for his father’s death. Before he died, he had a relationship with Trump since they were both New York socialites, so some Q believers think that JFK Jr. hid while Trump rose up. Then, he would run alongside as Trump’s running mate in 2020, but that was obviously not the case.

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There are other conspiracies that someone had tampered with the plane to murder JFK Jr., just like his father and his uncle Robert F. Kennedy. It does seem uncanny that three prominent Kennedy men would die in such unfortunate and mysterious circumstances, so it’s no surprise that some might believe that JFK Jr.’s death was intended.

John F. Kennedy Jr. and Caroline Bessette in NYC, New York, March 11, 1996
Source: Getty Images

Author Paul Dawson’s 2017 book, JFK JR Murdered: Cover-up & Conspiracy to Kill JFK Jr., and John Koerner’s 2018 book, Exploding the Truth: The JFK Jr. Assassination, both explore these possibilities. They examine motives from the Bush family, the CIA, Israeli intelligence, and the American government to take down JFK Jr.

But in reality, it seems like Occam’s Razor: the simplest explanation is usually the right one.

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