Jackie Kennedy
Former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in 1986.

Newly released tapes of interviews Jacqueline Kennedy gave just months after her husband's 1963 assassination show an outspoken and not always liberal former first lady.

Throughout the tapes, Kennedy, who died in 1994, describes various world leaders, including Lyndon B. Johnson, Martin Luther King, Charles De Gaulle and Indira Gandhi, in unflattering terms.

In the eight hours of tapes, she also mentions how President John F. Kennedy once joked about the threat of assassination.

"And then I remember Jack saying after the Cuban missile crisis, when it all turned [out] so fantastically, he said, 'Well, if anyone's ever going to shoot me, this would be the day they should do it.'"

The recordings are the subject of a book, "Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life With John F Kennedy," published on Wednesday.

Jackie Kennedy agreed to talk to White House aide Arthur Schlesinger at her Washington home, four months after JFK was killed in Dallas, on the condition the tapes would not be released until long after her death.

Recalling the Cuban missile crisis and fears of a nuclear confrontation between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, Kennedy proved her devotion to her husband by saying she told JFK, "If anything happens, we're all going to stay right here with you. Even if there's not room in the bomb shelter in the White House, I just want to be with you, and I want to die with you"

While she admitted their marriage was "rather terribly Victorian or Asiatic," she also said she was determined to provide a "climate of affection, comfort and detente" before adding their time in the White House were "our happiest years."

The former first lady was far less kind when it came to other leaders, however, criticising and dismissing most of them, and revealing what JFK really thought of his vice president, Johnson, who became president on his assassination. The rivalry and lack of chemistry between the two men was never a well-guarded secret, with many people at the time already acknowledging Johnson became Kennedy's running mate because the president needed a Southerner.

"Jack said it to me sometimes. He said, 'Oh, God, can you ever imagine what would happen to the country if Lyndon were president?"' she said.

Martin Luther King is also directly criticised and described as a "a terrible man" and a "phony" who took part in sex parties and was drunk during her husband's funeral.

She says on the tapes that King had allegedly tried to organise a sex party before he attended the 1963 March on Washington at which he made his famous "I Have A Dream" speech.

"[Bobby] said this with no bitterness or anything, how he was calling up all these girls and arranging for a party of men and women, I mean, sort of an orgy."

According to Jackie Kennedy, her brother in-law, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, also told her the civil rights leader had been intoxicated at JFK's funeral and mocked Cardinal Richard Cushing's Mass.

She said: "He made fun of Cardinal Cushing and [Robert] said that he was drunk at it. I can't see a picture of Martin Luther King without thinking, that man's terrible."

More controversial comments follow, this time on French President Charles de Gaulle, who is depicted as "that egomaniac" and "that spiteful man," while future Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was a "kind of pushy, bitter prune horrible woman."

Her controversial comments also touched on women and politics, including, "I think women should never be in politics. We're just not suited to it."

Kennedy also said "violently liberal women in politics" preferred Adlai Stevenson, one of JFK's Democratic rivals in 1960, because they were "scared of sex."

Kennedy also had harsh words for other first ladies. Lady Bird Johnson, Lyndon Johnson's wife, she described as a "sort of like a trained hunting dog" who always had a notebook at hand whenever her husband spoke so she could record everything, while she hinted that Madame Nhu, South Vietnam's first lady, and Clare Boothe Luce, a conservative U.S. author and onetime congresswoman were having an affair and, "I wouldn't be surprised if they were lesbians."

But if Jackie Kennedy was aware of her own husband's repeated infidelity, she didn't show it on the tapes.