November 18: an article on assassination researcher Dave Perry is published on the CNN website. Perry is asked to comment on some of the most prevalent theories, and dismisses them with the wave of his his hand, sometimes without any real foundation. The belief LBJ was involved, according to Perry, stems from the statements of Madeline Brown, who Perry doesn't believe. He ignores the mountains of other reasons to believe Johnson was involved. The writer of the article, Thom Patterson, reveals his own bias, moreover. He dismisses the thousands if not millions of people who know more about the assassination than himself by writing "Conspiracy theorists have been gathering to compare notes at special symposiums, like the one last month at Pittsburgh's Duquesne University. The event, which included Oliver Stone as a panelist, seemed more like a revival meeting at a Sunday house of worship than an academic conference, according to a reporter who was there. "Replace 'Amen' for 'That's right!' and it would have basically been a church," recalled Rebecca Nuttall."
The article does pull out a few surprises, however. It admits: "The conspiracy theories are still around because people don't know
what to believe," said museum curator Gary Mack, who admits he's "not
satisfied with the official story." It then reveals that Perry himself remains puzzled about what happened in Mexico City and still wonders about the CIA's involvement. No score.
November 18: While shopping at Target, I notice Jackie Kennedy's face on the cover of People Magazine. Inside is an exclusive excerpt of an upcoming book by Clint Hill on the assassination. (I thought he'd already covered this in his previous book Mrs. Kennedy and Me.) In any event, while reading through Hill's most recent account of the assassination, I notice something is missing: the second shot. In previous accounts, he swore by the recollections of his fellow agents, and insisted Kennedy and Connally were hit by separate shots, and that the single-bullet theory was nonsense. But here he hears a first shot, jumps off the follow-up car, and sees the bullet strike Kennedy's head as he is running toward the limo. There is no mention of a second shot, even to mention he didn't hear it. Did someone get to Hill? It later became public that the 80-something Hill and his 40-something co-writer, Lisa McCubbins, were not just business partners, but life partners, even though Hill was still married. McCubbins' influence seems obvious.
Score: Lone-nuts 52, Conspiracy Theorists 18.
November 19: The Los Angeles Times runs an article on Eugene Boone, the Dallas Deputy credited with finding the rifle in the school book depository. It starts out by discussing Boone's running to the grassy knoll and looking back in the train yards. It then relates: "I saw Pullman cars, and investigated one man who was working on the cars. He said he hadn’t seen anybody or heard the shots. I also talked to a man in the railroad control tower who said he didn’t see anyone run in, didn’t hear the shots." Well, this is interesting. The man in the control tower was Lee Bowers, who always claimed he'd heard three shots, with the second two bang bang. Boone himself had previously said the shots were bang bang. But strangely not here. When asked if he thought there had been a conspiracy, he responds "If there was a conspiracy, the conspiracy was getting Oswald in the right place at the right time to accomplish such a feat. The JFK film [by Oliver Stone] made a big deal about the tree in front of the sniper’s nest — it wasn’t a problem then. The branches barely reached the windowsill." Well, hell. It wasn't Stone who made a big deal about the tree but the Secret Service and Warren Commission, which concluded the tree would have obstructed a shot before frame 210.
Score: Lone-nuts 53, Conspiracy Theorists 18.
November 19: U.S. News and World Report features the question of conspiracy in the death of President Kennedy on the Debate Club section of its website. 4 articles--by John Kelin, Michael Vollbach with Ronald Burda, Jefferson Morley, and Larry Sabato--argue that a conspiracy was likely, or is a known fact--and one--by John McAdams--argues that there was no conspiracy. Readers are allowed to vote yes or no on the articles. The yes on conspiracy articles by Kelin, Vollbach, and Morley receive yes votes by a ratio of greater than 2 to 1. The yes article by Sabato, where he says a conspiracy is likely but we'll probably never know, receives slightly more no votes than yes. The article by McAdams receives twice as many no votes as yes.
Score: Lone-nuts 53, Conspiracy Theorists 19.
November 19: An article appears on the website of the popular PBS program Frontline, in which the assassination is discussed by writers Don DeLillo, Edward Epstein, and Gerald Posner. The article is embarrassingly biased, as all three agree that studying the scientific and medical evidence in the case is a waste of time, and that the only way to understand what happened is to study Oswald. All three agree he killed Kennedy, and acted alone. Only Epstein believes he could have had some outside encouragement. The anti-science and anti-historical position of the three men is perhaps best illustrated by this passage from Posner:
"The evidence only leads us down a rabbit hole if we tend to look at it in its entirety and are overwhelmed by the accumulation of strange events and unusual characters. Instead, researchers need to approach each area of the case as separate but ultimately related investigations. For instance, science and technology can today answer many of the technical questions about the ballistics and medical evidence that the FBI was unable to address for the Warren Commission 40 years ago. By carefully examining the latest evidence, it is possible to reach definite and credible answers about how the assassination was carried out (only one gunman at Dealey Plaza, behind the president, firing from the same general area where Oswald was last seen by his co-workers only half an hour before the murder)."
Well, this is either some of the most ill-informed babble ever uttered, or a disgusting lie. In the past decade, the scientific evidence supporting the single-bullet theory, namely the HSCA's bullet lead and trajectory analyses, has been totally dismantled by a number of researchers and scientists, including yours truly. And then there's the bit about Oswald's last being seen on the sixth floor. Surely Mr. Posner--who likes to hold himself up as an expert on the Warren Commission's 26 volumes--knows that Eddie Piper was the last person to see Oswald before the shots were fired, and that he repeatedly and consistently told the authorities he saw Oswald on the ground floor.
Score: Lone-nuts 54, Conspiracy Theorists 19.
November 19: NBCnews.com features an article by Elisha Fieldstadt on the possibility Oswald killed Kennedy as part of a communist plot. It reports that author Brian Latell "doesn’t think that Castro directly ordered Kennedy’s death, but believes he had knowledge of Oswald’s plan and purposefully didn’t stop it." It then discusses the CIA's attempts on Castro and reports that author Edward Epstein believes "that Kennedy's plot to take out Castro was moving 'completely in tandem' with Oswald’s plot to kill Kennedy." It quotes Epstein: “If they had called off the plots against Castro, Oswald would not have shot Kennedy.” Ultimately, however, the article steps back from blaming Kennedy for his own death and lets the by-now tremendously over-exposed John McAdams have the last word. McAdams claims: "Whoever you dislike, you blame them for killing Kennedy.” By presenting one of the weaker conspiracy theories, and then allowing single-assassin theorist John McAdams to appear to be the voice of reason, the article is a score for the Lone-nuts.
Score: Lone-nuts 55, Conspiracy Theorists 19.
November 19: Newsmax.com unleashes a new documentary The Assassination of JFK: Case Closed? It presents vintage news footage at the outset and then pits a number of people suspecting a conspiracy, including Sherry Fiester, Cyril Wecht, Oliver Stone, and Roger Stone, against Gerald Posner. It makes a number of misleading mistakes along the way. As but two examples, it describes Oswald as an "ex-Marine sniper" when he had actually been a radar man who had never even received sniper training, and mentions that the assassination has become "booming cottage industry for conspiracy theorists" when the truth is that Oswald-did-its like James Swanson, Bill O'Reilly, Vincent Bugliosi, and yes, Gerald Posner, have made more money off the assassination in the past 2 decades than all the conspiracy theorists combined. While it allows Roger Stone to cite reasons for suspecting Lyndon Johnson's involvement in the assassination, it also allows Gerald Posner to have the last word, and claim the government and the mafia were too incompetent to pull off an assassination, and that no conspiracy theory can hold water if it doesn't include the "unstable" Oswald as a central figure. It ends with Posner suggesting that since conspiracy theorists can't offer a definitive answer as to what happened, it's time they simply give up. No score.
November 19: The New Republic resurrects a 12-21-63 article by Richard Dudman in which Dudman suggests there was a hole in the limousine's windshield, and Dr. Robert McClelland says the throat wound was an entrance wound. As Dudman wrote subsequent articles in which he (and McClelland) retreated from their positions, the choice to reprint this one, written before Dr. McClelland had been shown the autopsy protocol, is undoubtedly intriguing. While the readership of the New Republic is small, and the impact of an old re-print is questionable, this is nevertheless a score for the conspiracy theorists.
Score: Lone-nuts 55, Conspiracy Theorists 20.
November 20: The Los Angeles Times runs another article on the assassination in its entertainment section. Parading as a discussion of books, it is really another editorial for the Oswald-did-it-let's-now-get-over-it position embraced by the paper. Its author, Hector Tobar, relates how reading ONE book changed his mind on the assassination, and freed him from a 20-year long "conspiracy fever." The book? Case Closed, by Gerald Posner, which even Vincent Bugliosi admitted was a biased prosecutor's brief. The specific point that turned Tobar? That Oswald told his wife he could rationalize killing the racist, Kennedy-hating, fomenter of violence General Walker because his doing so would ultimately save lives... Yeah, that's it. That is essentially the position of the U.S. Government and most Americans--that it's okay to murder people if you think it will save lives--but Oswald's saying so--if he really said it--horrifies Tobar. He concludes "That conversation shed a clear light on the life of a small man with big dreams whose demented actions changed the course of American history. If I had not read Posner’s brave book (which ran counter to the conspiratorial conventional wisdom of its time), I would never have known about it."
Score: Lone-nuts 56, Conspiracy Theorists 20.
Score: Lone-nuts 56, Conspiracy Theorists 21.
November 20: While riding with my wife in the car, I listen to KCRW--the local station for National Public Radio--and catch the end of an interview with writer David Stern, who visited Minsk, Russia in order to interview people who once knew Oswald. When I get home I get online and follow up on this and find an 11-18 article by Stern on the BBC's website. It concludes: "No-one I spoke to in Minsk believed that Oswald could have assassinated the US president. This proves nothing. It's human nature to believe only the best about your friends. Still it was somewhat unnerving to hear so many good things about a person whose name is associated with one of the most infamous acts of our era. I met one of Oswald's former workmates, Vladimir Zhidovich, at a local cafe. He, like everyone else, told me how Oswald was a "good guy" and he couldn't imagine him a murderer. As we parted, he asked a favour. If I ever go to Texas, he asked, would I lay some flowers on Oswald's grave, from him and the other colleagues at the radio factory? The request took me aback. I didn't know what to say. On the one hand, this was Oswald we were talking about - a man who may have slain a political leader and irrevocably altered world history. On the other hand, Zhidovich's appeal came from the heart. I still haven't made up my mind what to do." Well, this is most interesting. On the radio today Stern insisted that although he thought about it, he could never bring himself to put flowers on Oswald's grave. The show's host--I didn't catch his name--then launched into an extended discussion of conspiracy theories, and that, although most of them seem crazy, we know conspiracies exist so we can never fully discount them. Well, this is a pet peeve of mine. Whenever someone or some thing discusses the Kennedy assassination in the context of "conspiracy theories" they end up short-changing the one thing they won't discuss: the evidence. I am going to Dallas tomorrow at my own expense to discuss how the evidence regarding Kennedy's back wound has--from the very first--suggested more than one shooter, and how a study of this evidence proves there's been a cover-up. As a consequence I can only see this NPR piece as lone-nut nonsense lite.
Score: Lone-nuts 57, Conspiracy Theorists 21.
November 20: The latest offering on The Daily Beast website is one in which "experts pick the wildest conspiracy theories."
Oh, good! Light entertainment. The "experts" are as follows: Vincent
Bugliosi, Priscilla J. McMillan, Anthony Summers, Dean Owen, Mark
Fenster, James Piereson, Jefferson Morley, John McAdams, Larry Sabato,
Jim DiEugenio, Lamar Waldron, and Lance deHaven-Smith. While most of
them go after the expected targets--Greer did it, Hickey did it, the
body was altered--two (McMillan and Sabato) offer that it's ludicrous to
suspect LBJ's involvement. Uhh, HOW is that, exactly? While this would
normally mark the article as a score for the Lone-nuts, DiEugenio and
deHaven Smith are allowed to turn it around and say the Warren
Commission's theory was the wildest theory of all. No score.
November 20: NBCnews.com presents another article on the assassination. This one, by Evan Burgos, deals with speculation about the CIA's role in the shooting. It cites Robert Kennedy's initial belief the CIA was involved on some level. It then largely rejects this idea, citing Phil Shenon's and John McAdams' claim we have good reason to believe it was Robert Kennedy himself who picked former CIA head Allen Dulles to be a member of the Warren Commission. (The article fails to admit that there was basically one source for this, a manipulative character whose own tapes proved he lied about the formation of the Warren Commission--Lyndon Johnson). In any event, the article then turns a corner and admits "But even among pragmatists, some can’t ignore the notion of CIA involvement. 'I think it’s premature
to rule out a conspiracy involving CIA people,' said Jefferson Morley, a
former Washington Post reporter and the moderator of jfkfacts.com. 'It’s obviously very difficult to detect and it may not be there.'" It closes by noting "Morley does not subscribe to the
idea that the CIA hatched an elaborate plan to kill Kennedy — only that
it knew more about Oswald than it has ever acknowledged. 'Here’s the important
thing, and I think it’s something that really gets lost in the
relentless focus on 'was there a conspiracy,' Morley said. 'CIA
officers were paying much closer attention to Lee Harvey Oswald than the
CIA ever admitted.' He added: 'The question of whether that’s proof of a conspiracy or not, I think is
a distraction from the simple fact that it’s true.'" Well, this is pretty disgusting, in my opinion. Morley is a "pragmatist" because he is more interested in the fact the CIA knew more than it ever admitted, than in whether or not this knowledge extended to complicity in the assassination. We can't rule it out, of course, but it's not really something "pragmatists" worry about. Pass me the barf bag.
Score: Lone-nuts 58, Conspiracy Theorists 21.
November 20: The Huffington Post publishes an article on former Senator Gary Hart, in which Hart discusses the Church Committee investigation of CIA activities, that led to his own sub-committee investigation of the Kennedy assassination, and its possible link to the CIA-Mafia plots on Castro. Hart notes that one witness they tried to talk to--Sam Giancana--was brutally murdered, and that one witness they did talk to--Johnny Rosselli--was even more brutally murdered. The article concludes: "Fifty years later, the danger of digging into cases such as Kennedy's assassination is not lost on Hart. In his chiding of the press and its failure to seize the opportunity to reveal the truth about Kennedy's death, he admits that revealing such a truth -- even as a journalist -- could have dire consequences. 'You risk your life because whoever killed these two guys is still out there,' Hart said."
Score: Lone-nuts 58, Conspiracy Theorists 22.
November 20: The Huffington Post runs a second article on the assassination, this one by Dr. Peter Cummings, the Massachusetts Forensic Pathologist who recently declared on NOVA (in so many words) that the top doctors in his field have been blowing smoke at the public since 1968. In this article, however, Cummings goes after a different target: conspiracy theorists like myself. He writes:
"I began my investigation like many other scientists of my generation -- I
hit the web. I knew the autopsy photographs were online and I thought
that after many years of training, I should be able to reach a
reasonable conclusion after seeing them. The deeper I dug, the more
confused I became. I spent a lot of time rotating images and squinting
my eyes, struggling to make any valid deductions. It was obvious to me
that the publicly available photographs and x-rays were not of the
quality necessary to base a scientific opinion. In fact, very few of the
photos could be interpreted.
I was privileged to have the opportunity to visit the National Archives and examine the original medical evidence. My visit underscored the fact that Internet research isn't enough -- nothing can replace viewing the actual artifacts. It's through a return to these basics that the scientific method works best. Science freed me of my preconceptions and allowed me to approach my investigation as if it were any other gunshot wound case: I made observations and took notes, and later after some quiet contemplation, I reached my conclusions. Over the course of this project I rediscovered the power of science and the absolute need to get it right so that the truth can be told."
Well, this is one of the most disappointing things I've ever read. I have no idea whether Cummings really believes all this, or whether someone got to him after his appearance on NOVA and told him he had to make amends. But either way, what he writes here smells of a deliberate distraction, an obfuscation.
Let's be clear about this... For 45 years, some of America's top forensic pathologists, taking their cues from Dr. Russell Fisher, have been telling the American public the autopsy doctors were wrong in that Kennedy was not shot low on the back of the head as described in the autopsy protocol, but four inches higher near the top of the back of the head. Now, here comes Cummings, on November 13, telling the public the civilian pathologists were wrong, and the military pathologists at Kennedy's autopsy were correct after all. This is HUGE. But does he acknowledge this in any way in his article, published November 20? NO. Instead, he goes on and on about how the images available online on websites such as this can't be relied upon, and are responsible for the many conspiracy theories destroying this country. What??? The majority of conspiracy theories don't rely upon the images at all, but consider them suspect due to their conflicting with so many of the witness statements. It's hard to see how clearer copies of what people believe to be fakes designed to fool them into thinking there was no conspiracy are gonna convince them there was no conspiracy. That's like claiming people wouldn't be scared of a man with a machete if only he carried a bigger knife...
So what, and who, is Cummings complaining about? He certainly can't be claiming that an inspection of the original materials will clear up all the questions. The doctors pushing that the bullet entered high on Kennedy's head, as he certainly must know, viewed the same materials as he did, and did not rely upon the images found online. So who, then? Well, it seems likely that he's mad about websites like this, in which people who are expressly prohibited from viewing the autopsy materials nevertheless make an effort to understand them, and come to the SAME CONCLUSION he did, namely, that the parade of forensic pathologists claiming the bullet entered near the "cowlick" were wrong.
Cummings' article is just bizarre. In order for SCIENCE (and his view of the truth he considers so important) to triumph he has to push his fellow scientists to take a look at the original evidence, and see for themselves that the Clark Panel on down have been blowing smoke about the location of the entry wound. But why would they do this, when he tells them there's no need for them to look at the evidence, as it only confirms what other scientists have already told them--that all those darned conspiracy theorists are off their rockers?
Score: Lone-nuts 59, Conspiracy Theorists 22.
November 20: CBS4 in Miami runs a story on Dallas Police officer R.C. Nelson, a former partner of J.D. Tippit's, and a brother to one of the station's employees. The story is picked up by CBS DFW as well. The interview of Nelson is cut so that some of the interview is only available on the station's website. In any event, the story consistently refers to Oswald as the man who murdered Nelson's partner, and his president. And Nelson is no better. He claims that upon his arrival in Dealey Plaza, a "motor jockey" told him both that "He was up there (pointing to book depository). I saw the rifle in the
window when I looked up” and that “I saw
Kennedy’s head blown off.” Well, this was almost certainly untrue, an amalgamation of two different officers at best. None of the "motor jockeys" in a position to see Kennedy's head get blown off stayed behind in the plaza, and none of those claiming to see a rifle in the window were police officers. And this was not the only bit on which Nelson's credibility was lacking. Apparently aware that the description given for the shooter in the school book depository was not specific enough for Tippit to stop Oswald, who was, after all, simply walking down a suburban street, he offered that in his opinion Tippit didn't stop Oswald, and that instead Oswald flagged him down, presumably just to shoot him, y'know, just because. And that wasn't the only strange offering from Nelson. He also claimed that Lieutenant Sam Pierce told him that Jack Ruby walked right past the car Pierce was driving on his way down the ramp into the basement to kill Oswald. Well, this is most interesting, seeing as Pierce testified before the Warren Commission and told them he'd known Ruby for years and that he hadn't seen Ruby that day. As the DPD conducted an intensive internal investigation to determine how Ruby got into the basement, moreover, Nelson's recollection, if true, would suggest both that Pierce lied when testifying before the commission, and that he, Nelson, helped cover up this lie by failing to tell his superiors or the commission what Pierce had told him. Actually, it's even worse than that. Nelson himself was in charge of guarding the main door entrance from City Hall. His claim Pierce told him Ruby walked down the ramp--when Pierce testified that he hadn't seen Ruby, even though Ruby's walking down the ramp was the official conclusion of the DPD and Warren Commission--smells more than a bit, and suggests that he, Nelson, was unfairly trying to point the finger at Officer Roy Vaughn, the officer charged with guarding the Main Street ramp. Well, why would he do that? Was Nelson trying to hide his own involvement? Or hide that his superior, Patrick Dean, the man charged with setting up the security of the basement, was suspected of helping Ruby into the basement, and failed a lie detector when questioned on this point by his own police department?
Still, maybe it's a whole lot simpler than that. Perhaps Nelson simply blurred Pierce's telling him that the DPD was gonna blame Vaughn and say Ruby walked down the ramp into Pierce's telling him he saw Ruby walk down the ramp. In any event, the story reflects a clear bias: Oswald killed Kennedy and Tippit, and no one helped Ruby sneak into the basement.
Score: Lone-nuts 60, Conspiracy Theorists 22.
November 20: ABCnews.go,com features an article entitled "9 People Who Witnessed JFK's Assassination." The main problem is the title--only two of the witnesses, James Tague and Hugh Aynsworth, were even in Dealey Plaza during the shooting. The other seven run the gamut of minor figures to major figures in the assassination story. Among the former are motorcade witness Jencye Gush, KLIF radio anchor and Oswald shooting witness Gary DeLaune, and Patricia Hall, who claims Oswald played with her when she was a kid. Among the latter are Parkland doctors Robert McClelland and Kenneth Salyer, Dallas detective James Leavelle, and Oswald acquaintance Ruth Paine. It's a mixed bag. Three of the witnesses--Tague, Hall, and McClelland--admit they believe there was more to it than Oswald.
More telling, however, is this. In keeping with other articles of this type: no actual research was conducted. Here, for example, is a section on Ruth Paine: "When he found a job at the Book Depository,
Oswald visited Marina on weekends. But he showed up Thursday, Nov. 21,
without warning, and then went into a black duffle bag in Paine's
cluttered garage the next day and grabbed the rifle that would kill the
president. "I am Quaker and I don't believe in firearms," the former school
psychologist, now 81, told ABC News. "I wouldn't have wanted it there. I
didn't' know until after the assassination." Marina was watching television with Paine when the president was shot. After the news reported shots from the Bookstore Depository, Marina
seemed alarmed. "She went in the garage to look for [the rifle] and saw
the black bag and thought it was there," Paine said. When police came and questioned her about a gun, Marina led them to the
garage and found the empty bag. By then, her husband was in custody in
connection to the killing of Officer J.D. Tippet."
Well, first of all, there was no black duffle bag--the rifle was supposedly stored in a green blanket. And second of all, it's Tipp-i-t, not Tipp-e-t. It's a weak article but apparently unbiased. No score.
November 20: Tom Brokaw talks about his upcoming special on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Typical mainstream TV stuff. Brokaw talks of interviewing Marie Tippit, "the widow of of the cop that Oswald killed." He complains of people blaming Dallas for the shooting, when "Dallas had nothing to do with it," as "Oswald was a misfit." Stewart then tries to make a joke about conspiracy theories "Well, he was one of the guys," while mugging for the camera. Brokaw then complains about the "circus of conspiracy" at Dealey Plaza, with people selling stuff from tables, God forbid. He makes no similar complaint, of course, about the Sixth Floor Museum selling stuff from the actual building from where he believes the shots were fired. He then lets on that "I'm personally persuaded it was Oswald." Yes, Tom, we know. Garbage in, garbage out.
Score: Lone-nuts 61, Conspiracy Theorists 22.
November 21: ABC's Good Morning America provides an exclusive look at that night's Discovery Channel program, JFK: The Lost tapes. I was unable to view this program.
November 21: The Boston Globe publishes an article on Dr.
Peter Cummings, the local pathologist recently featured on NOVA, whose previous day's article on The Huffington Post seemed so disingenuous. The
article reveals: “It was a single gunshot wound to the back of his head,” Cummings said
without hesitation. “It was right where the autopsy doctors said it had
happened.” And that's it. Neither the writer of the article, Kathy
McCabe, nor Cummings, seems to know (or is willing to admit) that the last government panel
consulted on the evidence concluded the damage to Kennedy's brain ruled
out a wound in that location. In the eyes of this panel, then, if Cummings is correct, well, there would have to have been more than one shooter. But does McCabe follow up on this and ask the surviving members of this panel for comment? No, of course not. As always the press gets
the story 100% wrong. Instead of treating Cummings' findings as the
assault on the status quo that it is, McCabe and Cummings pretend his
findings support the "official" story. The article continues: "With the X-rays and photos spread before him on a table, Cummings
wrote notes about fracture patterns, lacerations, bruising, and other
injuries to the skull. 'The quality is fantastic. Once I saw those photographs, it became
very clear what had happened to President Kennedy . . . It was a single
gunshot wound to the back of the head. Based on the fracture pattern, we
can say there was no shot from the side or the front.'" Oh, my.
November 21: The Macomb (Michigan) Daily presents an article on Dr. Werner Spitz, one of the consultants for the Rockefeller Commission, and a member of the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel. Spitz, now 87, is interviewed and spews a lot of the same nonsense he's been spewing for decades. It was a single assassin, firing from behind. The head wounds were confusing because Jackie wouldn't let them cut the hair. The back-and-to-the-left movement of Kennedy after the head shot is an illusion, caused by the sudden acceleration of the limo. Garbage in, garbage out. Why is it that nobody interviewing a doctor ever bothers to double-check what they say? Does having a license to practice medicine also entitle one to barf up nonsense, and have no one double-check it before publishing? I'm beginning to wonder.
Score: Lone-nuts 63, Conspiracy Theorists 22.
November 21: The (Burlington, North Carolina) Times-News publishes an article similar to the one on Dr. Spitz. It's an interview with a senior with ties to a government investigation--with no real insight beyond the comments of the interviewee. This one, however, is on Robert Blakey, the former Chief Counsel of the HSCA, who re-investigated the assassination in the 70's, and concluded a conspiracy was probable. For better and worse, Blakey sticks to his guns (both of them). He tells Times News writer Tom Jones (really?) that Oswald fired the fatal shots, and that one of these shots hit Kennedy and Connally. He actually goes beyond that, and says the single-bullet theory has been proven "beyond all reasonable doubt." And yet, Blakey, as ever, is a mixed bag. He cites eyewitnesses suggesting a shot was fired from the grassy knoll, and says he still stands by the dictabelt evidence indicating a shot was fired from behind the picket fence, and missed... He also discusses Oswald and Ruby's ties to organized crime, and the probability Ruby was ordered to silence Oswald. The article fails to reach a national or large regional audience and would be considered a no score for either side, if it were not for one fact: Blakey is a former government investigator admitting he believes there was more than one shooter.
Score: Lone-nuts 63, Conspiracy Theorists 23.
November 21: among a number of articles recalling Kennedy's impact on popular culture, the L.A. Times slips in an article on Dallas newspaperman Darwin Payne and his recollections of Kennedy's assassination. It has one interesting gaffe, or revelation, it remains to be seen--Payne claims he was shown the sniper's nest window by the DPD before they'd been told of the Tippit shooting--but is nevertheless a strictly Oswald-did-it article. It both defends the actions of the Dallas police and asserts the unknowable about Oswald. For but two examples: "The police chief and the city manager had determined that they would open this up to reporters as it usually was open to all these reporters because the world should know, the nation should know, that they had in custody the man who was obviously the assassin of the president" and "It was very shocking to know, and this is a realization that we’ve all had, that an individual, a tiny little person like Lee Harvey Oswald, could change the course of history with one demonic act."
An article by Pulitzer prize-winner David Horsey was equally dismissive. Horsey concludes: "Conspiracies work with precision in TV shows like “Scandal,” “24” and “Homeland.” They are wrapped in a grandiose cloak of history and power in Dan Brown’s paranoid thrillers. In the real world, though, conspiracies tend to unravel. Somebody squeals, somebody leaks, somebody betrays. We always find out – and usually because a conspiring collective of humans is bound to screw up. Any 50-year-old conspiracy to kill JFK would have to be an exception to that rule. For me, it is easier to accept that the truth is exactly what it has long appeared to be: A history-shifting tragedy occurred because one inconsequential misfit with a mail-order rifle got a clear shot."Score: Lone-nuts 64, Conspiracy Theorists 23.
November 21: In addition to the articles cited above, the L.A. Times publishes an Op Ed piece on Kennedy's legacy by historian Richard Reeves. Although this piece reflects little bias regarding the assassination, it is notable for the fact its tag line reflects that Reeves is the "general editor of "The Kennedy Years: From the Pages of The New York Times." Now ain't that a coinkydink. An essay by Jill Abramson is published in the New York Times on this very same day. Its tag line reflects that "Jill Abramson is the executive editor of The New York Times. Her essay first appeared as the foreword to “The Kennedy Years: From the Pages of The New York Times,” edited by Richard Reeves and published by Abrams." So, make no mistake, this a co-ordinated bi-coastal promotion of the book, which is comprised almost entirely of old articles on the assassination.
It does have a brand new essay at the end, however: Why Americans Don't Believe the Warren Report, by Sam Tanenhaus. Tannehaus reports: "in the most thorough account of the alleged plots to murder the President, Case Closed, Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK (1994), Gerald Posner painstakingly examined the evidence and assessed--rather, dismantled--every proposed theory. Oswald 'was the only assassin at Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963,' Posner wrote. "To say otherwise, in light of the overwhelming evidence, is to absolve a man with blood on his hands, and to mock the President he killed.' Nonetheless, the conspiracists, as they have been called, pursued baroque and bizarre explanations." He then concludes: "Uncertainty is the hatchery of conspiratorial thinking. So often equated with delusion and paranoia, it actually rests on something quite different: a passion for order, a liberating explanation. The fevered connecting of dots, the ever-widening of nest of conspirators, helps satisfy our hunger to believe that even the most horrific deed is enfolded with the logic of intention and design. For many, Kennedy's death laid a dark curse on the land. It had become the sphinx's riddle. Whoever could solve it might restore innocence to a nation whose faith in its boundless futurity had been profoundly shaken." And that's it: the New York Times' last words on the Kennedy assassination... Posner was right. Those who continue to doubt him are "fevered" and "hungry to believe." There's no mention whatsoever of the many problems with Posner's book, nor that he'd been denounced by those sharing his view of the assassination and exposed as a serial plagiarist. Tanenhaus, and presumably Abramson, believes him. And the world should look no further.
Score: Lone-nuts 65, Conspiracy Theorists 23.
November 21: The URL for the latest article on the assassination on The Daily Beast website reads "The Only Books on JFK's Assassination You Need to Read." This short list, created by Allen Barra, is in reverse order, Oswald's Tale, Dallas 1963, Libra, The Death of a President, and Case Closed. They are all--not coincidentally--Oswald did it books. How insulting. I would bet most everything I have that this joker has never read The Last Investigation, Not in Your Lifetime or Someone Would Have Talked. Apparently, he takes solace in books in which Oswald killed Kennedy. Good for him. Now if only we can get him to take solace in books that look at all the evidence...about the things he doesn't like thinking about...like the problems with wound locations and the provable lies told by the Warren Commission, Johnson Administration, and House Select Committee on Assassinations.
Score: Lone-nuts 66, Conspiracy Theorists 23.
November 21: Oliver Stone strikes again. He gets an op-ed piece published on USA Today's website, in which he lists some of the reasons most suspect a conspiracy, and observes "Mainstream media have never given up telling us how superstitious or illogical the common people are."
Score: Lone-nuts 66, Conspiracy Theorists 24.
November 21: Ron Rosenbaum returns with an article on Slate.com regarding his most recent take on the Kennedy assassination. He still hates Kennedy supporters and conspiracy theorists, of course. He still believes Oswald acted alone, of course. But he now subscribes to Philip Shenon's "what if" and believes Oswald received some encouragement from Castro supporters in Mexico, and killed Kennedy as a response to Kennedy's trying to kill Castro. While attacking those who study historical documents and understand that the FACTS are that Kennedy WAS trying to start talks with Castro in 1963 and that the CIA WAS conducting assassination plots on Castro without the knowledge of Kennedy, and subsequently, Johnson, Rosenbaum writes "Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot: Most of the JFK conspiracy theorists, among them my brilliant but addled Yale classmate Oliver Stone, would have you believe that the saintly JFK was just about to begin a reconciliatory bromance with fellow peacenik Fidel, just about to get the U.S. out of Vietnam, just about to take down the military industrial complex, end the Cold War and subsidize healthy vegan meals for all schoolchildren, when he was killed in Dallas."
He proceeds to rant (ironically, considering he just revealed himself someone so fact-adverse he doesn't even trust the CIA Inspector General's report on the plots against Castro, which suggested Kennedy had never been told of the plots on Castro): "The real mystery about the assassination, to anyone who has spent
time examining facts (and not playing games with names, making
unsupported “connections” among
BadPeopleWhoDidn’tLikeJFKAndThereforeMustHaveKilledHim), is not whether Lee Harvey Oswald fired the shots. But why
he did it. What was going on in his mind, what was his motive? Did he
have any assistance or encouragement from others? And if so, who? I had suggested here in Slate earlier this year that a new paradigm
that focused on Oswald’s trip to Mexico City was developing among
students of the assassination but until very recently—in a dialogue with Errol Morris—I had expressed doubt we’d ever know for sure. Now I’m not so sure about being not so sure. Now I think, with the Shenon book, we may have a plausible answer. Yes, that’s right, I’ve become convinced that, 50 years after the
act, a real reporter—not some chat-room know-it-all—has through actual, on the ground, person-to-person investigation,
through nonstop digging, tugging at the tangled heart of the mystery,
brought us to the brink of answer. An achievement that, I believe,
merits the Pulitzer Prize and the thanks of a grateful nation."
Well, this is pretty much nonsense. There is no new paradigm among "students of the assassination" in which Oswald's trip to Mexico is seen as suggesting his guilt. To "students of the assassination" the anomalies of this trip--the CIA's ever-changing story about recording Oswald on tape, for example, are indicative that he was involved in something bigger than himself, and most likely not guilty of shooting Kennedy. In sum, then, Rosenbaum's self-revealing hate letter to Kennedy and the research community/love letter to Philip Shenon is a score for the Lone-nuts.
Score: Lone-nuts 67, Conspiracy Theorists 24.
November 21: Politico.com publishes an article entitled "Journalists Relive Kennedy Assassination." I cross my fingers and hope it's not another article about Hugh Aynesworth. Well, that wish comes true. It comprises brief interviews with Robert MacNeil, Jim Lehrer, and Bob Schieffer. They all take the opportunity to tell us Oswald-did-it, of course. When asked about the Warren Commission (It's not surprising that almost every Oswald did it article ignores the HSCA), MacNeil responds: "It satisfied me because I never had the time or the inclination afterward to become an assassination student or an assassination buff. I have yet to see a bit of evidence that convinces me otherwise. I thought the Oliver Stone movie was ridiculous." MacNeil's former partner Jim Lehrer adds: "I was very skeptical at the time and it goes back to the very fact of, 'My God, it’s not plausible that one person acting alone could have gotten away with this’ and so I was one of thousands of reporters who were on the story afterwards trying to find out what happened. And, trust me, there were no Pulitzer Prizes to be won for saying that one person acted alone so we were all acting under the premise that it had to be a conspiracy. It was a foregone conclusion that they were going to prove that there was no conspiracy because, let’s say that Lee Harvey Oswald had gone to Russia and this was Russia-funded or that they directed the assassination of President Kennedy, that would mean we would have to go to war with Russia. Or if it was Fidel Castro, we’d have to bomb Havana. But I didn’t have any theories that replaced the single-man theory, shooter, and for the last 50 years, I’ve been waiting to hear that story that, OK, somebody on their death bed makes a confession that they were Lee Harvey Oswald’s driver or they helped him get the gun or whatever. That’s not happened and 50 years later, I’m pretty well satisfied that, with the absence of any provable information to the contrary, it was true that it was just one guy, Lee Harvey Oswald. And it was just unbelievable, but it happened that one man did it."
Bob Schieffer echoes Lehrer: "At the time, I pretty much accepted the Warren Commission’s conclusion. And I think they stumbled and bumbled their way to the right conclusion. But as the years have passed, we’ve come to understand that the way they went about this investigation, they could have done it in a much better way. But I think they came to the right conclusion. There’s no question in my mind that Lee Harvey Oswald was the shooter. I mean, this guy was a cold-blooded killer and what he did in the hours or so after the shooting were not the actions of an innocent man. He left there, he got on a bus, he went home and got his pistol and shot a policeman in point-blank range who had come up to him. That’s not the action of an innocent man. Then he ran off into a theater and they came and they followed him in there and when they finally captured him, he tried to shoot them. I always try to keep an open mind as to whether there may have been someone else involved in some other way. There’s no question that Fidel Castro knew that the Kennedy administration were trying to kill him and sabotage things in Cuba, but there’s never been any evidence that has been shown to me that I found conclusive that there might have been anyone other than Oswald involved."
Well, here it is once again, the recurring theme among so many members of the media: I was once open-minded that Oswald could have been working for the communists but never once accepted the possibility he had been set up. It seems fair from this to assume these men--accustomed to coming at truth through interviewing public officials--just don't have it within them to study EVIDENCE, and that they basically accept whatever evidence is put on the plate before them. I mean, have any of the old newsmen dragged out to tell their stories --MacNeil, Lehrer, Schieffer, Rather, Brokaw, Aynesworth, Allman, and Payne--expressed the slightest doubt about the most doubtful aspect of the Warren Commission's conclusions: the single-bullet theory? I don't believe so.
Score: Lone-nuts 68, Conspiracy Theorists 24.
November 21: A column by John Cassidy in The New Yorker defends John Kerry's recent acknowledgement that, although he felt comfortable with the conclusion Oswald was the sole shooter, he nevertheless still had doubts about his acting entirely on his own. Cassidy admits he has trouble buying that Ruby acted alone in killing Oswald, and acknowledges that the HSCA suspected he'd had help getting into the garage.
Even so, he writes: "Thirty-four years after the Select Committee’s report was published , the received wisdom about the case has changed dramatically. Since the 2007 publication of Vincent Bugliosi’s “Reclaiming History,” a mammoth takedown of the conspiracy theories, the respectable view has been that Earl Warren and his colleagues basically got it right. Perhaps they did, but, even now, that can only be considered an interim judgment. Come 2017, another set of official documents will be released, and, doubtless, there will be another wave of articles and books offering alternative histories.
That isn’t necessarily such a bad thing. Questioning the official version of history is a sign of democratic vigor, and, in this case, there’s still plenty to query. The horrific and endlessly fascinating forty-eight hours that brought together Kennedy, Oswald, and Ruby bequeathed too many puzzling details, weird coincidences, and shady characters for the doubters to stay silent."
While it's hard to call an article presenting Oswald as the sole shooter a score for the conspiracy theorists, Cassidy lacks the certainty of most holding this position, and seems to consider this issue far from closed.
Score: Lone-nuts 68, Conspiracy Theorists 25.
November 21: FoxNews.com picks up the previous day's MyFoxDFW.com article on assassination witness James Tague. It adds in, however, a quote from the recent article on Tague in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. The article reports: "After more than 30 years of research into the shooting, Tague said he
believes Oswald was innocent and that Kennedy was killed by a team of
hit men hired by then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. 'Finding this was no big deal, it’s like a crossword puzzle — you
just got to start putting the pieces together,' Tague told
TimesDispatch.com. 'Kennedy’s assassination was not a conspiracy, it was
Score: Lone-nuts 68, Conspiracy Theorists 26.
Score: Lone-nuts 68, Conspiracy Theorists 27.
November 21: NBCnews.com pumps out its third article on the assassination in three days. This one is by Erin McClam, and is on why conspiracy theories regarding the assassination endure. Uh, oh! Get ready for some insulting psycho-babble. McClam claims: "Part of the lure for conspiracy theorists is the irresistible concentration of power that surrounded the crime — held by both the gleaming young president and the forces, from the Kremlin to within his very administration, that would have had a motive. But another part, say those who have studied the assassination and the conspiracy theories for decades, is the smallness of Oswald himself, the man blamed by the Warren Commission, the government’s first inquiry into the killing. 'It’s incredibly unsatisfying to believe that this guy, this insignificant person, could have done so consequential an act,' says Jeff Greenfield, who worked for Robert F. Kennedy and just released a book imagining how history might have played out had JFK lived." (Don't say I didn't warn you about the psycho-babble.) The article then reports that "Philip Shenon, a former reporter for The New York Times and author of a new book on the assassination, 'A Cruel and Shocking Act,' blames four men for spawning “conspiracy theories that are likely to plague us forever.” Among those faulted by Shenon is the slain president’s brother, Robert F. Kennedy, for publicly supporting the Warren Commission’s findings and denouncing the commission in private." Well, this is just shocking. I mean, RFK had private thoughts? McClam then moves on to the mob-did-it theory, and does a decent job of laying out some of the information in support of that possibility, courtesy author Lamar Waldron. She then cites John Kerry's recent acknowledgment he continues to suspect a conspiracy, and reports in closing "Kerry told Parade Magazine last week that 'after a certain period of time, and that period of time may well have passed, it is totally appropriate for a country like the United States to open up the the files on whatever history can … shed light on...I think that everybody would benefit.” While dismissive of conspiracy theorists McClam somehow manages to remain open to conspiracy theories. No score.
Months later, I realize that on this day NBC News.com features not one but two articles on the assassination. The second one is by Daniel Arkin. It is on Howard Donahue's theory Kennedy was killed by an accidental shot from Secret Service agent George Hickey. It features comments from Bonar Menninger, who first presented this theory in his 1992 book Mortal Error. The article mentions, of course, that this theory has recently been revived by Colin McClaren in his TV program JFK: The Smoking Gun. Surprisingly, the article mentions the theory without poking any holes in it, such as that most every researcher who has studied the eyewitness statements, photos, and films has concluded Hickey fired no shots that day. In some regards, then, this article shows a pro-conspiracy bias. By the end, however, it makes clear that this bias extends only to the possibility the government lied about the assassination, and NOT that there was an actual conspiracy to kill Kennedy. Here's how it closes: "As for Oswald, Menninger has no idea what motivated the man officially held responsible for Kennedy's assassination to fire a 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from the sixth floor of the book depository, adding that "it's not germane to the ballistics analysis of the shooting" conducted by Donahue, who died in 1999 of complications of pneumonia. 'Was he a low-level intelligence operative? Perhaps. Was he set up? Perhaps," Menninger said. "But I don't know. There's questions there, but if you believe that the third and fatal shot was fired accidentally, it certainly diminishes the likelihood of a conspiracy.' The Warren Commission concluded in 1964 that Oswald acted alone."
The article suggests the government lied about Kennedy's death at the same time it suggests it didn't lie about who was ultimately responsible for his death. Confusing. It's hard to see this as a score for either side of the debate. No score.
November 21: The Guardian.com publishes a glowing review of the recent film Parkland that is both timed to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, and more than a review. The reviewer--more like an editorial writer--Alex von Tunzelman--gives the film a B+ for entertainment and an A for history. He notes: "Parkland is based on Vincent Bugliosi's 1,600 page tome Reclaiming History, also released in a more manageable 700-page version called Parkland: Four Days in November. Bugliosi agrees with the verdict of the Warren Commission that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman, acting alone. Much of his longer volume is devoted to demolishing the conspiracy theories that have sprouted up. For many historians, Parkland's consistent focus on the known, supportable facts will be a huge relief. Viewers who aren't familiar with the case may find Oliver Stone's JFK a more compelling film, but historically speaking it is the most appalling load of old hogwash. Parkland, meanwhile, gets pretty much everything as close to right as we can currently know." He then continues: "There are thousands of documents on the Kennedy assassination yet to be declassified, and the most sober of historians would probably prefer to reserve final judgment until they can read them. So far, though, despite half a century of concerted effort by a legion of conspiracy theorists, no smoking gun has been found to prove any of the many and contradictory theories that Oswald did not fire the killing shot, or that he was part of a conspiracy. Admirably, Parkland restrains itself to telling you what it knows, not what you should or shouldn't think." The bias could not be more obvious, and the transparent ruse of writing a glowing "review" of a mediocre movie in order to attack conspiracy theorists on the day before the anniversary of the assassination, is just as obvious.
Score: Lone-nuts, 69, Conspiracy Theorists 27.
November 21: The Oliver Stone film JFK is shown on HDNet. This is the grandest conspiracy movie ever made, and is on the minds of many as the anniversary approaches. So where is it? Why hasn't a more prominent network opted to show this movie? I mean, if we get A Christmas Story marathons every year on Christmas, why won't any major network show this film on the 50th anniversary of the assassination.
Score: Lone-nuts 69, Conspiracy Theorists 28.
November 21: JFK: The Lost Tapes premieres on the Discovery Channel. It tells the story of the shooting and immediate aftermath through a number of interviews (including yet another interview with Clint Hill), some rarely-heard tapes from Dallas, and some only recently made available tapes from Air Force 1. I was unable to view this program until the next April. Either this program had no real bias or my sense of outrage had dulled over time. No score.
November 21: The Lost Kennedy Home Movies premieres on H2. I was unable to view this program.
November 21: Turner Classic Movies shows 4 documentaries on Kennedy's presidency, and one on his death. The one on his death is Mel Stuart’s 1964 documentary Four Days in November, an Oscar-nominated chronicle of the assassination, that is basically a companion piece to the Warren Report.
Score: Lone-nuts 70, Conspiracy Theorists 28.
They then move on to the not-at-all fringe theories. While discussing the possibility the military-industrial complex was behind the killing, John McAdams is allowed to pretend the historical record supports that Kennedy would have got sucked into Vietnam as readily as Johnson. 26% believe Kennedy was killed because of Vietnam. Next up is the medical evidence. McAdams is allowed to further pretend the Kennedy entourage was responsible for taking the body out of Dallas (as if Johnson had nothing to do with it.) McAdams and Holland then get to blame the crappy autopsy on the Kennedy family. Groden then claims he's complied a list of 82 witnesses to Kennedy's head wound. He says "Every single one of those says the exit wound on the President's head was in the rear (he motions to the far back of his head). It shows that the shot came from the right front, from the grassy knoll." Yikes. This is a gross exaggeration, at best. Posner is then allowed to make the valid point that the Parkland doctors weren't conducting an autopsy, but trying to save Kennedy's life. A poll is then revealed showing that 74% of American's didn't realize that the Parkland staff reported different wounds than the doctors in Washington.
November 24: An article in the Boston Globe by Bryan Bender and Neil Swidey discusses Robert Kennedy's response to the assassination, and his deeply-held belief there was more to his brother's death than a lone-nut named Oswald.