'Kennedy Curse' author on JFK Jr.
(CNN) -- Edward Klein's new book "The Kennedy Curse: Why Tragedy Has Haunted America's First Family for 150 Years" has attracted less attention for his description of the tragedies experienced by the Kennedy family than his revelations about one particular Kennedy couple -- John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette.
Klein claims that the pair's marriage had spiraled down into a nightmare of infidelity, drugs and domestic violence before the pair's death in a plane crash in 1999.
The author has been roundly criticized by Kennedy friends. In a CNN interview, JFK Jr. friend John Perry Barlow called the book "a form of grave robbery" and questioned the use of unnamed sources.
In a videotaped interview, Klein appeared on "American Morning" and spoke with anchor Soledad O'Brien, who began by asking him what prompted the book.
EDWARD KLEIN, AUTHOR, "THE KENNEDY CURSE": I felt that John Kennedy [Jr.] was a very special person, that he had such great promise. He might have gone on to do very great things and this accident at first seemed so unnecessary, so tragic. And I was curious -- why did he die? And it started me to thinking about the Kennedy curse and about how many other Kennedys had been unnecessarily killed, maimed and otherwise had met misfortune.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: What makes you think it's a curse, as opposed to a very large family that had a series of just terrible misfortunes in their lives?
KLEIN: You know, as far I could look, as hard as I could look, I couldn't find a single family that had suffered as many calamities as the Kennedys, unless you go all the way back to Greek mythology and the House of Atreus. Since John Kennedy, the president, was assassinated in 1963, Kennedys and those associated with them have been dying at the rate of one every two years.
O'BRIEN: Many friends of the family have disputed a lot of what you say, as you well know. Your book is very controversial.
You say, for example, that Carolyn Bessette was a drug addict. And you say that the marriage was crumbling. And you say that it was an abusive marriage where Carolyn was actually inflicting the abuse on John. And yet in virtually every case none of your sources are named.
How do you -- did you find that in all of your interviews, not one person would speak on the record with the number of people that you clearly talked to?
KLEIN: Yes, well, you know, I've done three Kennedy books over the past 15 years. I've interviewed several hundred people. There were 140 people on the record in this book, far more than the anonymous sources. And ...
O'BRIEN: But when it comes to the salacious material, actually they're not quoted.
KLEIN: Well, a lot of people don't want to be quoted. But keep in mind that Bob Woodward did all of his Watergate reporting with anonymous sources, and we know how that turned out.
O'BRIEN: Did you think at all when you were writing this book about how a family that lost two daughters, Carolyn Bessette's family, would feel reading what you've written about their daughter?
KLEIN: I thought about Mrs. Freeman [Bessette's mother], as she is now known, a good deal during the composition of this book. And I felt that a historian's first obligation, as hard as this is, is to the truth and not to the people he writes about.
O'BRIEN: You were friends with Jackie O[nassis]. She was ... you were a confidante of hers for many years.
Do you feel to some degree you're betraying that friendship by what you write? I mean, she was a very private person. Everyone knows that. Are you betraying that friendship and that relationship by all that you write about the family?
KLEIN: Well, you know, she's dead. He's dead -- John [Jr.]. [John and Carolyn] had no children. They were so important to our life that when John and Carolyn went missing, the president of the United States sent the United States Navy and Coast Guard to try to find them. When their bodies were found, they ended up on the cover of Time magazine, Newsweek magazine, People magazine. These were hugely important people in our national life and I think they deserve to be written about.
O'BRIEN: Any second thoughts? I mean obviously it's going to be a very hurtful book if Carolyn and Lauren Bessette's parents ever take a look at it. Any second thoughts about writing it?
KLEIN: Not at all. I'm happy I wrote it. I think it was a book that needed to be written because, after all, this book is not just about John and Carolyn. It's about a saga. It's a saga of 150 years of Kennedy suffering and an explanation of why this one family has gone through so many tragedies for so long.
O'BRIEN: CNN contacted the Kennedy and Bessette families and they declined to comment on Klein's book.