An Open Letter to the Press and Public FROM LEON ISAAC KENNEDY
*Why I’m suing Johnson Publications and Ebony Magazine.
They published a sensationalized lie.
They accused me of viciously releasing a sex tape during our divorce, insinuating that I purposely tried to ruin Jayne Kennedy’s career and life. Nothing could be further from the truth. They published these scandalized lies to sell magazines, with no regard of how it would forever damage me and others.
The fact is the tape was stolen from my home and was released and exploited almost a decade after our divorce. Jayne and her husband Bill know the truth and I have sworn affidavits from others stating that they know that this tape was not put out by me. In these post-divorce years, I’ve maintained a friendship with Jayne, Bill and their family.
What was particularly hurtful is that this was done by such a venerable, historical magazine. When you read something in Ebony,it’s “Bible”, regarded as truth by the public. Johnson Publishing built its foundation and legacy by lifting up and championing the achievements of the Black community and in particular, Black men. However, the present Ebony staff published sensationalized falsities, contrary to my wonderful working relationship and friendship with CEO-Founder John Johnson – now deceased – and Bob Johnson, one of Johnson’s main reporters.
It is also hurtful that Johnson Publications and Ebony’s current administration and editors would defame someone with such a long history with Johnson Publications. For many years, Jayne and I together, or independently, were on many covers and in inside articles. – Yes, we benefited from the publicity; however, we also generated an amazing number of sales for Johnson Publications.
We were informed that the two cover stories in 1981-82 detailing our divorce were two of the largest selling magazine issues in Johnson’s history. Now, shamefully to sell more magazines, the current Johnson Publications and its current editors purposefully disregarded what their Founder and CEO, Mr. John H. Johnson printed as the truth regarding the Kennedy divorce and my behavior.
Because I had such a great relationship and high regard for Mr. Johnson and faith that Johnson Publications would print the story with truth and integrity - I gave Johnson Publications the exclusive first story on our divorce. At our home, Jayne and I sat with the Johnson reporters and stated that our divorce would be amicable, which it was; and our behavior toward one another has continued to be so.
As a result of these interviews, Johnson Publications ran not one, but two cover stories:
1.Jet Cover Story, “Leon and Jayne – Tell Why Their Good Marriage Turned Bad”, Exclusive, dated 11-26-1981 (see attached Jet Cover).
2.Ebony Cover Story, “Jayne and Leon Kennedy – Did Success Ruin Their Marriage?” Exclusive, dated January, 1982 (see attached Ebony Cover and 7 page story). Jet and Ebony are both part of Johnson Publications.
The story stated, “Jayne and Leon will always be good friends.” Jayne stated, “I’m only doing this interview because Leon asked me and because of my relationship with Johnson Publications.” I was quoted as saying, “No matter what happens, I’ll always love Jayne and I’ll always care about her.”
For these 1981-82 articles, there were numerous interviews and telephone calls emanating from Johnson Publications to the Kennedy’s – to gather truthful information, for Ebony’s 7 page cover story.
By contrast, for the 2013 article, neither I, nor Jayne Kennedy Overton were contacted by the current writers, editors or Johnson Publications for our comments or opportunity for denial or rebuttal before that article went to print. It’s obvious that they did not want the truth, just sensationalism!
Johnson’s entire attitude has been totally disrespectful. Anyone that knows me will attest that I’ve always tried to conduct myself in a decent and respectful manner. The past, almost 20 years of my life, have been devoted primarily to ministry, wherein we have tried to help and be of service to others.
This suit is not for money, it’s for history; once something appears in Jet or Ebony it’s taken as fact 10 years from now, 100 years from now.
For our families and our careers, the theft and distribution of this tape – was embarrassing and hurtful enough; to me, it was a painful lesson in humility. But incredulously, for me to now be labeled by Johnson Publications, as the vicious villain that perpetrated such hurt and embarrassment, to not just Jayne, but to myself, so many family members, friends and fans, is damaging on so many levels, that it’s beyond my ability to truly express it.
This exploited falsity and tape are not our legacy. Independently, and as a couple, we were pioneers during a time when there was a scarcity of opportunities for minorities, for those of color and for women. – We achieved many “firsts” and helped to break down barriers and open up many doors – that happily others are benefitting from today.
To me, Jayne will always be the epitome of beauty – grace and class. I cherish the time we had as a couple and the friendship I have had with her, her husband Bill and her family in these 30 post-divorce years.
With Respect for the Truth,
Leon Isaac Kennedy