The Onslaught: the Media's Response to the 50th Anniversary of the JFK Assassination
For decades now, single-assassin theorists and media pundits have been claiming 1) that the majority of Americans believe President Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy because they've been exposed to so much conspiracy-oriented material, and 2) the creators of the conspiracy-oriented material do so to make money, because that's where the real money is--in claiming Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy. These are two of the most persistent myths about the assassination. I mean, they just won't go away. And so, as we headed toward the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination I decided to put it to a test, and record just how much conspiracy-oriented material is pushed upon the public, versus how much Oswald did-it-all-by-his-lonesome-and-we-should-all-get-over-it material is pushed upon the public.
October: the current issue of Skeptic Magazine, already available, is a full frontal assault on the JFK assassination research community. Its cover story, 50 Years of JFK Conspiracy Theories: How the Skeptics Got it Wrong and Why it Matters, by Dave Reitzes, a former conspiracy theorist himself, is both wide-reaching and incredibly clumsy in its grasp. While announcing that the single-bullet theory is now a "proven fact", for example, Reitzes presents an overhead view of the bullet's proposed trajectory through President Kennedy, in which the bullet passes directly through Kennedy's spine. This is ludicrous. Not only was Kennedy's spine not damaged in such a manner, but the bullet Reitzes claims traveled on this trajectory was undamaged on its nose. It seems clear, then, that Skeptic got duped by a true believer, and published an article guided by faith as opposed to logic, or science.
Score Lone-nuts 1, Conspiracy Theorists 0.
October: the October/November issue of AARP Magazine features a story by veteran newsman Bob Schieffer in which he describes the events of 11-22-63, when he drove Oswald's mother to the police station, and almost got an exclusive with her son. He insists at one point that "Oswald was a person without a conscience. To this day, nobody has shown me evidence and has convinced me that there was someone else involved. But there could have been. I've always had an open mind. I think it will always be a mystery--one of those things that we may never know the answer to." Hmmm... this seems to be the message of the article: relax, seniors, you're gonna die soon, resign yourself to never knowing. While I would like to call this a score for the Lone-nuts, I find myself thinking it could have been worse, and Schieffer could have gone on a tirade about Oliver Stone or some such thing. No score.
October: an article in the October issue of Smithsonian Magazine by Ron Rosenbaum features an extended discussion of the Zapruder film with film-maker Errol Morris. Morris and Rosenbaum use the film to discuss the frightening impact of frame 313 and the impact it has had on our society before they settle down and get at what it appears they really want to do--complain about conspiracy theorists. Rosenbaum whines that "59 percent of the American public believes there was a conspiracy in the assassination, despite the best efforts of reporters such as Gerald Posner and former prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who have written long pain-staking books meant to be definitive defenses of the 'lone assassin' case." He later bitches "Meanwhile, conspiracy theory books continue to pour out..." He then shifts into psychiatrist mode: "I used to think what conspiracy theorists were really doing on some level was grieving, their fantasies a form of displaced love for JFK, but I've come to think the love involved is mostly self-love, their self-congratulatory assertion of superiority over mere facts." While the article ends with the assertion that we're living in a detective's nightmare, because we may never know what happened, but we'll never know that we'll never know, the smugness with which it treats conspiracy theorists mark this as a score for the Lone-nuts.
Score: Lone-nuts 2, Conspiracy Theorists 0.
October: an article by Chris Jones appears in this month's Esquire in which the events on Air Force One after the shooting are described. This strikes me as a little odd, seeing as I just this year added a chapter to this website in which these events were studied more closely than ever before. The article is okay, but misses a lot. It fails to take a stand as to whether Robert Kennedy told Johnson to get sworn in in Dallas, when Johnson later discussed this with Bill Moyers, and admitted RFK had said no such thing. It also misses the big one. While admitting Johnson was in the bedroom with his secretary when Mrs. Kennedy came onto the plane, Jones misses (or ignores) that Johnson's statement to the Warren Commission concealed this fact, and that Johnson's defenders in the media used this to publicly insinuate Mrs. Kennedy was a liar. Pretty heinous, in my opinion. And worth reporting. Jones' failure to dig a little deeper, and to call Johnson out on his many lies about these incidents, is a score for the Lone-nuts.
Score: Lone-nuts 3, Conspiracy Theorists 0.
October 9: an article by George Will in the Washington Post connects the decline of liberalism to Kennedy's assassination, not because it had lost ts leading light, mind you, but because the remaining left refused to acknowledge Oswald was a lone nut under the sway of communism, or anything but a right-winger, and alienated middle America in the process. According to Will, the left's "transformation of a murder by a marginal man into a killing by a sick culture" divided the country, and led to the turmoil that followed. He writes that as a result, liberalism, formerly "a doctrine of American celebration and optimism" lost many of its followers, who refused to believe that America's sickness could only be cured by “punitive liberalism.” He then writes: "The bullets of Nov. 22, 1963, altered the nation’s trajectory less by killing a president than by giving birth to a destructive narrative about America. Fittingly, the narrative was most injurious to the narrators. Their recasting of the tragedy to validate their curdled conception of the nation marked a ruinous turn for liberalism." While this is clearly a score for the lone-nuts, the article is more an assault on liberals than Oswald.
Score: Lone-nuts 4, Conspiracy Theorists 0.
October 9: an episode of the CBS program Criminal Minds revolves around the Kennedy assassination. A sniper fires 12 shots in 10 seconds from a largely abandoned building into a plaza, hitting 6 people. He does this at 12:27 a few days prior to the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. A special unit of the FBI has to figure out if the shooting is related to Kennedy's assassination, and, if so, how. They quickly figure out there is no connection. Although one of the characters on the program is a conspiracy theorist, and she just so happens to dress like a wacko, she is also a computer whiz and a credible source of information. No score.
October 22: Jill Abramson, the Executive Editor of The New York Times, publishes an article in the Sunday Book Review in which she discusses Kennedy's presidency, mentions a number of books written on his life and death, and bemoans that there has been no great book written about him. She mentions few, if any, books on the assassination written after 1966, beyond Bill O'Reilly's dreadful Killing Kennedy, which she criticizes for its writing, as opposed to its lack of scholarship. She is dismissive of conspiracy theories in general, and of the value of the internet in spreading real information about the assassination. Here is an excerpt:
"Even the basic facts of Kennedy’s death are still subject to heated argument. The historical consensus seems to have settled on Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin, but conspiracy speculation abounds — involving Johnson, the C.I.A., the mob, Fidel Castro or a baroque combination of all of them. Many of the theories have been circulating for decades and have now found new life on the Internet, in Web sites febrile with unfiltered and at times unhinged musings."
If she really believes the historical consensus has settled on Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin then she clearly has trouble reading, and has no business running a newspaper.
Score: Lone Nuts 5, Conspiracy Theorists 0
October 25: the Washington Post offers up a list of Kennedy-related books being released or re-released for the 50th anniversary of his assassination. 1 claims Oswald was really trying to kill Connally, 1 looks at the inner workings of the Kennedy administration, 1 claims Oswald was probably acting under the influence of communists he met in Mexico, 1 looks at the city of Dallas circa 1963, 5 present the company line that Oswald acted alone, 1 wonders what would have happened should Kennedy have survived, 1 studies Oswald's activities in the Soviet Union, 1 posits JFK was really a conservative, 1 is an account written by an assistant to Gov. Connally, 1 studies JFK's early years, 1 studies his last hundred days, 1 compares him to Reagan, 1 discusses the death of his infant son shortly before the assassination, 1 is a discussion of his legacy, 1 is a collection of his letters, 3 are collections of various people's memories of the president and his assassination, 1 is a hit piece in which JFK's father is blamed for his son's assassination, 1 is about JFK's ability to inspire, 1 is an argument against the lone-assassin position pushed by Vincent Bugliosi, 1 presents an argument Soviet spies helped Oswald, 1 discusses the last year of JFK's marriage, 1 presents 63 reasons to suspect a conspiracy in the death of JFK, 1 discusses Kennedy's quest for peace, 1 is a novel written from the perspective of a Secret Service agent, 1 is a collection of the memories of the staff of Parkland Hospital, where Kennedy was rushed after the shooting, and 1 is a conspiracy book purporting to present new revelations on the assassination. At quick count that's 32 books released by established publishers, only 3 of which are traditional conspiracy books in which a widespread cover-up is alleged, and the CIA (or LBJ) is purported to have been involved. And only one of these (Reclaiming Parkland by Jim DiEugenio) has been written by an established member of the research community. Heck, this list completely destroys one of the mainstream media's favorite myths--that the Kennedy assassination research community is driven by greed, and that the bulk of the books pumped out to cash in on Kennedy's death are conspiracy books. It actually proves the opposite--that it is the mainstream publishers and mainstream writers who are most actively trying to milk the anniversary of the assassination for their benefit. No score.
October 27: an op-ed piece appears in the Sunday Los Angeles Times. This is by Richard Mosk, a justice on the California Court of Appeals, the son of a former Attorney General and Chief Justice for the State of California, and a former member of the Warren Commission's staff. This piece reaches a million plus readers, both online and at home. (I would subsequently come to realize that this piece was re-published numerous times in other papers as well, including the the 10-31 Vinita OK Daily Journal, the 11-2 Spokane WA Spokesman-Review, the 11-2 Wiles-Barre PA Times-Leader, the 11-3 Charleston WV Gazette, the 11-3 Daytona Beach News Journal, the 11-3 Champaign IL News Gazette, the Newark NJ Star-Ledger, the 11-4 Billings MT Gazette, and on and on.)
While listing the evidence suggesting Lee Harvey Oswald's guilt, Mosk asserts "Scientific evidence confirmed that all the shots fired came from the spot where Oswald was perched and from a gun belonging to him." This is not true. Only 1 1/2 bullets were recovered and linked to the rifle found in the school book depository. There was no-telling where the third presumed shot came from. Three shells were found in the sniper's nest, but there was no scientific evidence the shells had been fired that day. While some might think these three shells, when taken in tandem with the fact most witnesses thought they heard three shots, offers conclusive evidence all three shots came from the same place, this overlooks that 4 shells were found at the site of the Tippit killing, and 4 bullets recovered from his body, but that they didn't match up. There were two shells each of two different brands of ammunition, but three bullets of one of the brands. Well, this suggested 5 shots had been fired in that incident. And this, even though the most of the witnesses heard three shots... Mosk, if he was indeed suggesting that the three shells found in the depository proved there had been but one shooter, who'd fired three shots, almost certainly knew this, but kept this from his readers.
The article concludes:
"Those who, after almost five decades, contend that some information was withheld from the commission, or that it did not follow matters to the point of certainty, even if true, have not been able effectively to show that these alleged deficiencies could have affected the conclusion. The issue should not be whether the commission reached perfection in its methodology — something that is unobtainable — but whether the evidence supports its conclusion. And it does.
For years, polls showed a public that was skeptical of the conclusions of the commission. Such polling results no doubt have been fueled by the multitude of books and films that have sought to profit from advancing a new conspiracy.
But I suspect that most Americans have come to accept the conclusions of the Warren Commission. The history books now seem reconciled to the fact that Oswald, acting alone, assassinated the president. And there have recently been notable works supporting the Warren Commission report, including a massive book by Manson Family prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who spent 17 years researching the subject.
The promotion of false conspiracy theories is not harmless. In the past, what one historian dubbed as the "paranoid style of American politics" has led to fear of and antipathy toward certain religions and social and political movements.
Conspiracy theories can be satisfying because they supply a cause more proportional to the effect of a traumatic event, but they foster a damaging distrust of institutions. The distortion of history obscures the lessons to be learned from the past.
I hope on this 50th anniversary, the public will be skeptical of new criticisms of the commission and be more doubtful of the new conspiracy theories than of the Warren Commission."
No opinion piece is published to counter Mosk's self-serving nonsense. (I mean, c'mon, he actually says he suspects most Americans secretly accept the conclusions of the Warren Commission? Is he delusional?)
Score: Lone-nuts 6, Conspiracy Theorists 0.
October 27: newsman Bob Schieffer hosts the weekly news program Face the Nation on CBS television. One of his guests is Philip Shenon, a New York Times writer who has just published A Cruel and Shocking Act, about the Warren Commission. The discussion that follows is a bit refreshing, with plenty of discussion by some of Washington's most famous pundits, including Bob Woodward and Peggy Noonan, on mistakes made by the Commission, the FBI and CIA. Underlying it all is that IF THERE WAS a conspiracy, the Commission probably wouldn't have found it. Still, as there is no listing of reasons to believe there was a conspiracy, you can't call this program a score for the Conspiracy Theorists. So it's no score either way.
November: an article by James Wolcott in Vanity Fair discusses JFK the President, and suggests our interest in his death is closely connected with our fascination with JFK the man. Maybe. Wolcott lets his true colors show, however, when he discusses the randomness of Kennedy's death, and begins quoting James Swanson's upcoming book, End of Days. He writes:
"It was as if the Devil had the run of the baccarat table on November 22. “From the moment Oswald saw the presidential limousine, he knew that the odds on his successfully assassinating President Kennedy had tipped in his favor,” James L. Swanson writes in The President Has Been Shot!:
"First, Kennedy had come to Dallas. Oswald would never have stalked him on a presidential trip to another city. But now the president had come to him. Who knew, five weeks earlier, before Kennedy’s Dallas trip had even been planned, that Oswald would take a job at a building that turned out to be on the motorcade route? Even President Kennedy’s itinerary proved lucky for Oswald. At any other time of day, the Book Depository employees working on the upper floors might have discovered Oswald hiding in his sniper’s nest. But J.F.K. would drive by during lunch hour, when the employees would vacate the upper floors and go down to eat or leave the building to watch the president pass by. By a little after noon, Oswald could expect to have the entire sixth floor to himself."
Swanson was, of course, paid a million bucks to write a fun book telling everyone Oswald did it. The cart filled with gold came before the research.
Score: Lone-nuts 7, Conspiracy Theorists 0.
November 1: an article appears in the Telegraph, a British newspaper and website with over a million readers daily. It tells the story of Hugh Aynesworth, a Dallas reporter who was both in Dealey Plaza when President Kennedy was shot, and the basement of the Dallas Police station when Lee Harvey Oswald was shot. It takes a solid no-conspiracy stance throughout. Here are a few nuggets:
"Watching fruitcakes and frauds get rich peddling hokum to an eager world (he reserves special contempt for the Oliver Stone film JFK) has been tough for him.
'The only lucrative business from a reporting standpoint has been conspiracy,' he said. 'For every book that tells the exact truth, or tries to, there are 25 conspiracy books.'"
"Aynesworth’s conclusion should be the final word on the events of half a century ago, but he knows it never will be. 'We all love a conspiracy. No one wants to believe two nobodies could change the course of world history. But they did.'"
No longer in the theaters is Parkland, a 10 million dollar feature film based on Vincent Bugliosi's single-assassin manifesto Reclaiming History. Aynesworth is apparently unconcerned that Bugliosi was reportedly paid a million dollars for the film rights to his book--which was, as documented on this webpage, filled with numerous distortions and lies. He is also apparently unconcerned that a large film crew, including a number of well-known actors, were paid handsomely for their work on the film. His only concern, it seems, is the handful of conspiracy-believing researchers who made a few bucks off their work a few decades ago.
While Parkland is, to no one's surprise, a failure at the box office, that a major production company was willing to spend so much money on it, and then push it as a home rental in the days leading up to the 50th anniversary, is undoubtedly a major score for the Lone-nuts.
Score: Lone-nuts 9, Conspiracy Theorists 0.
November 1: an article appears in the Guardian, a British newspaper and website with millions of readers. This article focuses on the influence of the Kennedy assassination on popular culture. While discussing the many novels and movies with a conspiracy theme to come after the assassination, the article itself takes no stance on the question of conspiracy. In fact, it links to a list of the 10 best books inspired by the assassination, only three of which suggest there was a conspiracy. All three are novels. So, once again, this article is not a score for either side.
November 1: actor Rob Lowe appears on HBO's Real Time With Bill Maher, a show watched by millions of viewers, to promote his upcoming appearance in Killing Kennedy. While Maher and Lowe for the most part discuss Kennedy the man, and ignore his assassination, Maher at one point injects how small Dealey Plaza is, and how the fatal shot looks so easy he thinks even he could do it. To which Lowe readily agrees. Neither of them seem to realize that no one has ever disputed that the fatal shot, if taken at a stationary target, would not be much of a trick, but that the issue has always been that the shot was purportedly the third of three rapid fire shots taken at a moving target, using a bolt-action rifle with a misaligned scope that had been put together with a dime just minutes before the shooting, by a shooter who hadn't practiced in months, and was never that good to begin with. Maher's comment, and Lowe's response, were thereby totally deceptive and misleading to millions of viewers.
Score: Lone-nuts 10, Conspiracy Theorists 0.
November 2: an article on Oswald's widow, Marina Oswald Porter, appears in the British tabloid The Daily Mirror, and is reported in The New York Daily News. In the process, it reaches millions of readers. While accurately reporting that Marina now believes that her former husband was indeed a scapegoat, the Daily News article is mostly unsympathetic to Ms. Porter, and is quick to point out that she has spent "years reading conspiracy theories," and has recently auctioned off the wedding ring Oswald gave her for $108,000. At one point, the article is downright insulting, and actually dismisses Mrs. Porter out of hand with "The paranoid woman also believes her phones are still tapped by the Secret Service." While the article does report the conspiracy angle, it does so with an insulting tone, and can not be considered a score for the Conspiracy Theorists.
November 2: I venture into The Barnes and Noble book store at The Grove in Los Angeles, California. On the front table as I walk in are two new non-fiction books on the assassination: A special box set by Time/Life comprising a new book and a magazine re-print entitled Life: The Day Kennedy Died, and a new book on the Warren Commission by Philip Shenon of the New York Times entitled A Cruel and Shocking Act. I glimpse through both volumes. I soon realize that the Life book is a straight ahead run-through of the Warren Commission's version of events. I don't notice any variation from that theme, or any articles written in which questions about the "official" story are raised. Heck, I'm not even sure if there is a single reference to the conclusions of the House Select Committee in 1979, in which they offered that a conspiracy to kill Kennedy was "probable." (Note: I would later come to realize there was indeed a brief article in which some conspiracy theories were discussed, and then dismissed. This article was quite shallow, however, and failed to mention much that was new or relevant.)
I take a closer look at Shenon's book, which was discussed at length on the previous Sunday's CBS News program Face the Nation. It's pretty much as I expected after watching that program. It questions the political nature of the Warren Commission, and the behavior of the FBI and CIA during its investigation, but fails to really question its conclusions. Not bad. It could be worse. I check to see if Shenon gets one often-ignored point correct, however, and find that he fails miserably. When discussing Arlen Specter's attempts at gaining access to the autopsy photos, and Chief Counsel J. Lee Rankin's discussion of this issue with Chief Justice Warren, he prematurely ends the discussion by telling his readers ROBERT KENNEDY had the autopsy photos, and that Warren ultimately decided not to push him on it. WELL, I'll BE... This concealed that 1) the Secret Service had the photos, not Robert Kennedy, 2) Specter was ultimately shown the key autopsy photo he'd hoped to view, and 3) Specter failed to tell anyone he saw this photo even though it proved the drawings he'd had created for the Warren Commission were inaccurate and misleading.
I would later come to realize that Shenon's book was written at the urging of an unnamed Warren Commission attorney, and that Shenon was given access to the unedited interviews Specter provided the co-writer of his memoirs, Charles Robbins. Robbins provided additional help as well. Well, heck, two plus two equals Specter. This leads me to suspect then that Shenon wrote the book at Specter's request, and that Shenon failed to realize he was being used. (See Chapter 10 on this website for proof Specter lied about Kennedy's wounds, and then engaged in a life-long cover-up of his lie.)
After dropping Shenon's book in disgust I check Barnes and Noble's history section, and find a number of new Kennedy books on the shelf, including two new conspiracy-themed books by Jesse Ventura and Jerome Corsi.
Still, the purpose of this blog is not to track how many conspiracy books or articles are on the shelf, or on little visited websites; it's to track what news stories, books and programs on the assassination get a national or international push, whereby the average American might be exposed to them. And the only two assassination-related books getting a push at Barnes and Noble as of November 2 are the Time/Life box, and the book by Shenon.
Hmmm... Life Magazine had put out magazine after magazine pushing Oswald's sole guilt in 1963 and 1964, and had even paid Warren Commissioner Gerald Ford to write an article on the Commission's findings. The New York Times, Shenon's employer, was no better. Not only had The Times declared Oswald Kennedy's sole assassin in articles on his murder--two days after the assassination of Kennedy--it had printed the Warren Commission's findings without criticism, and had rushed out edited--and by "edited", I mean edited to remove any statements that might raise questions about Oswald's sole guilt--versions of the testimony of the Commission's witnesses weeks later. Well, then what about CBS, the home of Face the Nation, which was helping to sell Shenon's book? CBS had not only devoted a two-hour program to the release of the Warren Report--in which they presented interviews in support of its findings--it had repeated the trick with a 4-hour program defending the Warren Commission in 1967, at a time when the public was finally coming round to the conclusion it was a sham. CBS, had, for that matter, brought in Warren Commissioner John McCloy as a secret adviser on that program, and had asked him for help in acquiring access to the autopsy doctors. So, yeah, WOW, the three media conglomerates most involved in selling the Oswald did-it-all-by-his-lonesome scenario in 1964, are back to their old tricks in 2013.
Score: Lone-nuts 12, Conspiracy Theorists 0.
November 3: an article appears in The Telegraph, in which four witnesses of the events of 11-22-63 are interviewed. Two of these witnesses, James Tague and former Parkland nurse Phyllis Hall, admit they believe there was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy. What? Never heard of Hall? Here's her story:
“Phyllis Hall, a nurse in the outpatient clinic who happened to be talking with a friend who worked on the triage desk in the emergency ward, was about to be swept up in the whirlwind of history. 'The supervisor said there had been a call to say there was an accident in the president’s motorcade,' she said. The words were hardly out of her mouth when the doors burst open. 'Among the first in was Lyndon Johnson, the vice president, who was very pale and sweating heavily. Then I heard the groans of someone calling out in grave pain. It was Governor John Connally, who was seriously injured in the attack. Then they carried in a second stretcher. I could just see a man from his waist down as there was a lady lying across his head and shoulders. A doctor told me: 'We need you here.’ We were whisked into the Trauma One room, where it was immediately clear that this was President Kennedy. I started to feel for his vital signs. I couldn’t find any, there was no pulse. His eyelids were half-closed, his pupils were fixed and dilated, and his skin was blueish-grey, indicating that no oxygen was circulating.' As the doctors worked frantically to resuscitate their patient, Mrs Kennedy stood next to her husband, her right hand on his left foot. 'We were desperately searching for any sign of life, but there was nothing,” said Hall. “The treatment the president received that day was outstanding but futile. I believe he was dead when he arrived at the hospital.' At 1 pm, Kemp Clark, a senior surgeon, pronounced the president dead. Mrs Kennedy did not flinch. 'There was no response,' said Hall. 'I have never seen anyone in such profound shock in my life. She had the same blank look on her face. She just looked down and stared blankly.'”
Towards the end of the article, it notes that Tague thinks Oswald was a patsy. It then relates: "Hall, the former Parkland nurse, is much less strident but she is also convinced, from the wounds that she saw, that the president was hit from the front and back – meaning that Oswald could not be a lone gunman. 'Oh, I don’t think the Warren Commission got it right,' she said. 'I am a big believer in the conspiracy theories.'"
The other two witnesses, Dallas Deputy Sheriff Gene Boone, and newsman Pierce Allman, make clear they believe there had been no conspiracy. The article is not a score for either side.
November 3: an Associated Press article found in The Washington Post discusses the fact that 50 years after the assassination, thousands of pages of documents are still withheld from the public. The article starts out in a slightly insulting manner, noting that "conspiracy buffs are not the only ones seeking" a look at the withheld files, and that "Some serious researchers believe the off-limits files could shed valuable new light on nagging mysteries of the assassination." (I mean, imagine that!) It then gets better. The article moves on to discuss former Washington Post writer Jefferson Morley's efforts at gaining access to the files of George Joannides, the CIA case officer who in 1963 was responsible for running the DRE, the anti-Castro Cuban organization Oswald fought in New Orleans. It then relates that HSCA Chief Counsel Robert Blakey now feels he was hoodwinked by the CIA when it brought Joannides out of retirement in 1977 to "help" the HSCA find documents regarding the DRE and other anti-Castro organizations...without telling Blakey of Joannides' relationship to these organizations. It's honest reporting, without a conspiracy slant, but is nevertheless a score for the Conspiracy Theorists.
Score: Lone-nuts 12, Conspiracy Theorists 1.
November 3: while shopping at my local Target store, I decide to see what assassination-related material is available. At the check-out stand, they are selling a magazine version of Life: The Day Kennedy Died. In the best-sellers aisle they feature two more assassination-related books, Killing Kennedy by right-wing pundit Bill O'Reilly, and A Cruel and Shocking Act. These three are the only JFK assassination-related books carried in one of the biggest retailers in the country. All three--coincidentally?-- are Oswald-did-it books.
Killing Kennedy is particularly undeserving. Not only is it a re-hash of the Warren Commission, it is a poorly researched re-hash of the Warren Commission, built upon a preposterous lie. Its author claims a connection to the assassination--that he was in Florida at the door of Oswald's friend/mentor? George de Mohrenschildt when DeMohrenschildt committed suicide--that is a big fat bald-faced lie. (And no, this isn't an exaggeration. Within weeks of the publication of O'Reilly's lie, Marie Fonzi--the widow of journalist Gaeton Fonzi--came forth with some old phone messages that her husband had wisely preserved. They were messages from O'Reilly, calling from Texas, in the hours following DeMohrenschildt's suicide, asking Fonzi what he knew, etc.)
But that wasn't the worst part of the book. Its sloppiness marked it as a rush job--a cynical exploitation of the death of a president that should have been rejected by those on both sides of the fence. Killing Kennedy has Oswald standing when he shoots Kennedy--which would have been impossible, seeing as the window where he was standing was only open a few inches at the bottom of its frame, a foot above the floor. Its companion piece, Kennedy's Last Days--a dumbed-down version of the bookwith more pictures pushed out in June for a younger/dumber audience--has the midnight press conference in which Oswald first learns he's been charged with Kennedy's killing on Saturday night/Sunday morning, as opposed to Friday night/Saturday morning. Everyone who knows anything about the assassination--who has any business writing or editing a book on the assassination--knows this. And yet O'Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard (who was, in a bizarre twist, credited as the co-author of Killing Kennedy but not not Kennedy's Last Days) fail to grasp these basic facts.
Score: Lone-nuts 15, Conspiracy Theorists 1.
November 3: The ReelzChannel re-airs The Kennedys, its controversial 2010 mini-series on the Kennedy family. While the series, taken in total, was somewhat sympathetic to the family, its treatment of the assassination was just dreadful. Here are the mistakes I'd noted the first time around:
1) When first shown, Lee Harvey Oswald is sitting in a house cleaning his rifle, presumably preparing for his attempt on Kennedy. In reality, there was no credible evidence Oswald had handled his rifle for months before the shooting. No cleaning supplies were found among his possessions, and the rifle found in the school book depository had not recently been cleaned.
2) When next shown, Oswald is getting into a car driven by his co-worker, Buell Wesley Frazier. Frazier asks him about the long paper package holding Oswald's rifle, and Oswald tells him it's curtain rods. In reality, or at least the Warren Commission's reality, Frazier did not pick up Oswald, as shown in the series, but met Oswald outside his own house after Oswald had thrown his package into the back of Frazier's car. The significance of this change is that it removes a second witness to Oswald's package--Frazier's sister, who saw Oswald walk across the street and put the package in her brother's car--from the story. It would seem to be more than a coincidence, then, that Frazier's sister, Linnie Mae Randle, agreed with her brother that the package she saw in Oswald's possession was far smaller than the large bag necessary to hold Oswald's rifle, even when the rifle was dismantled.
3) It next shows Oswald take his package up to the sixth floor sniper's nest and put it on a box by the window. No one saw him with the package in the building. There is no evidence this happened.
4) Soon after, it shows Oswald's co-workers tell him they're heading out to lunch, and that he should meet them down on the grassy knoll. He says he'll be down in a minute. This is totally inaccurate in that none of Oswald's co-workers had their lunch on the knoll. It clearly replaces a real incident, moreover, where a number of Oswald's co-workers heading down from the sixth floor in an elevator heard him yell out from the fifth floor and ask if they could shut the gate on the elevator (and thereby make it accessible to him) when they reached the bottom. Why was this changed?
5) The next scene featuring Oswald gives us a clue. It shows Oswald eating fried chicken and sipping a Coke on the sixth floor while waiting for the motorcade to arrive. This is repulsive. While fried chicken and a Dr. Pepper bottle were found near the sniper's nest, and initially attributed to the shooter, it was soon discovered that these belonged to Bonnie Ray Williams, and that Bonnie Ray Williams had eaten his lunch just yards from the sniper's nest at the very time the Warren Commission assumed Oswald was putting his rifle together in the sniper's nest. By having Oswald eat the chicken, of course, Williams' problematic presence could be avoided...as could the almost certain fact that Oswald ate his lunch downstairs. (Four of his coworkers--James Jarman, William Shelley, Eddie Piper, and Carolyn Arnold--made statements indicating they'd seen him downstairs after he'd yelled out to the elevator from the fifth floor.)
6) But if there was any doubt the creators of the series were out to deceive, the next scene pretty much kills it. They show Oswald pull his rifle--intact--from the paper package he'd brought into the depository. This conceals that the paper package purportedly found in the building--which was already far too large to be the bag described by Frazier and Randle--was still too small to contain the intact rifle, and that the rifle would have to have been dismantled to have been carried in the bag. Perhaps the creators of the show thought a shot of Oswald putting his rifle together with a dime, as proposed by the Warren Commission, would be too confusing to its viewers.
7) Oswald then puts a full ammunition clip in his rifle. Three shells were purportedly found in the sniper's nest, and one bullet in the chamber. That's four. A clip holds six. This was probably just lazy film-making, but perhaps the creators of the series were trying to hide that Oswald supposedly set out to kill Kennedy with the last four bullets in his possession, and that the Warren Commission could never even figure out where these bullets came from.
8) Alas, the assassination scene finally arrives, and doesn't disappoint, in its inaccuracy... Three shots are fired in about three seconds. It seems more than a coincidence that this makes the shooting look relatively easy, when the experts to test Oswald's rifle claimed the bolt was fairly stiff and that as a result it was difficult to fire more than once every 2.3 seconds.
Score: Lone-nuts 16, Conspiracy Theorists 1.
November 3: after the conclusion of The Kennedys, the ReelzChannel airs the premiere of a new documentary JFK: The Smoking Gun. The docudrama is based on the work of Australian police detective Colin McLaren, who spent four years re-investigating the case while under the spell of the long-debunked theories of Howard Donahue. Donahue was an American ballistics expert who came to believe all the skullduggery around the assassination came about because the fatal head shot wasn't fired by Oswald at all, but by Secret Service Agent George Hickey, who accidentally discharged his AR-15 rifle. It's a fantastical theory, but it was based upon some real evidence, so the show is not without merit. It even has a conspiracy bent, in that it asserts that the Secret Service conspired to hide Hickey's involvement from the public. But it is nevertheless a score for the Lone-nuts. It includes a re-enactment of the single-bullet theory, in which Connally's seat is moved further to the left than its actual location, and the positions of Kennedy and Connally in the car are reverse-engineered. It presents this re-enactment, moreover, in its discussion of Donahue's research. This serves to obscure that Donahue thought the jump seat on which Connally sat was six inches or more inboard of the door, and that it would subsequently be revealed that it was really but 2 1/2 inches inboard of the door. And that's not the only deception employed to support the single-bullet theory. It has Colin McLaren recite, in an Australian accent that sounds almost German, "The bullet penetrated the lower region of the President's neck, just below the collar line, at the shoulder. JFK's neck wound was very neat. The entry wound was only 7 mm in diameter." The program then goes on to compare this to the shape of Connally's back wound, which is purported to have been oval, and then extrapolates from this that Connally was hit by a bullet that had already hit something, namely Kennedy. Well, YIKES, this is as bad as it gets. It hides that 1) the wound was on Kennedy's back, not neck; 2) this wound as measured was 7 mm by 4 mm, smaller than the size of the bullets fired in Oswald's rifle, and more consistent with a low velocity impact than a high-velocity impact; and 3) that Connally's back wound, according to Connally's doctor, measured 1 1/2 by 5/8 cm, nearly identical to the 15 by 6 mm measurement given for the entrance wound on Kennedy's head, which neither Donahue nor McLaren presumed to have been created by a tumbling bullet. The closing comments by McLaren are also problematic. He says that Donahue's research presents an answer to the question of who killed Kennedy, "an answer no more complex than a tragic accident colliding with a foolhardy assassination attempt." Well, heck, this not only pushes that Hickey fired the fatal shot, it pushes aside the notion that Oswald was anything more than a lone nut.
Score: Lone-nuts 17, Conspiracy Theorists 1.
November 3: The Travel Channel program America Declassified features a segment on the assassination entitled JFK: Exclusive Access. Researcher Jim Marrs, eyewitness Sandra Styles Butler, and conspiracy theorist celebrity Richard Belzer are featured. Host Mike Baker takes a look from the seventh floor of the depository and says it would have been an easy shot. Styles breaks her silence and re-asserts that she raced down the back stairs of the book depository after the shooting but did not see Oswald. Jim Marrs then brings up railroad tower worker Lee Bowers, and his claim he saw smoke or a flash by the picket fence at the time of the shooting. At this point someone fires a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle from the picket fence. In opposition to what we have been told for decades, smoke from this rifle rises up to the trees by the fence and is readily visible from both the street and the railroad tower behind the fence. The show's host, a former CIA officer named Mike Baker, then takes a simulated shot from the fence at someone riding down Elm Street in a black Lincoln limousine moving at the same speed as Kennedy's limo was moving on 11-22-63. Intriguingly, he doesn't track the limo and takes his shot when the limo is 30 or 40 feet past where Kennedy was shot, as it crosses his position. He says this shot would not have been difficult. The program then explores the possibility railroad tower worker Lee Bowers, who thought he may have seen smoke by the fence on 11-22-63, suffered a suspicious death on a Texas Highway. Richard Belzer then offers that the odds against 18 key witnesses dying in within three years of the assassination are 100,000 trillion to one. A writer named Jonathan Kay counters this and says this is incorrect.
I was unable to view this program until the next April, but was surprised to find it to have, if anything, a bias towards conspiracy.
Score: Lone-nuts 17, Conspiracy Theorists 2.
November 4: Rolling Stone.com publishes an interview with JFK film director Oliver Stone, in which he looks back at his film, and at Kennedy. He cites the research of a number of conspiracy theorists, and is allowed to counter the frequent argument his movie was "full of distortions and outright falsehoods."
Score: Lone-nuts, 17, Conspiracy Theorists 3.
November 4: an article by Adam Gopnik is published on The New Yorker's website. Gopnik discusses the significance of the Kennedy assassination, and views it as a turning point in U.S. history in which the upper crust and underbelly revealed themselves to be two sides of the same pizza. He treats the assassination and aftermath as a real life film noir, repeatedly comparing it to the classic film Double Indemnity. The article is well-written but incredibly insulting to conspiracy theorists. Here is but one example:
"Every decade or so, the Oswald-incriminating facts are comprehensively reviewed—most recently by Vincent Bugliosi, in a thousand-plus-page volume, “Reclaiming History” (Norton)—and, every decade, people who don’t care tend to accept those facts, while the people who care most remain furious and unpersuaded. The world of the conspiracy buffs has a bibliography and a set of fixed points that run parallel to but separate from reality as it is usually conceived."
Gopnik, it seems apparent, has never researched the case enough to understand that Bugliosi has his own "set of fixed points that run parallel to but separate from reality as it is usually conceived." He, apparently, has no idea that Bugliosi played fast and loose with his citations, and claimed fact after fact that his own citations proved untrue. (This is demonstrated in chapter 9b of this webpage.)
Score: Lone-nuts 18, Conspiracy Theorists 3.
November 4: an hour-long documentary on Kennedy's life, career and lasting influence, The Kennedy Half-Century, premieres on PBS in some markets. (It is shown in other markets throughout the month.) Based on the book by Professor Larry Sabato, it is pretty much an Oswald-did-it so-let's-not-even-talk-about-the-possibility-he-didn't kind of program. Sabato had been a featured speaker at the Wecht Conference in Pittsburgh a few weeks earlier. I'd heard some grumbling about this, but was pleased to hear Sabato talk about the importance of the research community, etc. Unfortunately, this documentary has nothing to say about the possibility of a conspiracy beyond that within 24 hours of the assassination Johnson and Hoover wanted the public to believe Oswald acted alone, and that the movie JFK led to the JFK records act, a massive release of documents. This avoidance of the possibility more than Oswald was involved is more than a bit ironic, moreover, seeing as the ONLY eyewitness to the shooting interviewed for the program is Mary Moorman, and she reports hearing a shot just after the head shot most assume to have been the final shot. Let me clarify... Studies have demonstrated that Moorman's famous photo was taken 1/9 of a second AFTER Kennedy was shot in the head at frame 313 of the Zapruder film. The sound of this shot would have reached her just as she took this photo, if not slightly after. Well, in this program she says she heard a shot just after the the shot she associated with her photo--and this suggests a shot rang out a split second after the head shot. And this would have been impossible if there had been but one shooter firing Oswald's rifle. So, yeah, the program offered evidence for a conspiracy whilst simultaneously refusing to acknowledge there may have been a conspiracy.
Score: Lone-nuts 19, Conspiracy Theorists 3.
November 4: after this night's showing of The Smoking Gun, the ReelzChannel presents a discussion of the show, with authors Colin McLaren and Bonar Menninger, along with Forensic Examiner Leonard Romero and Medical Examiner Dr. Juan Carrilo. An interview with the head of the Assassination Records Review Board, Judge John Tunheim, is also presented. The discussion of the show is disappointingly superficial, with host Bill Kurtis introducing segments from the show, including the misleading re-enactment of the single-bullet theory, with little or no commentary. The show does give McLaren and Menninger the opportunity to question the official story, however. McLaren says 48 witnesses said the last two shots were bang-bang. He also spells out that 10 witnesses said they smelled smoke, and that 12 more said they saw smoke. To illustrate this last point, moreover, McLaren holds up a map of Dealey Plaza, on which the locations of his smoke witnesses have been marked. Amazingly, 12 of these 22 are on the ground near the back-up car at the time of the shooting (7 on the north side, 5 on the south). Well, I'll be! My study of the eyewitnesses tells me that this exhibit is probably bogus. I certainly don't remember 5 witnesses on the south side of Elm saying they smelled (or saw) smoke; I can only remember 2, Jean Hill and Rosemary Willis. Not only does this exhibit oversell that a shot was fired in the vicinity of the back-up car, it totally hides that the original and most credible smoke witnesses were on the railroad bridge, and that they thought they saw smoke blow out onto the street from behind the picket fence! And that's not the only head-scratcher in the program. They ask Judge Tunheim about Kennedy's missing brain, and he offers that he suspects Admiral Burkey--the name is Burkley but I'm pretty sure Tunheim says Burkey--probably gave the "dissected brain parts" to Robert Kennedy. Argghhh!!! This serves to conceal that the autopsy doctors--for no reason anyone takes seriously--decided not to dissect Kennedy's brain to establish the path of the bullet. While Tunheim's mis-statement about the brain is probably an innocent mistake, it is nevertheless the kind of thing one would expect to see on an Oswald-did-it program...which this program isn't. I mean, any show in which the possibility full-metal jacket pieces were added onto Kennedy's x-rays is not only discussed, but proposed, is not a show we can pigeon-hole as an Oswald did-it program.
While the show has a conspiracy slant, its defense of the single-bullet theory marks it as no score for either side.
November 5: I go into my local Walmart store, to see what books they're carrying, and receive a pleasant surprise. The end-cap that no doubt held Bill O'Reilly's Killing Kennedy a few weeks before now holds Bill O'Reilly's Killing Jesus. Well, that's it, I think, NO Kennedy books at Walmart. But then I see Kennedy's face on a book I know little about. It's a novel by Stephen Hunter, entitled The Third Bullet. I try to decide whether novels count one way or the other. I turn to the back of the book and find that Hunter, much as Stephen King in his novel on the assassination, has opted to put his thoughts on the matter on the record. Hunter writes that his research materials were the Warren Report, Case Closed by Gerald Posner, and Reclaiming History by Vincent Bugliosi. Well, that sucks. He then writes that everything in his book is consistent with the events presented in those books, and that the conspiracy presented in his book happens during moments when Oswald's actions remain unknown. Hmmm... I then glimpse through a final appendix entitled The Shim's Tale, and find it is a discussion of Oswald's rifle. Hunter claims that he purchased a rifle and scope like the ones found in the building and discovered, as Dr. Lattimer before him, that the combination was hopeless--that the rifle could not be made to fire accurately without the addition of shims beneath the scope mount. Much as myself in my discussion of the sniper in chapter 9, moreover, Hunter contends that the rifle was, to all appearances, missing a shim during the shooting, and that the rifle would have been difficult to fire without this shim. He then concludes "No shim; no shot." Well, this is a surprise: a book in the aisles of Walmart in which the author's knowledge of guns is used to call the single-assassin conclusion into question. Bravo, Mr. Hunter.
Score: Lone-nuts 19, Conspiracy Theorists 4.
November 5: an article by Jack Dickey on the recent Passing the Torch Conference in Pittsburgh appears on Time Magazine's website. Incredibly, the article is not about the conference so much as it is about single-assassin theorist extraordinaire John McAdams' attendance at the conference. While the article does much to humanize the research community, and quotes a number of researchers expressing their doubts about McAdams, it is nevertheless a huge score for the Lone-nuts. I mean, here, on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination was a conference where dozens of researchers and writers--including a number of men of historical interest (e.g. Mark Lane, Josiah Thompson, Cyril Wecht, Robert Groden, Oliver Stone)--discussed the assassination of President Kennedy, and where much NEW information was provided, and the only story TIME freakin-magazine considers worthy of reporting is that John McAdams, a single-assassin theorist distrusted by many, showed up, and hugged, Lisa Pease, one of his antagonists. Well, my, how quaint! While I am somewhat pleased that the article is not an all-out attack on the research community, and somewhat amused that I was the researcher to initially recognize McAdams and point him out to most of the researchers mentioned in the article, I am horrified that nothing else from the conference was deemed newsworthy.
On November 14, on the alt.assassination.JFK newsgroup, I ask John if he knew about the article before he arrived at the Passing the Torch conference. He provides what can only be taken as an honest response: "Yes, but I didn't know it would focus on me. The TIME guy called, and talked to me a bit about the "research community," and when I decided to go to the conference, I suggested he might want to go. I'm guessing that he intended to write about me from point zero, but I can't be absolutely sure." So yeah, in the eyes of Time Magazine, the attendance of John McAdams at a "conspiracy" convention is more news-worthy than what will almost certainly be the final group appearance of the backbone of the research community: Lane, Wecht, Thompson, Groden, Judge, Stone, etc. Pathetic.
Score: Lone-nuts 20, Conspiracy Theorists 4.
November 5: the ReelzChannel offers up yet another program on the assassination, this one entitled Killing JFK: 50 Questions Answered. This one is a bit odd. It fires off question after question, such as how did Oswald get the rifle into the building, and then answers the question almost as fast, with an answer straight out of the Warren Report or the single-assassin literature. There is no time for discussion or nuance. It continues in this manner through most of the program's hour-length. And then something happens. It asks the question why people still doubt the conclusions of the Warren Report, but instead of offering up the usual lame answer--that people just can't accept that a loser like Oswald could kill someone as wonderful as JFK--it admits that many disturbing questions still remain. Wha??? It seems possible, then, that the creators of the program accept Oswald's guilt, but think he may have been working with someone--presumably, the mafia, the Russians or the Cubans. Or maybe not. This program serves as a lead-in to a replay of JFK: The Smoking Gun. As we've seen, JFK: The Smoking Gun pushes that Kennedy was killed by a Secret Service agent...on accident. Well, sure enough, this program presents that theory as a "credible" theory. It seems more than likely, then, that the creators of this program were told to keep a window open in their program so the follow-up program wouldn't have any problem flying in with the Secret Service-agent-did-it-on-accident theory afterwards. Taken as a whole, then, this show is a score for the Lone-nuts.
Score: Lone-nuts 21, Conspiracy Theorists 4.
November 5: Oliver Stone discusses the JFK assassination on CNN's Piers Morgan Live. He tells Morgan that three issues convinced him there was a conspiracy: 1) Kennedy's head goes back after the fatal impact; 2) the single-bullet theory trajectories don't line up; and 3) the Parkland witnesses saw a hole on the back of the head, that was "patched-up" during the "illegal autopsy" at Bethesda. I agree with him on but two of the three, but it's enough.
Score: Lone-nuts 21, Conspiracy Theorists 5.
November 6: David Talbot, one of the founders of Salon.com, publishes an article on Salon about the assassination in which he reviews Philip Shenon's A Cruel and Shocking Act, and Howard Willens' History Will Prove Us Right. He gives them both mixed reviews, claiming that they both add pieces to the puzzle, but then chicken out and hide behind their mutual conclusion Oswald was the sole assassin. He has even harsher words for the New York Times, who he accuses of cowardice, and of hiding behind a refrain of "we'll never know," when the truth is that they never even tried to find out.
Score: Lone-nuts 21, Conspiracy Theorists 6.
November 6: I rent the feature film Parkland through Amazon, and watch it on my TV. Oh my God! I was prepared for it to push the Oswald did it position, but was totally unprepared for it to be so...shoddy. While the film is purportedly based on the first part of Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, entitled Four Days in November, it really isn't. While Bugliosi got plenty of facts wrong, he didn't get even the basic facts wrong. The short list of the film's shoddiest elements follow.
The actual shooting of Kennedy is seen through the eyes of Abraham Zapruder. This means no re-enactment is necessary. It shows Zapruder holding his camera, and bang...bang...bang. Yep, that's right. The shots are heard about 2 1/2 seconds apart. And this even though Zapruder could swear to hearing but two shots. And this even though Bugliosi held that the last two shots were 5 seconds apart.
The emergency room scene is even worse. It has Dr. Charles Carrico perform heart massage on Kennedy, when it was actually Dr. Malcolm Perry who performed the heart massage. It has Dr. William Kemp Clark declare Kennedy dead...without his even inspecting the head wound. It has Dr. Perry wrap Kennedy's head up in gauze after his death. It leaves Dr. Robert McClelland out of the story altogether. In short, it totally avoids the one thing most JFK researchers think of when they hear the word Parkland--that the witnesses there thought the fatal head wound was on the back of Kennedy's head. This can hardly be a coincidence.
In fact, it seems clear the film-makers attempted to avoid controversy while making a film about one of the most controversial events in history. This is not remotely true to Bugliosi's book, which reveled in the controversy. It is bad as history, and bad as drama. In fact, in order to sidestep the controversy, the film employs a device which is transparent and insulting. It almost totally ignores Marina Oswald, Oswald's Russian wife who went back and forth over his guilt, before eventually deciding he was indeed a patsy. Instead it focuses on Oswald's brother, Robert, and his mother, Marguerite. Robert is cool-headed and introspective. He knows that his brother is guilty of killing the president the moment he hears of his arrest...even though his brother had been arrested for suspicion of killing a policeman. The film contrasts this with Marguerite. Marguerite, from the outset, insists her son is a secret agent working for the government. At one point she blurts out that her son should be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, together with President Kennedy. Well, the clear intent of the film-makers was to align single-assassin theorists with Robert (cool-headed and introspective), and conspiracy theorists with the irrational and abrasive Marguerite.
While the film doesn't show Oswald pulling the trigger, and doesn't tell us with whom we are supposed to align, its propping up of Marguerite as a metaphor for conspiracy theorists is a deep insult. Alas, I already scored this one for the Lone-nuts. I was correct to do so.
November 6: Oliver Stone appears on the public television program Democracy Now and discusses some of the reasons he believes Kennedy was shot from the front, e.g. the wound on the back of the head observed at Parkland. He also hints that he thinks the Zapruder film has been tampered with. While I disagree with much of what he says, it's refreshing to hear someone state what most conspiracy theorists believe, without interruption, or being treated like a wacko.
Score: Lone-nuts 21, Conspiracy Theorists 7.
November 7: a promotional video for an upcoming NBC special by Tom Brokaw appears on NBC's website. In it, he asks Secretary of State John Kerry his thoughts on the assassination. Kerry admits that "To this day, I have serious doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone." Kerry then explains "I certainly have doubts that he was motivated by himself, I mean I'm not sure if anybody else is involved- I won't go down that road with respect to the Grassy Knoll theory and all that- but I have serious questions about whether they got to the bottom of Lee Harvey Oswald's time and influence from Cuba and Russia." Kerry, no surprise, is dismissive of the involvement of the CIA. (But, of course.)
Well, this is but one a number of videos released on the website. Other interview subjects include Carlos Bringuier, Dr. Robert Grossman, Joseph Califano, Dan Rather, Lawrence Schiller, Robert Groden, Vincent Bugliosi, Oliver Stone, Chris Matthews, Michael Beschloss, Tom Hanks, Stephen Spielberg, Judy Collins, Cynthia Wegmann, Mike Kettenring, Rosemary James, Buddy Leman, and Oleg Kalugin.
While the majority of these are Oswald did-it or Castro-put-Oswald-up-to-it segments, having the Secretary of State--a former Senator from Massachusetts and a long-time friend and colleague of Kennedy's brother, Edward Kennedy--say he still questions the conclusions of the Warren Commission more than balances them out. (Kerry's comments would be reported in the Daily Mail on November 8.) No score.
November 7: The New York Times Magazine publishes an article by Paul Gregory entitled Lee Harvey Oswald was My Friend. It details Gregory's meeting and befriending the Oswalds in 1962, and his subsequent realization Oswald was guilty of shooting Kennedy. While it makes for good reading, Gregory misses out on something, a BIG something: the very reasons he thinks Oswald is guilty--that he was difficult and self-involved, and not one to be part of a conspiracy--made him an IDEAL patsy. Gregory makes a few other errors that show him not to be the compassionate truth-teller he'd like us to believe he is, moreover. For one, he calls former Gen. Edwin Walker, the purported target of an earlier assassination attempt by Oswald, a "war hero." Walker was a right-wing Army General who was fired in part for disseminating materials among his troops that called ex-President Eisenhower, an actual war hero, a communist. Walker then used his celebrity to foment a rebellion against Federal Marshals in Mississippi, after they dared to...protect black students trying to attend a formerly all-white school. And, failing at that, Walker didn't go away quietly and lick his wounds. In the days before Kennedy's assassination, Walker's subordinate, Robert Surrey, prepared for Kennedy's visit to Dallas by printing up thousands of leaflets bearing Kennedy's face above the words "Wanted for Treason." They did this through a middle-man, moreover, who worked in his mother's printing house at night when no one else was present, and who refused to cooperate with the FBI and Secret Service prior to his wife's coming forward and admitting what he'd done. Some hero.
Score: Lone-nuts 22, Conspiracy Theorists 7.
November 8: Warren Commission Counsel Arlen Specter's son Shanin publishes an article on The Daily Beast website. It is entitled "Shanin Specter on His 50 Years With the Single Bullet Theory." Specter recounts his childhood, and the negative response people had to his father's theory. He suggests that his father's role in developing the theory hurt his father politically. Well, this is hard to see, seeing as his father served 5 terms as a U.S. Senator, and was only forced out after jumping parties. I mean, what does Specter think, that his father would have been PRESIDENT, if not for the--gasp--2% of the public refusing to vote for his father, because they believed his father helped cover-up the murder of a president? The article is worthwhile in at least one regard--it explains how it came to be that Shanin Specter, the son of Arlen Specter, ended up working for the House Select Committee reviewing his father's findings. Specter writes: "In 1978, Congressman Robert Edgar, then a member of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, asked my father to help him. My father volunteered me instead, knowing that I had been debating this issue in college." Well, HECK, that should have been a story right there. Why was Congressman Edgar seeking the help of the man whose conclusions he was supposed to be reviewing? Specter then relates: "The House Committee concluded the Single Bullet Theory was correct, aided by scientific testing and analysis unavailable in 1964. But a majority of the members thought there was a conspiracy nonetheless, based on what was erroneously thought to be an audio recording of the shots. For the next several months, I helped Rep. Edgar prepare his dissent to those who contended there was a conspiracy. That effort morphed into my senior thesis, which argued that the audio analysis was wrong, as was later confirmed by the National Academy of Sciences." Specter, of course, fails to explain that the House Select Committee relied in part on a trajectory analysis "proving" that his father's single-bullet theory was incorrect, and that the chief reason the House Select Committee signed off on the theory was the now-debunked testimony of atomic physicist Vincent Guinn in which he claimed the magic bullet and Connally wrist fragment matched.
Score: Lone-nuts 23, Conspiracy Theorists 7.
November 8: The National Geographic Channel replays its 2011 production JFK: The Lost Bullet. While promotions for this program focus on the restored films featured in the program, the reality is that the program is an exploration of the totally discredited theory of historian Max Holland, who realized that the witnesses overwhelmingly said the last two shots were closer together than the first two, and fooled himself into thinking this meant the first shot was taken before Zapruder started filming. The show is just crap. It uses a laser to demonstrate the single-bullet theory, but has its Kennedy stand-in scrunch over to the side to get the back wound location to line up with the Connally stand-in's back wound location, while former Secret Service John Joe Howlett repeats the lie of agent Thomas Kelley--that the jump seat was six inches inboard of the door. It's godawful. When first broadcast, Holland posted some documents online which indicated that a few weeks before broadcast they'd run some additional tests, and found that the street light he claimed could have deflected the first bullet would have shattered if actually struck. OOPS. Well, here it is, now two years later, and the National Geographic Channel has chosen to repeat the original program, without acknowledging that a theory pushed in the program has been disproved.
Score: Lone-nuts 24, Conspiracy Theorists 7.
November 8: the National Geographic Channel follows The Lost Bullet with the premiere of a new program: JFK: the Final Hours. This program, narrated by Bill Paxton, follows Kennedy through the last 24 hours of his life, and goes to commercials with Paxton intoning "Kennedy has 5 hours to live, etc." It's a bit tedious. The worst part, however, is the program's treatment of Oswald. It spends several minutes discussing Oswald's leaving his wedding ring behind when he left for work on the 22nd, but neglects to say his wife Marina now believes he didn't shoot Kennedy. It then has Buell Frazier, the co-worker who gave Oswald a lift to work, say Oswald put a package in his car, but neglects to mention that, oh yeah, Frazier--from the evening of the 22nd, and at personal risk--has always insisted that this package was far too small to have held the rifle found in the depository.
Score: Lone-nuts 25, Conspiracy Theorists 7.
November 8: as a compilation of early news footage and commentary, the National Geographic program The Lost JFK Tapes: The Assassination, a repeat from 2009, follows the Final Hours, and reflects little bias. It presents news coverage in which Oswald is wrongly identified as a communist and a sharpshooter with a rifle. But it also shows Dallas Police Chief Jesse Curry and District Attorney Henry Wade list and at times overstate the evidence against Oswald, destroying any chance Oswald would have had for a fair trial. While it might sway a complete novice towards Oswald's guilt, it might sway someone knowledgeable enough to realize the officials were poisoning the case in the other direction. No score.
November 9: historian James Kenneth Galbraith writes an article on Kennedy's death for The Austin American-Statesman. He ends his piece most curiously. He writes:
"Twenty years ago my student Heather Purcell discovered in the Vice Presidential security file for 1961 that the US strategic plan foresaw a nuclear first strike on the USSR and China, to be launched on an unspecified pretext in late 1963. Kennedy's reaction to this was fury. It was not for nothing that President Johnson, staring out of the window on the flight from Dallas, remarked to Bill Moyers, “I wonder if the missiles are flying.” Did these matters play a role in Kennedy's death? And if they did, what was their importance, compared with (say) the possibility that Kennedy might have been about to normalize relations with Cuba – or even to end the Cold War? I could state my view but it would not help. Over fifty years, the JFK controversies have destroyed the credibility of official views. Understanding cannot be handed down: not by the Warren Commission, not by the House Select Committee on Assassinations, not by Oliver Stone, and not by me. Let me only share something that Mikhail Gorbachev said to me, when we met in Italy in 2010: that when he visited the sixth-floor museum at the Texas School Book Depository, he wrote in the guest book, “I think I know why.” Fifty years later, it's not so very difficult to get a good grip on the basic facts. It's possible to separate the honest inquiry from the inept. Many people have already done this. But it does require work, in the form of careful, critical reading, aided by discussion in private groups. You have to study, take notes, argue, and figure it out on your own, for yourself and along with people you trust. Democratically. Truth to tell, I'm not as good a Democrat as my father. But perhaps the hope that President Kennedy expressed for me long ago has been realized, in a small way, after all."
Score: Lone-nuts 25, Conspiracy Theorists 8.
November 9: The Daily Beast website, as part of its ongoing series on Kennedy, 22 Days of JFK, presents a story by Kent Sepkowitz, in which he argues against a claim in James Swanson's upcoming book that RFK stole JFK's brain in order to hide his brother's medical problems. For some reason, however, he throws in a line that is typical lone-nut stuff. He writes: "A second fact about JFK’s brain is that, horribly, Oswald’s bullet blew away a large portion of it." I mean, why did he write "Oswald's bullet"? Why didn't he just write the "fatal bullet"? Was he deliberately trying to alienate those who suspect Oswald's innocence? Or did he simply not care?
And then there's the ending... Sepkowitz relates "As the latest 'disclosure' surely tells us, we are a long way from letting go of the events from 50 years ago. Which is its own tragedy, because by now it seems time to let the youngest American president ever elected finally rest in peace." Wait...what is he saying? That even IF Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy involving the upper echelons if the U.S. Government, it's better we stop digging because...what? Kennedy's GHOST needs some rest?
Score: Lone-nuts 26, Conspiracy Theorists 8.
November 9: NBCnews.com presents a story on Jim Leavelle, the Dallas detective handcuffed to Oswald when Oswald was assassinated. It is effectively an advertisement for an upcoming special on the Dallas Police on the Military Channel. The article lets Leavelle's grand-daugher, the director of the upcoming special, Capturing Oswald, talk way too much. “I think the majority of people want to focus on the death because had Oswald not died, there would be no conspiracy theories...It would have gone to trial, and he would have been proven guilty.” She obviously knows less than nothing, which is to say what little she knows is wrong. She thinks she knows what Oswald was all about, when its doubtful anyone knows what Oswald was all about, and most certainly not the grand-daughter of the man who walked him out to his execution.
Score: Lone-nuts 27, Conspiracy Theorists 8.
November 9: a special news report entitled Fox News reporting: 50 years of Questions premieres on--no surprise--Fox News. This program is a surprise to say the least. Gayle Newman says she thought she heard shots from the knoll. Bill O'Reilly, a hack journalist who's just pushed out a badly written re-hash of the Warren Report, and Mark Lane, one of the first critics of the Warren Report and the author of Rush to Judgment, probably the most important book on the assassination, are interviewed as if they are equals. The narrator says the Warren Commission "controlled" the investigation. HSCA Deputy Chief Counsel Gary Cornwell says the Warren Commission "flat-out lied to us" and that they "never intended to investigate." Cornwell then reads aloud the Katzenbach memo, in which Assistant Attorney General Katzenbach told President Johnson's assistant Bill Moyers that the public must be convinced Oswald acted alone at a time there was no way in heaven Katzenbach could have known that Oswald acted alone. O'Reilly then counters that Oswald was undoubtedly guilty, but that he might have been working with someone. Lane then says the CIA was behind it; Cornwell says it was probably the mob. In the first 20 minutes alone, the program shows sound-bites from interviews with Ruth Paine, Clint Hill, William and Gayle Newman, James Tague. Jim Leavelle, Bill O'Reilly, Mark Lane, Gary Mack, Gary Cornwell, Robert Dallek, and Andy Purdy, who tells the viewers about Patrick Dean, the Dallas policeman in charge of the security of Oswald's transfer, who failed a polygraph test. Lane then tells of Ruby's relationship with the FBI and Cornwell talks about his ties to organized crime. David Kaiser and Dallek then talk about the CIA/mafia plots to kill Castro. Cornwell talks about the mob some more. Carlos Marcello and Jack Van Landingham are discussed. And that is it for the first half hour.
In the second half hour, they have Lucien Haag, a firearms examiner, tell us the single-bullet theory makes sense. They resurrect some footage of Arlen Specter from 2003 to support this contention. They then have Dr. Cyril Wecht argue against the theory. They introduce Wecht to the theory of John Orr, in which Kennedy is hit at frame 204 of the Zapruder film, by a bullet that goes on to shatter upon striking the windshield frame. They then use the latest technology in which 2d images are made 3d to create a digital reproduction of frame 204. They then show us Kennedy's and Connally's position within the car at this time...from above. Well, this is a surprise. They conclude that a single-bullet shot at this time aligns with Connally's left shoulder, not right armpit. They then conclude that just a slight amount of deflection could lift this bullet over Connally's left shoulder, and on to the windshield frame. (They never mention, of course, that the Warren Commission's wound ballistics expert, Dr. Alfred Olivier, commented upon this possibility in his 1965 report Wound Ballistics of 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano Ammunition. Olivier concluded that "the bullet that wounded the President in the neck had enough remaining velocity to account for all of the Governor's wounds. If it had struck the car, the damage would have been very evident and much greater than the slight damage that was found on the windshield.")
Still pushing Orr's theory, the program then rear-projects the head wounds onto the roof of the County Records Building. Orr then asserts that there were four shots and that the last shot was fired by Lee Harvey Oswald about 3/4 of a second after the fatal head shot was fired from the County Records Building. They then move on to the x-rays. Wecht maintains that the "snowflaking pattern" seen in the president's brain on the x-rays is not consistent with full-metal jacket ammunition. Orr then says it was a soft-nosed hunting bullet. Dr. Michael Baden is then wheeled out to say that this just isn't so. He blows absolute smoke. "Whether it's soft-nosed or hard-nosed, fragments will develop if the bullet strikes hard bone, skull, and be left behind. That's typical for military ammunition." (While it's true that military ammunition will at times break up upon striking bone, Baden's theory about the shooting holds that the bullet leaked lead from its base as it traversed the skull, and didn't actually break-up.) The producers then bring Lucien Haag, the firearms examiner defending the single-bullet theory, back onto the show to demonstrate how a melon will stay intact when struck by a full metal jacket bullet, but blow up, with 6-7 metal fragments flying out the back, when struck by a soft-nosed bullet. They then go to commercial.
When they return, they discuss the autopsy. They have Dr. Wecht and Dr. Baden take turns discussing the horror that was the original autopsy. While they do so, they show the back of the head photo alongside Robert Groden's altered version of the photo (a photo which has been altered to show the wound as Groden believes it appeared). They, of course, fail to tell their viewers that this isn't a real photo. Heck, the producers might not even know it isn't a real photo. They then show the Warren Commission's drawings of Kennedy's wounds, CE 385, 386, and 388. They next show the gory stare-of-death photo. They have Clint Hill explain why the body was hurried out of Dallas. They then show Wecht looking at the right profile autopsy photo. They later show the back wound photo. They have Andy Purdy join in to attack the competence of Dr. Humes.
Baden then repeats an old lie about the autopsy photographs. Interviewer John Hemmer starts the story "There was a naval photographer." Baden then finishes his thought: "who was trained to take autopsy photos. And then a Secret Service person comes up to him and asks him if he has authorization to be there, confiscates the camera, exposes the film, and chases him out of the autopsy room." As he says this they show...the mystery photo (the controversial photo of Kennedy's cranium after his brain had been removed. This just might be its network debut.) But the mystery photo is not shown in its entirety. For some reason, they've placed it on the middle of a table, with other photos around it and on top of it along its edge. This serves to conceal the bullet hole observed at autopsy that is the topic of so much discussion on this website. Is this a coincidence? Baden continues: "They have somebody else from the Secret Service who had never taken photos of a dead body, and he doesn't take the right photos." (This is nonsense. The autopsy photographer was John Stringer, the Navy's top autopsy photographer.) They then try to blame the problems with the autopsy on the Kennedys, and their fear the public would find out about the president's small adrenals, and his Addison's disease. They quote Dallek about Kennedy's use of drugs. They then mention that the Warren Commission "withheld gruesome autopsy photos and x-rays from evidence." As the narrator says this, moreover, they show the bloody color versions of the left profile photo, the top-of-the-head photo, and the right profile photo. They then return to Orr, and claim he noticed something the HSCA dismissed, and that he says the "6.5 mm circular disc" proves the fatal head shot was not fired by Oswald's rifle. They ask Baden about this "disc" and he says "That was just part of the bullet fragment." Wecht then claims that it "was a different kind of bullet that has such a circular disc at its base which can then become detached upon impact with the skull." As he says this they show the right profile photo yet again. Orr then repeats that it was a soft-nosed or hollow-point bullet. The narrator then blows some total smoke: "Orr found another piece of evidence that points to a second shooter: a bone fracture in the president's back. Dr. Wecht, who had never considered a bone fracture, agrees." Wecht then says "You can see a clear defect there at the first thoracic vertebrae." The narrator then explains that Orr believes a descending bullet was deflected off the first rib, and shot upwards from the throat. The narrator then points out that the Warren Commission held that the bullet was un-deflected, and never hit bone. As the audience is shown CE 385, he says, "But Orr says the panel's measurements were wrong. Instead, he used the HSCA's dimensions which placed the wound about 4 inches lower." (WRONG. It was about 2.) Wecht then says that "the only thing that's gonna cause it to be deflected would be something firm, and here that means bone." Baden then says "I disagree with that. It was not thick enough to cause any kind of bullet deflection." The program then cuts to Andy Purdy defending the single-bullet theory, and saying he never thought he would be converted, but his HSCA experience told him it was possible. Baden then says "I examined Governor Connally's back,. The bullet went in sideways, which would indicate it struck something first." They then have Orr quote Connally's doctor Shaw to discredit Baden. Orr then says that Connally's clothes and x-rays suggest he was hit by a pristine bullet, and that Connally's wrist was exposed and probably hit at Z-312. Orr proposes that this shot was fired from the roof of the Country Records Building, and that it hit Kennedy in the cowlick before striking Connally in the wrist. (They skip entirely--perhaps for good reason--that the bullet fragments were subjected to neutron activation analysis, and that this suggested a connection between the fragment found behind Kennedy's right eye, and the fragment found by the driver's seat, but no connection to the wrist fragment and magic bullet.)
When they come back from commercial, they mention that the testing on the material found on the bullet fragment was never completed. They then show Abe Zapruder, and then Gary Mack on the pedestal where Zapruder once stood. He discusses the missing frames in the film. They show the head-shot in slow-motion to demonstrate just how much can be shown in four frames. They then show the missing frames and claim the jiggle effect at 209 suggests Kennedy was hit at 204. Orr then jumps the shark, and claims exhibit 567, the mangled bullet nose covered with skin, was the bullet striking Kennedy in the back and exiting his throat, only to break up on the windshield strut. (They fail to mention, of course, that there were two impacts on the windshield, and that most of this bullet was missing. The program also fails to ask Orr to explain CE 399, and what happened to the bullet striking Kennedy in the head.) Orr then relates that he was working for the Justice Department in its anti-trust division when he wrote up his proposal to test the material on bullet fragment CE 567. Orr then claims that his proposal so impressed Janet Reno that he was transferred to the FBI to work on this matter. Orr then claims that the FBI objected to this because he was not impartial. The program then interviews Dr. Michael Zimmerman, the pathologist who examined 567 for the FBI. He says the fragments of material on the bullet nose were "dried out and mummified. They were all maybe two or three millimeters in their greatest dimension. And I thought it would be worthwhile to re-hyrdate them for microscopic examination." He then relates "It was human skin and some muscle tissue. It could be literally from anywhere on the body." Orr then asks if it could be scalp, to which Zimmerman replies "I didn't find any hair." Orr then asks if it could be from the wrist, to which Zimmerman says there's nothing wrong with investigating. Dr. Wecht then returns to tell us there are new DNA tests which can tell us where this skin came from, and that this evidence should be re-evaluated. Orr then points out that the fibrous material in 567 was not tested by the FBI, even though that was what the HSCA had long ago asked to be tested. I take from this that he thinks that if they can identify the fibers as coming from the back of Kennedy's jacket, then they can prove his theory. They then ask Baden if he'd be opposed to further tests and he says no.
There's a problem with this segment that very few could notice. Zimmerman had been asked this question--from where the skin had derived, and if it could be scalp--by researcher John Hunt in 2004, and had responded "The skin had some hair, which means it could have been from anywhere on the body other than the glans penis and the eardrum." Hunt followed up on this, moreover, and asked if one could count the follicles to determine if the skin was in fact scalp. And to this Zimmerman responded: "There were only a couple of hair follicles in these tiny pieces and any attempt to come up with a per cm. count would be statistically worthless." So, no, Zimmerman's statement to the program that he didn't find any hair was misleading at best--he had found some hair, and was unwilling to state the skin patches he'd inspected were not scalp.
It seems clear, then, that the program's producers were intent on pushing Orr's theory, and that Zimmerman was willing to play along.
The producers of the program were presumably unaware that for Orr's theory to be true, the skin on 567 would have to have come from Kennedy's back or throat--unusually small wounds with little missing skin. No one interviewed seems to realize that it's being SKIN is the key to understanding what happened. CE 567 was found in the front seat of the limo, beneath a crack on the windshield not visible in photos after Connally was shot, and only visible after Kennedy was struck in the skull at frame 313 of the Zapruder film. The skin on this bullet almost certainly came from Kennedy's head, and the only part of Kennedy's head missing any skin to speak of was the large defect by the right temple. Well, the top forensics text, Medicolegal Investigation of Death, specifies that skull wounds where skin is missing are ENTRANCES. It follows then, as night from Doris Day, that the large defect was an entrance wound of some sort, most probably a tangential wound of both entrance and exit...
So, all in all, while this program stops far short of where it could have and should have gone, it nevertheless represents a HUGE STEP forward!
Score: Lone-nuts 27, Conspiracy Theorists 9.
November 10: the Daily Mail runs an article on Phyllis Hall, the woman claiming to have been one of Kennedy's nurses previously discussed in an article in The Telegraph. It begins:
"A nurse who was part of desperate attempts to save the life of President John F Kennedy after he was assassinated has claimed he was shot by a 'mystery bullet'.
Phyllis Hall, who was 28 at the time, says she was dragged into the operating room by a secret service agent as medics scrambled to help the president, who was fatally shot in Dallas, Texas on 22 November 1963.
While cradling his head, which had been torn apart by gunshots fired from the famous 'grassy knoll', Mrs Hall says she spotted an unusual bullet, which was promptly removed and never seen again.
She described the bullet in an interview with the Sunday Mirror which she said looked completely undamaged, and bore no resemblance whatsoever to bullets later shown as evidence in investigations into the President's murder.
She said: 'I could see a bullet lodged between his ear and his shoulder. It was pointed at its tip and showed no signs of damage. There was no blunting of the bullet or scarring around the shell from where it had been fired.
'I’d had a great deal of experience working with gunshot wounds but I had never seen anything like this before. It was about one-and-a-half inches long – nothing like the bullets that were later produced.
'It was taken away but never have I seen it presented in evidence or heard what happened to it. It remains a mystery.'
Mrs Hall, who had six years of nursing experience at the time, says she was caught up in the effort to save the President by accident, as she had been visiting a friend who worked on another ward.
She described the chaos as Mr Kennedy's entourage burst through the doors, and recalled clearly the vacant expression of First Lady Jackie Kennedy.
Mrs Kennedy reportedly gripped the President's right foot as surgeons wages a losing battle to save him.
Mrs Hall, now 78, says she offered her condolences after a neurosurgeon pronounced Mr Kennedy dead after a 43-minute struggle by as many as 20 staff. However, she says the shocked First Lady simply stared into the distance.
As her shift didn't finish until the evening, Mrs Hall continued working for hours after the President was declared dead, and didn't even tell her husband what she had witnessed.
However, in recent interviews she revealed that she is 'a big believer in the conspiracy theories' surrounding the Mr Kennedy's death."
Well, this is the kind of stuff the lone-nuts love to complain about. There is no support offered in the Warren Commission's files indicating that Phyllis Hall was ever in Trauma Room One. There is no support offered from anyone known to have been working at Parkland in 1963 that she was anywhere near the emergency room. And yet, she gets quoted in a prominent paper/news website, and tells a crazy story that has no support whatsoever from anyone known to have been at Parkland. That she's lying is supported, moreover, by her claiming she was visiting someone on another ward, and didn't tell her husband what she'd witnessed. In the words of the Church Lady on Saturday Night Live: "Now, ain't that convenient!" It's also intriguing that Ms. Hall is totally unknown in the States, but is suddenly a celebrity in England.
Score: Lone-nuts 27, Conspiracy Theorists 10.
November 10: National Public Radio does a piece on Jeremy T. Gunn, who served as the executive director for the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990's. Gunn stresses that he is not a "conspiracy theorist," but that he found "There were many things that were disturbing" about the records he studied and the interviews he conducted. He cites as examples Dr. Humes' destruction of his original draft of the autopsy report, the difficulties encountered when interpreting the autopsy photos, Saundra Spencer's impression the photos in the archives were not ones she'd developed, the disappearance of the audio tape of Oswald's phone calls in Mexico City, the failure of the CIA's cameras to capture even one image of Oswald outside the Russian and Cuban embassies, and Oswald's request he be interviewed by the FBI while in a New Orleans jail. He ends up saying "I don't know what happened." By presenting legitimate reasons for doubt, the piece is a score for Conspiracy Theorists.
Score: Lone-nuts 27, Conspiracy Theorists 11.
November 10: Killing Kennedy, a feature-length film on the assassination, premieres on the National Geographic Channel. It stars Rob Lowe as Kennedy. It reveals itself as nonsense within the first few seconds. It shows Oswald leave the Paine residence with a long rifle-sized package in his hands. No one, of course, saw such a package. This package appears to be about 6 inches wide. Well, this matches the size of the package noted by the witnesses, but is inconsistent with the 10 inch or so bag pulled out of the depository, and photographed by newsman. It then shows Oswald sneak upstairs and build the sniper's nest from scratch. This never happened. Most of the boxes were stacked there by the crew working on the floor. It then shows Oswald pull an intact rifle from the paper bag. Geez! This serves to conceal that the bag placed into evidence was too small to hold an intact rifle, and that the FBI proposed that he brought the rifle into the building disassembled and put it together with a dime. They then show him put a full clip into the rifle. This hides that there were at most four bullets in the clip, and that no rifle bullets were found among Oswald's possessions. They then show him track the limo up Houston Street while standing in front of an open window. Well, this hides that the window went down almost to the floor and was only open a few inches, and that someone firing from this window and tracking a car would have to do so while kneeling. They then show him fire. Only now do they show us the title: Killing Kennedy. I struggle to hold back the projectile vomit my mind so desperately wants to expel.
The rest of the program is almost as bad. When Oswald visits Mexico City, the program shows someone taking photographs of him, freezing on the black and white image of him entering the Cuban Embassy. No such photograph exists. The photographs the CIA thought showed Oswald turned out to show someone else, who many assume was impersonating Oswald. As it closes in on the assassination, the program continues to spiral downward. It shows Oswald at a shooting range, putting three rapid fire shots into the head of his target. This is a deliberate lie. The FBI was able to account for almost all of Oswald's actions after his return from Mexico City, and found none of the "Oswald-sightings" at shooting ranges to be credible. Besides, the beginning of the program showed Oswald remove his rifle from the Paine residence, where it had been stored in a blanket in an unlocked garage. Are we supposed to assume, then, that Oswald removed his rifle from the Paine's garage so he could practice with it, and then sneaked it back in? In the middle of the day? Without anyone noticing? No, not entirely. The program then shows Marina catch Oswald re-wrapping his rifle in the Paine's garage, and ask him what he is doing. This scene is total nonsense. It never happened, or, if it did, Marina has never told anyone about it. Bill O'Reilly and his co-writer martin Dugard just made it up. After commercial, they show Jack Ruby bragging about how much he loves Kennedy, and Oswald finding out about the upcoming motorcade while reading the paper at work. They show him open up a window and look down Elm Street. Elm runs straight away from the window. This, of course, is not the view from the school book depository, from which Elm runs left to right. It is instead, and probably not accidentally, the view from the building across the street: the Dal-Tex Building. The program then repeats the beginning, with Oswald getting into the car with Buell Frazier. This time, however, they show Oswald stash his still-wrapped rifle in between some boxes after he shows up at work. There's no evidence this happened. It then shows him build the sniper's nest, only to be asked by someone--presumably Charles Givens--if he was gonna come downstairs. They have Oswald tell him no, when the actual story told by Givens was that Oswald told him he'll be down shortly and to keep the elevator available. It then shows Oswald get his rifle, and track the limo, while standing, of course. He fires, a shot, a gap of about four seconds, a second shot, a gap of about two seconds, a third shot. Surprisingly, considering the nature of this program, they show the first and third bullets strike Kennedy. They do not show what happened to the second bullet. It then shows Oswald successfully evade capture by motorcycle officer Marion Baker, who confronts Oswald while Oswald is rapidly moving across the middle of a large open room. Baker, in fact, saw a barely-moving Oswald through the window of a small lunch room. A few minutes later they show Oswald racing down a street and hailing a cab. Well, this is deceptive as well. He got into the cab at a cab stop outside the bus station, after letting a woman take the cab before it. They then show Capt. Will Fritz smelling one of the three shells found in the sniper's nest, then emptying the rifle to remove an unfired shell. This never happened, of course. The rifle was found on the far side of the building from the sniper's nest. They then show Oswald race into his rooming house and...change shirts. Well, this is a surprise seeing as how the FBI found fibers on the rifle that matched the shirt Oswald was wearing when arrested. Soon thereafter, they show Oswald kill Officer Tippit. He shoots four times. Oops. Oswald is believed to have fired five bullets. Oswald is then arrested. When interrogated after his arrest, the program sinks to another low. Agent Hosty whips out a file that has a photo of Oswald in Mexico, and asks him what he was doing there. Well, once again, no such photo exists! Moments later, they show Jack Ruby telling his policemen friends about how he can't stand the thought of Mrs. Kennedy returning to Dallas for a trial. Well, this is nonsense. Ruby later admitted that this was an excuse made up by his lawyer AFTER he killed Oswald. It just gets worse and worse. They then show Ruby sneak into the basement down an empty ramp with NO ONE around. Well, my gosh. This hides that dozens of men were in the area and that 1) NONE of them saw Ruby slip down the ramp into the basement where he shot Oswald, and 2) the Dallas Police Officer in charge of security for the basement subsequently failed a lie detector. They then show Oswald marching out into the basement with a slight smirk on his face, only to be killed by a presumably well-meaning Ruby. There's no mention of Ruby's ties to organized crime, of course. He's just a patriotic American caught up in the moment. Why, of course.
(Note: a UPI article the next day reports that 3.4 million viewers watched this piece of trash.)
Score: Lone-nuts 28, Conspiracy Theorists 11.
November 11: The Daily Mail online features an article on Ruth Paine, the woman with whom Marina Oswald was living on the day of the assassination. It turns out that her ex-husband was a second-cousin to Secretary of State John Kerry, and that this somehow gives her the ability to publicly question Kerry's recently acknowledged suspicion Oswald was more than just a lone-nut. While the article mentions Ms. Paine's family's ties to the CIA, it nevertheless reflects a score for the lone-nutters. They actually quote her as saying "'Oswald tried to shoot and kill someone in April 1963...It was in Vincent Bugliosi's book.'" Well, geez, if it was in Bugliosi's book, it's gotta be true. And the writer of the article, David Martosko, is equally brain-washed. He writes: "Lee Harvey Oswald stayed in the house the night before he killed Kennedy, bringing the wrapped-up rifle to his book depository job the next morning." Yep. Once again, no mention whatsoever that the only people to see this "wrapped-up rifle" said it was far too small to have held the rifle.
Score: Lone-nuts 29, Conspiracy Theorists 11.
November 11: CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose does an extended story on an upcoming NOVA special entitled Cold Case JFK. It is essentially a commercial for the single-bullet theory. It shows an excerpt from the program in which the shooting is depicted via digital animation. A bullet descends from the sniper's nest, HITS KENNEDY ON THE BACK OF HIS NECK AT THE LEVEL OF HIS COLLAR, and then exits his throat, just barely missing his right hand (which appears to be already reacting to a shot!). The narrator then declares "The single-bullet theory is all about what it does after it emerges from Kennedy's neck." OH MY GOD! WHAT A LOAD OF CRAP! This is one of the biggest lies I've ever heard on a news program, and totally avoids that the bullet hit Kennedy in the back, two inches down from his shoulder line, and not in his neck at the level of his collar! (A screen grab from this sequence is presented below.)
The excerpt from the program then cuts to Luke Haag (a "firearms examiner" in the Fox Special but two days before, but now described as a "forensic scientist"), who then proceeds to explain that the bullet was tumbling when it hit Connally blah blah blah. That's the end of the excerpt. Haag and his son Michael Haag, also described as a "Forensic Scientist," are then interviewed by Charlie Rose. The son tells Rose he's replicated the shooting with a rifle and ammo like that used in the shooting, and that "These are not really tough shots." He then defends the accuracy of the rifle. (He doesn't describe how many times he tried it before he was successful, of course.) He then describes how their simulation uses the latest technology, and is within 1/8 of an inch, etc. The Haags then discuss Sherlock Holmes and insist they used his methodology ("When you eliminate the impossible, then whatever is left, no matter how improbable, is the truth.") Luke Haag then says that "the single bullet theory became controversial because, again, people didn't evaluate it, they didn't understand it, and they hadn't looked at it then and few have looked at it now." The Haags are then asked by Rose "why there is so much skepticism, or is it skepticism among a few, but loud?" Lucien Haag, the father, takes this one, and repeats the standard horsecrap: "I really think it's in our nature. We want to think there's more to it than just a loner, loser, deranged Marxist who hated this country and took an opportunity. There's got to be more to it than that. Bugliosi has a wonderful statement: 'A peasant can't strike down a king." Think about it. A nobody did." Well, gee, it's nice to know this firearms examiner/forensic scientist has no dog in this hunt, and is totally open-minded, given that Oswald was a loner loser deranged Marxist nobody. This guy clearly fancies himself the spiritual heir to Dr. John Lattimer, who wrote misleading article after article propping up the single-bullet theory, but who was so daft he convinced himself Kennedy was a hunchback. (Josiah Thompson would later tell me that this observation was spot on, and that Haag was not only a disciple of Lattimer's, but the current possessor of the Carcano rifles and ammunition Lattimer used in his studies.) This whole segment is just awful. Scary scary stuff.
Score: Lone-nuts 30, Conspiracy Theorists 11.
November 11: the National Enquirer tabloid publishes an article on the Kennedy assassination medical evidence. It begins: "Blockbuster secrets about President John F. Kennedy’s autopsy are finally being revealed by doctors who treated America’s dying Commander-in-Chief 50 years ago in Dallas. A sensational special report reveals the physicians’ riveting minute-by-minute accounts of the mortally wounded leader’s final moments – and their charge that the government’s verdict on Kennedy’s death is WRONG! The shattering disclosures by medics at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital include a bombshell claim Kennedy had a bullet entry wound in the front of his neck – disputing the Warren commission’s verdict that he was shot from behind." The article then reveals that these allegations come courtesy a new book entitled: "We Were There: Revelations from the Dallas Doctors Who Attended to JFK on November 22, 1963."
Score: Lone-nuts 30, Conspiracy Theorists 12.
November 11: I go into Walmart again and notice that among the magazines in its racks is a special edition of TV Guide entitled John F. Kennedy, Remembering Jack 50 Years Later. While there is only a passing reference to the assassination, it is a telling one. A timeline tells the reader that Oswald fired the shots. A picture of Oswald's shirt has a caption telling the reader that it is the shirt of "the assassin." There is no mention of the HSCA, nor of its conclusion Kennedy was probably killed by a conspiracy.
Score: Lone-nuts 31, Conspiracy Theorists 12.
November 11-12: American Experience: JFK, a new, four-hour portrait of John F. Kennedy on PBS airs over two nights. It offers a fresh assessment of Kennedy, and reveals him to be more forward-thinking about foreign affairs than previously recognized. The program, surprisingly, fails to offer the usual "and then he was killed by a lone-nut named Oswald" ending. No bias is demonstrated.
November 12: Time.com features an article about the Zapruder film, and how it is still shocking all these years later. The article links to a video on Richard Stolley, the Time-Life employee who bought the rights to the film from Zapruder on 11-23-63. No real bias is demonstrated.
November 13: The Washington Post publishes a short opinion piece by Larry Sabato regarding "Five Myths About John F. Kennedy." While one of the myths is that "we know everything we’ll ever know about Kennedy’s assassination" this is undercut by Sabato's subsequent claim that improved scientific techniques will solve some of the mysteries and that "my research team used advanced audio analysis of a Dallas police recording from Nov. 22 to debunk the conclusion of the 1979 House Select Committee on Assassinations that the recording proved that there were two shooters in Dealey Plaza." The implication, then, is that at least some of "what we don't know" but will come to know will shore up the single-assassin theory. No score.
November 13: an article on Oliver Stone is published on Time.com. The article is by Jack Dickey, and is built around an interview conducted at the Wecht Conference in Pittsburgh. This, of course, is the conference Dickey attended at the suggestion of John McAdams. Well, good, I'm glad to admit I was wrong. Dickey thought there were two stories of national attention at the conference: John McAdams and Oliver Stone. At its outset, the article acknowledges the awkward relationship of Time with the research community. Stone asks:
"You’re not gonna do the TIME magazine thing, where you assassinate all these people, are you? You know, they’re famous for that. John Shaw Billings, in Life magazine, in the old days. The editor did not tell you, ‘You can’t write anything positive about this conference?’ You sure?”
Well, I’m filing to an editor—
“A-ha! You can’t write anything, then.” And so, like that, Oliver Stone had resolved to remain wary of our mission. There are places where reporters from old-guard mainstream national publications (ahem) are welcomed, and then there are places like the Symposium on the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy at Duquesne University’s Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law, where a reporter is received as warily as a CIA functionary. Held as gospel among the symposium’s attendees was the notion that members of a Beltway media elite, owing to a mix of incompetence and good manners and fealty, had long ago conspired to suppress forever the truth about the assassination.
But Stone, who had come to the Pittsburgh conference in October as a guest of honor, had a couple of new projects to promote, so here we were regardless, at his hotel’s bar, talking over Perriers and chili con carne."
Stone then discusses an upcoming project on Martin Luther King. Dickey then allows Stone to discuss the Kennedy assassination.
"Stone, who grew up an old-line conservative, didn’t intend to start a movement. “I’ll be blunt,” he says. “I wanted to remake Z.” Z, the 1969 French film by Costa-Gavras, follows a reform-minded Greek politician assassinated by right-wing military elements, and one prosecutor’s fruitless attempt to bring the perpetrators to justice. “The opening, it was like the Greek Dealey Plaza,” Stone says. (Like Z, JFK won the Academy Award for best editing, and was nominated for, but did not win, best picture.)
But in the course of making the film, Stone became both a hero and a boon to those who doubt the Warren Report. JFK grossed over $200 million and breathed new life into dusty history. It prompted the passage of the JFK Records Act in 1992, and the subsequent release of millions of pages of documents, under the Assassination Records Review Board’s supervision. The full-time Warren skeptics were delighted to have Stone lend his celebrity and credibility to their cause.
He still talks the talk of an assassination skeptic — “I’m talking about the autopsy. The ARRB, in their long report in ’98, they called 10 more witnesses to that autopsy, and they identified a massive wound [to the back of Kennedy's head]. You’re talking about 50 f–kin’ people who have identified this wound. And yet you have these troglodytes who keep coming up with the single-bullet theory. Which is insane. I hope you’re enough of a sportsman to realize it’s impossible.”
But Stone has since weaved his Kennedy beliefs into a macro-historical account, a unified theory of the 20th century and the decade-plus since. He calls it his “untold history of the United States, never covered by TIME magazine,” and there’s a 10-hour Showtime series (now out on Blu-Ray), and a near-800-page companion book (now out in paperback) to explain it.
Kennedy was a roadblock, and on Nov. 22, 1963, he turned into a speed bump. The story of the 20th century, argue Stone and his co-author Peter Kuznick, an American University professor, is the unchecked growth of the American empire and the national-security apparatus abetting it."
Although the summary of the article below its title condescendingly claims that "the JFK director is back making mischief" Dickey and his editor's decision to let Stone have his say about the assassination, without editorial interruption, marks this article as a score for the conspiracy theorists.
Score: Lone-nuts 31, Conspiracy Theorists 13.
November 13: An essay by Secretary of State John Kerry on the assassination of President Kenendy--which has been excerpted from a book built on the interviews conducted for NBC's upcoming special--appears in Parade Magazine. Kerry reveals: "Regarding possible conspiracies, to this day I have serious doubts that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I certainly have doubts that he was motivated to do that by himself. I’m not sure if anybody else was involved. I don’t go down that road, with respect to the grassy knoll theory and all of that, but I have serious questions about whether they got to the bottom of Lee Harvey Oswald. I think he was inspired somewhere by something, but I can’t pin anything down on that. I’ve never spent a lot of time on it. But I think, 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 files on whatever history can be shed light on. I think that is appropriate. It has to be done in the right way, by the right entities or people, but certainly by a valid historian or for some valid analysis; I think that everybody would benefit." Without the distraction of the other interviews on the NBC website, and without Kerry's own dismissal of CIA involvement, this version of the interview is a score for the conspiracy theorists.
Score: Lone-nuts 31, Conspiracy Theorists 14.
November 13: an article on the recent program The Smoking Gun appears on the Philly.com website. Writer Peter Mucha discusses the Hickey-did-it theory pushed by the program, and shoots a lot of holes in it. While Mucha's taking the assassination seriously is a score for conspiracy theorists, his shooting down a theory in which someone other than Oswald fired a shot is also a score for the Lone-nuts. So no score.
November 13: Capturing Oswald premieres on the Military Channel. While this program might prove worthwhile, it will most likely be a whitewash of the incredibly incompetent/suspicious actions and statements of the Dallas Police. No, scratch that. The angle of the program is obvious. One promo for the program calls Oswald "America's most notorious assassin." Another promo is an interview with its director, Jim Leavelle's grand-daughter, where she shares her delusional impression that the voices of the Dallas police have always been "drowned out by conspiracy theorists and the magic bullet and the Kennedys or the FBI. And the fact of the matter is that the case belongs to Dallas and the people who should have been telling the story from the beginning are the people who were there, the people who investigated the murders and collected the evidence." Oh, poor Dallas! A bunch of redneck cops who, at best, didn't know how to take evidence photos, write reports, record interviews, or protect suspects, haven't been given the chance to tell their side!
I watch the program on 11-24 and find it is even worse than I suspected. No doubt of Oswald's guilt is ever expressed, and he is shown doing all the things he was never convicted of doing. And that's but the half of it. The research is as weak as the premise. Former motorcycle officer J.W. Courson is one of the cops in the program, so of course his words are treated as gospel. Well, he says he was half-way up Houston Street when the shots rang out. The narrator then jumps in and says "Within nine seconds, a sniper fires three shots." Well, that's kinda interesting, Mr. Narrator, because Courson, your witness, told the HSCA that "he heard three shots about a second apart." That's two seconds. It seems apparent, then, that this is yet another in a long line of programs in which old witnesses are presented to give credibility to the theory pushed in the program, even though a study of the statements of these witnesses would lead someone to a different conclusion. I mean, the least bit of research should have shown the program's creator--Leavelle's grand-daughter--that the two cops riding up Houston when the shots rang out were H.B. McClain and Marion Baker, and that Courson was still on Main Street.
But that's not the end of the nonsense. Mr. Narrator then tells an even bigger lie. He says "Cops who heard the shots race towards the Depository Building." Wow. This conceals that all the cops but one who heard the shots raced to the grassy knoll and that the only cop who raced into the Depository Building--Marion Baker--thought the shots could have come from one of the other buildings, and raced into the depository in large part to get access to its roof.
The program then has an intriguing moment. At just after the 16 minute mark, Mr. Narrator tells us that the police find the sniper's nest, along with three shells and a brown paper bag, but can not find the murder weapon. As he says this, moreover, newsreel footage of the sniper's nest is shown. All the other snippets of newsreel footage in this section are from the Alyea film, believed to have been filmed before the paper bag was discovered. So what, you might ask? Well, the footage of the sniper's nest in the program shows that the bag is not where it was supposedly found a bit later. (I would subsequently come to realize that the boxes in the sniper's nest in this segment are not the boxes in the crime scene photographs from 11-22-63, or even the boxes in the re-enactment photos from 11-25-63, and that this segment is actually footage from a Secret Service re-enactment film created in the days that followed.)
In any event, the program is just weak. Periodically, Mr. Narrator jumps in to say "It's been but 4 hours, and the Dallas Police have such and such evidence." Well, at one of these commercial breaks, when discussing the evidence uncovered by late on the 22nd, he tells us they have found Oswald's palm print on the rifle. Now, what's funny about this is that they hadn't found such a print. By their own admission, they'd found a print that they hadn't matched up to anything, and never would even try to match to anything until asked to do so by the Warren Commission, months later. Well, how's that for detective work?
Then there's another intriguing moment. At the 41 minute mark, the program shows footage of the evidence yet assembled being hauled out the door en route to the FBI for further study. Well, this footage needs to be further studied. It's totally unclear at what time this transfer took place, and the nailing of this down could prove most interesting. As discussed on this website, this evidence was supposedly given over to the FBI by 11:30 PM, even though one of the items supposedly included in this evidence--Oswald's shirt--was still on his back when he was fingerprinted around 1:00 AM the next morning. (I would subsequently come to realize that this footage shows three men drive off in a car filled with the evidence. Big problem. It's daytime. This leads me to believe, then, that this footage, should it not have been a re-enactment performed for a subsequent documentary, comes from 11-26-63, when the evidence was again sent to Washington.)
The program then gets interesting in its own right. It discusses the jurisdictional disagreements between the FBI and Dallas Police, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's threatening the DPD. It then shows the footage of Oswald getting shot in the basement. It then describes the DPD's internal investigation of how Ruby got into the basement to kill Oswald. They found nothing of course. Mr. Narrator never even mentions the name Patrick Dean. Dean was the Dallas cop in charge of basement security when Oswald was murdered. He was subsequently accused of lying by Warren Commission counsel Burt Griffin. Dean complained about this, and received an apology from Chief Justice Earl Warren. He was backed up by his superiors, of course, even though they knew he'd failed a lie detector test regarding Ruby's entry into the basement. They then kept this from the commission. So, yeah, it makes perfect sense that such an honest program would never mention Dean's name. (That's called sarcasm.) The program then ends with Dallas journalist Hugh Aynesworth calling the Dallas Police "the real heroes" of the assassination. Why, of course! (That's also called sarcasm.)
Score: Lone-nuts 32, Conspiracy Theorists 14.
November 13: NOVA: “Cold Case JFK” premieres on PBS. The Koch brothers are among those funding this program. I wonder if they had any influence on its content. Luke and Michael Haag, the father and son firearms team featured on CBS a few days before, are the chief experts on the program. Credible figures who suspect there was a conspiracy like Josiah Thompson, Robert Blakey and Jefferson Morley are used as talking heads, and essentially as window-dressing. Clint Hill is dragged out as well. The program's use of John McAdams is also illuminating. Whenever they need someone to fill in a part of the story, there's John. Now, this wouldn't be so bad if they didn't let him make stuff up. To explain the botched autopsy, McAdams spews: "The whole Kennedy entourage does not understand the distinction between just an autopsy and a forensic autopsy." (Oh, really? Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General of the United States, doesn't know what the word "forensic" means?) He then mocks the Kennedy family (chiefly Mrs. Kennedy) for choosing to have the autopsy performed at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He either doesn't know or doesn't care that the president's doctor, Admiral Burkley, gave her the choice between Walter Reed, an Army Hospital, and Bethesda, and that she was offered no alternative. The program then introduces Vincent J.M. DiMaio to further comment upon the competence of the autopsy. Chief among these complaints is that the doctors never viewed the clothes before writing their report. Within this sequence they show the autopsy photo of Kennedy's back. The importance of this will soon be made clear.
Next up is the Zapruder film. The narrator explains "The majority of witnesses heard three shots. The first bullet evidently missed. It has never been found." Oh my! What a juxtaposition! The narrator fails to explain that the very witnesses the program has relied upon to claim there were three shots, also claimed--overwhelmingly--that the first shot struck Kennedy. Hmmm... So what comes next? "Most agree the fatal head wound was the third and final shot, Zapruder frame 313." Uhhh...most what? Most researchers? Maybe. But not most of the witnesses close enough to say as much. So what comes next? "The earliest sign of trouble is at frame 225, when the car emerges from behind the sign." Oh, my, again! No mention of the HSCA's conclusion Kennedy was hit before he went behind the sign, and showed evidence for this by frame 207. Let's just pretend that never happened. Man, who were the consultants on this? Dale Myers? Gerald Posner? The ghost of John Lattimer? Oh, that's right, they have McAdams, who explains that Connally shows no sign of receiving a bullet before 235. The narrator then offers: "Rewinding to before the sign, neither man appears hit, so clearly both are shot sometime between frame 210, when they disappear, and frame 240, a time span of 30 frames." Arggh! The only government-hired photographic panel to study these frames concluded Kennedy was hit before frame 210. How can they not know this? Oh, I get it! They're telling us why the Warren Commission came to propose the single-bullet theory. But isn't that old news? Hasn't the conclusion of Arlen Specter in 1964 (that Kennedy was not hit before going behind the sign) been superseded by the conclusions of the HSCA photographic panel in 1978, that Kennedy was hit before going behind the sign? Is the whole program really this behind the times, an exploration of theories based upon facts no longer considered facts?
The next segment is devoted to the Haags' showing us how a Carcano bullet can be shot through boards without deformation, etc. The narrator makes it seem as if this is new information, when it's the same old stuff. WHAT A WASTE OF FILM! The program then shows us an animation of the single-bullet theory in slow-mo. The camera follows the bullet down to the back of KENNEDY'S COLLAR--five inches higher on Kennedy's clothes than the actual hole on Kennedy's clothes--then passes out Kennedy's neck! Oh, my, yet again! This is the same program that just rolled its metaphorical eyes over those incompetent doctors writing an autopsy report without inspecting Kennedy's clothes...and here it is "showing" us how Kennedy was killed, while ignoring the holes in his clothes! The Haags now prepare to shoot some soap. So freakin' what? None of this is remotely new! The program now shows us the animated segment shown on CBS a few days earlier. The narrator tells us "The single-bullet theory is all about what it does after it emerges from Kennedy's neck" as the bullet hits Kennedy at his collar and then emerges from his throat. This is a lie of epic proportions. The program has already shown us the photo of Kennedy's back wound; this wound is in a location inches away from where the animated bullet has entered. Who are they trying to fool? The writer of this program is Rushmore DeNooyer; I'll have to see what else he's done and avoid it like the plague. The narrator then declares "In these three feet, the space between Kennedy and Connally, lie the answers that prove or disprove the single-bullet theory."
Luke Haag then shoots a block of soap to simulate Kennedy's back and throat wounds. OOOPS! The hole in the back of the soap, representing the size of the temporary cavity, is far larger than the entrance on Kennedy's back. He then shows us the exit from the soap. It is slightly larger than the entrance, and has a lip around the exit, almost like the top of a Coke bottle. Haag shares, "This is the exit. We can see that it's very little different in size than the entrance." The Haags then start talking about how the bullet begins to yaw as it leaves the soap. They ignore that Kennedy's throat wound was far smaller than his back wound and that the bullet creating the throat wound showed no sign of yawing. Oh no! I sense an attack of the ovoids coming on...where they lie about the shape of Connally's back wound! I notice also that they keep saying there was three feet between Kennedy and Connally. This is not true. The HSCA studied this and determined there was but 2 feet between Kennedy's throat and Connally's back. We are now shown the shape the bullet made when hitting a piece of sheetrock placed three feet beyond the soap neck. They assure us this is "the same position Connally was in, three feet beyond Kennedy." This shows that the bullet was traveling sideways. Haag says "Connally's coat had this kind of a hole in it." This is another whopper. The hole in the sheetrock, pretty much an outline of a Carcano bullet, is about 4 times longer than wide. The hole in Connally's jacket, on the other hand, was determined to be about 1.7 cm by 1.2 cm, not even as ovoid as the hole in Kennedy's jacket, 1.5 cm by 1. The narrator then builds upon this lie by relating "And so does Connally's back, according to his surgeon." Wow, the hits just keep coming. This surgeon, Dr. Robert Shaw, of course, insisted the bullet creating the wound on Connally's back had entered at an angle, and had not hit Kennedy beforehand. The narrator then lists: "A straight line through JFK's neck, elliptical holes in Connally's back and coat with no bullet wipe, bits of lead in the wrist, a bullet noticeably flattened with lead bulging out the bottom, and tests showing that Carcano bullets consistently turn sideways; to Luke Haag the single-bullet theory adds up." To no one's surprise, Haag then concludes "There's no reason not to conclude that the single-bullet theory as proposed by Arlen Specter is the correct one."
Now, admittedly, that last bit was a bit tough for me to listen to--so much so that I missed something the first time around and only caught it after reading a review of the program by Martin Hay. "With no bullet wipe"... After he was first shown firing on soap, Luke Haag pulled a piece of cloth from the outside of the soap block and explained that it showed bullet wipe--which indicated that the bullet striking this soap block had not hit anything else prior to hitting the soap block. By saying Connally's coat had no bullet wipe at the end of this segment, then, the narrator was telling the audience that this lack of bullet wipe was evidence Connally was hit by a bullet previously hitting something else--Kennedy! But this was balderdash! Connally's clothes were taken home and washed by his wife after the shooting--no one told her not to! So how could the program's creators in good conscience insinuate the lack of bullet wipe on Connally's coat was evidence the bullet hit Kennedy?
The talking heads then briefly discuss the head shot. McAdams, Morley, and Thompson tell how the showing of the back-and-to-the-left movement of Kennedy's head on TV led to the HSCA's investigation. McAdams and Morley then denounce the dictabelt evidence. The program then takes an unexpected turn and begins discussing laser scanners. The Haags, here listed as "Firearms Expert"s, are behind this part as well. They laser scan Dealey Plaza, and claim their data is accurate within an eighth of an inch. This study leads Michael Haag to proclaim that a shot from the knoll is possible, but it would have to have impacted on the right front of Kennedy's head. We are then rushed to the Boston University School of Medicine, for a virtual reconstruction of Kennedy's head wounds by Greg Mahoney, a forensic artist, James McKinnis,(sp?), a forensic anthropologist and Peter Cummings, a pathologist specializing in gunshot wounds to the head. This should prove interesting. The images of them at work prove that they believe the large skull fragment found in the limousine to be frontal bone a la Dr. Angel, and not parietal bone, a la Dr. Baden. They also think far more skull was missing than is missing on the x-rays. Strangely, it appears they think the Harper fragment was high on the back of Kennedy's head. Where do they get all this? What is their source material? I have a suspicion they've assumed the "mystery photo" to reflect the condition of Kennedy's skull beneath the scalp, and don't realize large chunks of skull fell to the table as the scalp was peeled back. I then notice something even more alarming. Cummings has placed the "v-shaped notch" apparent in the mystery photo on Kennedy's forehead, above his right eye. This is where Dr. Angel placed it. Perhaps Cummings and his colleagues don't realize no one saw a beveled exit in this region and that Angel's conclusions were brushed aside by the Forensic Pathology Panel.
The next bit is also interesting. Cummings visits the National Archives to look at the original photos and x-rays. Cummings then gets all emotional about how honored he was to get to look at the photos. He tells us the photos in the archives are much clearer than those publicly available. We are then shown the back of the head photo while the narrator tells us "Even so they're not perfect. A photo intended to document the entry point is unclear, because for whatever reasons the autopsy doctors did not shave the head wound." Well, well. Ya gotta love this. Cummings can't identify the red spot in the cowlick as an entrance wound. The program isn't a total waste, after all. (I wonder how McAdams feels about this.) The program then gets even more interesting. Cummings says the brain photos show that the bullet traveled from the back of the brain forward, and that this rules out the shot's coming from the knoll. It then gets still more interesting. Cummings says that the fracture pattern on the x-rays suggests the bullet entered LOW on the head. He thinks the long fractures came from the EOP, and that the fractures by the cowlick are concentric fractures. (He doesn't seem to realize that an entrance at this location is inconsistent with the brain damage he's just described.) The narrator then uses this to argue against the shot's coming from the knoll. The program's creators don't even seem to know what Cummings is telling them--that the HSCA Forensic Pathology Panel got it wrong! Oh wait! They do. The program then visits Larry Sturdivan. Sturdivan says of the HSCA panel "Probably the reason that they developed the higher impact point was simply to explain that that sort of line could line up with the school book depository window. I don't know why they assumed that it had to make a straight path." Well, this hides that the high impact point was not developed by the HSCA but picked out by a secret panel created by the Johnson Administration to combat conspiracy theorists. Sturdivan then explains that the bullets fired in the 1964 tests deformed and took curved paths. Sturdivan then proposes that Kennedy's movements after 313 came courtesy a neuro-muscular response. This is somewhat gratifying. In his 2005 book, The JFK Myths, Sturdivan explained Kennedy's movements via the "jet effect" theory pushed by Dr. Luis Alvarez. This theory met a timely end last month in Pittsburgh, when Tink Thompson showed Alvarez's notes to those in attendance at the Wecht Conference, and proved Alvarez had knowingly cooked his data.
The narrator then sums it all up. "No experiments can show why someone would take a rifle to a high window and pull the trigger, but they can show it's probable that Lee Harvey Oswald did, and that his shots alone killed President John F. Kennedy." Luke Haag then repeats his Sherlock Holmes mantra: "If you can rule out that which is impossible, that which remains, however seemingly improbable, is the truth." The first two-thirds of this program was just awful, but the last third was far better, and perhaps even important.
Score: Lone-nuts 33, Conspiracy Theorists 14.
November 13: Secrets of the Dead: “JFK: One PM Central Standard Time” follows NOVA on PBS. It essentially tells the story of the assassination through the eyes Walter Cronkite and other newsmen. It's ironic and a bit disgusting that this program is credible and well-done, with narration from George Clooney, when the program immediately preceding it was so disingenuous and disappointing. No bias is detected regarding the assassination.
November 13: Piers Morgan devotes much of his CNN program Piers Morgan Live to the JFK assassination. Among Morgan's guests is Clint Hill. Morgan asks Clint Hill if he's ever seen anything to make him suspect there had been a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, and Hill says there are lots of theories, but "None of them are really factual. They're just stories that are made up." Another of Morgan's guests is Dr. Ronald Jones, one of the emergency physicians at Parkland. Jones tells Morgan "As soon as I walked into Trauma Room One and saw him – Mrs. Kennedy was on the left inside the room – he was on a stretcher, arms were out on arm boards, and I saw a small wound in his neck, but I knew he had a large wound in the back of his head and I saw no evidence of life." As he says "in the back of his head," moreover, he motions back behind his ear. The autopsy photos, of course, show this wound to be at the top of the head, but this is not pointed out on the program. Morgan also talks to reporter Hugh Aynesworth. In the clip I found online Aynesworth manages to restrain himself, and not swear to the grandstands it was Oswald alone, and that he was in a position to know this because he knew Jack Ruby, etc. This program is re-shown on 11-22.
Score: Lone-nuts 34, Conspiracy Theorists 14.
November 14: The Daily Beast website's latest article on the Kennedy assassination is published. This one is on Oswald's mother, Marguerite. It recounts the time the writer of the article, Lloyd Grove, went to visit Marguerite, and mixes in newsman Bob Schieffer's day with her on November 22, 1963. As with the other Daily Beast articles, Oswald's guilt is never in question. Grove asserts: "In a way, by giving birth to the infant who became John F. Kennedy’s assassin, Marguerite Oswald had also birthed the turbulent 1960s." Oh, please.
Score: Lone-nuts 35, Conspiracy Theorists 14.
November 14: U.S. News and World Report re-publishes an article on the assassination from October, 1966, in which Arlen Specter defended the Warren Commission. The article is entitled "Overwhelming Evidence Oswald Was The Assassin." It's mostly smoke, of course. At one point, Specter argues "To follow the theory propounded by E. J. Epstein, for example [that the hole in the back was lower than the hole in the front, thus indicating the President could have been shot from the front] — is to say that the autopsy surgeons were perjurers." And this is allowed to stand. No one at the "report" adds a footnote saying that a panel of nine top pathologists subsequently concluded that the hole in the back WAS in fact lower than the hole in the front, and that Specter not only failed to call the doctors perjurers at that time, but pretended it never happened. And nope, nor did anyone add that Specter himself had viewed this photo before writing this article, and thereby knew the back wound was not where people in 1966 had been told it was, and yet said NOTHING in the article to correct the incorrect impression he'd helped create. And nope, nor did anyone admit that Specter continued to play games on this issue for the rest of his life by consistently calling the wound on the President's back, a "wound on the back of the neck."
While this is just an archival piece, re-printed for historical interest, by a news magazine almost nobody reads anymore, it is nevertheless a score for the Lone-nuts.
Score: Lone-nuts 36, Conspiracy Theorists 14.
November 14: The Assassination of President Kennedy, a two-hour program, premieres on CNN. It is not a CNN production, however. It is a Playtone Production, a Tom Hanks Production. While the feature film Parkland was a Playtone Production, and was purported to have been based on Vincent Bugliosi's 1800-page hate letter to the JFK research community, Reclaiming History, it was not, as many of the facts presented ran counter to the facts in Bugliosi's book. This one is the real deal, however. It pushes Bugliosi's collection of facts and factoids down the line. Strangely, however, Bugliosi's name is nowhere to be seen in the credits. It's as if the producers were ashamed to admit their program was based on his book. Perhaps CNN, cognizant of the outcry should they push Bugliosi's 1800-page prosecutor's brief as news, said "no" to such a program. But it is what it is. There's Bugliosi, spewing crazy-assed nonsense about how the conspiracy research community nit-picked at the Warren Report, and convinced a gullible public it should no longer trust its government. I'm not kidding. According to Bugliosi, and this program, it was the JFK research community, not Lyndon Johnson's lies about Vietnam, not Richard Nixon's embrace of the Southern Strategy, not Watergate, that tore this country apart and destroyed the public's trust in institutions. While other talking heads are shown, for that matter, it is Bugliosi's nasty demeanor and finger-pointing that dominates. Now, this may seem mean, and it probably is, but it's clear this was not a decision made by a director: Bugliosi, as fellow talking heads Edward Jay Epstein, and Priscilla McMillan, looks terrible, like a talking corpse. (He was, in fact, terminally ill.) No self-respecting director of a television program wants to show horrible looking faces telling his story when he can show archival footage or photos using the Ken Burns effect. It seems clear then that someone partial to Bugliosi insisted his horrible visage be featured--so that he could personally scold the majority of the audience thinking he is wrong.
And that's terrible, in my opinion. This program is on CNN, a news channel. This program is, at its core, however, not a news program, but a commentary. It's pretty much Vincent Bugliosi, with the help of long-dead colleagues such as Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid, calling the research community-- many of whom CNN knows will be watching the program, a bunch of "ignorant sluts." It's a disgrace, in my opinion. There was nothing in the build up to the program or its opening credits admitting that the program was based upon Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, and was a pre-planned defense of the Warren Commission. But that's what it was.
Let's go back. Enough of my rant. Decide for yourself. This program shows:
Bugliosi claiming the Dallas Police were 100% convinced Oswald was a nut and that he acted alone before he was killed. This is nonsense. They were then, and remained, concerned that Oswald was part of a larger plot.
Robert Caro claiming that Earl Warren was asked to run the commission investigating Kennedy's murder because he was "universally respected for his integrity." This is hoo-ha, designed to hide that Warren was a highly controversial figure, and perhaps the least trusted American among a large minority of the populace. Caro then says pretty much the same about Senator Richard Russell, who was also roped onto the commission. This served to hide that Russell was put on the Commission to be President Johnson's "man" on the Commission, and that the Commission was not just designed to please the public, but be subservient to Johnson's will.
Old footage of Mark Lane on the Merv Griffin show arguing with David Susskind. In this footage, Lane shows a photo of someone he thinks is Jack Ruby taken outside the school book depository. If it's Ruby, that's a problem. Ruby said he wasn't anywhere near there. But it wasn't. It seems likely then that this footage was cherry-picked to give the indication the claims of the critics were spurious. Sure enough, just after showing Lane arguing with Susskind Bugliosi's horrible face complains that when you have critics "looking at every word, every comma, they can create a lot of mischief."
And that was just the beginning. After showing more vintage TV appearances by Penn Jones, Robert Welch, Carlos Bringuier, Edward Jay Epstein and Cyril Wecht, including Mark Lane's famous clash with conservative pundit William F. Buckley, Bugliosi returns to explain that the American public's "decreasing trust in the government all started with the Kennedy assassination." Now, Mark Lane might say the same thing, but in context Bugliosi is saying that this was a bad thing, based on nothing. Max Holland then appears and says much the same thing: "those critics" caused a lot of turmoil. In the eyes of Bugliosi and Holland, apparently, President Johnson's sending hundreds of thousands of young men off to die or be shot at in a little-known corner of the world called Vietnam had little to do with it.
And the hits just kept on coming. We next see Arlen Specter on the BBC, defending the Warren Report. We see former FBI man Bill Turner talk about the grassy knoll. We see Mark Lane interview S.M. Holland about the smoke he saw on the knoll. At this point, Bugliosi returns to tell us no bullets were found. As if professional snipers routinely leave their brass behind... The program then briefly addresses the problems with the autopsy. Well, not really. Warren Commission attorney Howard Willens tells the audience "There was a wound in the back of the neck that had not been seen by the Parkland doctors because they never turned the body over." As he says this, moreover, the program shows us the HSCA's tracing of the back wound photo, which proves the wound to have been in the back, not neck! And then, instead of pointing out the problems with the location of the back wound, and that the Warren Commission's exhibits had moved it up to the base of the neck, the program brings Max Holland on to discuss Dr. Perry's saying the throat wound was an entrance in the press conference shortly following the death of the president. He presents this as just a mistake, which would be fine, if he acknowledged that the Warren Commission gave red meat to the "critics" by incorrectly concluding Dr. Perry had never said the wound was an entrance, and that it was all a misinterpretation on the part of the press. (This claim it was all a misinterpretation would stand for a decade or so until a transcript of the conference in which Dr. Perry repeatedly called the throat wound an entrance wound was found...in President Johnson's papers....)
Bugliosi then pounces on the critics' claim Kennedy's back and to the left movement in the Zapruder film suggested he was shot from the front. He fails to admit, of course, that his argument against this came courtesy a "critic," Josiah Thompson. The program then shows a snippet from Dan Rather's 1967 interview of Kennedy's autopsist Dr. James Humes. Rather asks Humes if the entry he observed on the back of Kennedy's head was an entrance, and Humes responds that he had "No doubt." Well, my God. This hides from CNN's viewers that the Justice Department (whom those creating this program presumably think we should trust) decided less than a year later that Humes was either lying or grossly mistaken, and that there in fact was no entrance on the back of Kennedy's head within 4 inches of where he claimed he saw an entrance. And this hides that, within this same interview, Dr. Humes offered unconditional support for the accuracy of a drawing made for the Warren Commission that the House Select Committee on Assassinations, in 1978, would come to claim was inaccurate, and offer a tracing of an autopsy photo as proof of Humes' error.
The program then moves on to discuss the single-bullet theory, and how the timing of the Zapruder film made its creation necessary. It shows vintage footage of Dr. Cyril Wecht arguing against the theory. The program shows an overview of the limousine, with Governor Connally sitting directly in front of President Kennedy, and a bullet trajectory connecting Kennedy's throat with Connally's right armpit that makes a right then left turn. Then up pops Bugliosi to push his favorite lie. He says "The reality is that Connally was not seated directly in front of Kennedy." Then BAM, Connally's seat is slid over 6 inches, and everything aligns. (This is shown below.)
Now, this of course, is a lie. As discussed throughout this website, the seat was not 6 inches inboard of the door, but 2 1/2 inches. This was something I haggled over with Bugliosi's associate Dale Myers, moreover, and he admitted this was the case. It's intriguing, then, that Bugliosi doesn't say the seat was inboard 6 inches in the program--like he did in his book. Perhaps, then, he'd been told this was a lie, and was no longer willing to say that. If so, well, then the program's sliding the seat over six inches is even more deceptive, and inexcusable.
Jack Ruby is up next. Bugliosi, of course, totally dismisses that Ruby would kill Oswald for the mob, as purported. He acts as though that's the silliest thing he's ever heard. The program does not let its viewers know that Ruby was in contact with a number of mob killers in the weeks leading up to the assassination, and also hides that Robert Blakey, the chief counsel to the House Select Committee that re-investigated the assassination in the 1970's, and followed through on a number of leads over-looked by the Warren Commission, suspects mob involvement to this day.
The program then goes after a prime target: former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who tried to investigate Kennedy's death in the late sixties. Jim Garrison's prosecution of Clay Shaw as an accessory to the murder of Kennedy is presented not just as an unfortunate over-reach, but a total farce. Bugliosi denounces it as "The most shameful thing you've ever seen." As if there was no there there. According to Bugliosi and a woman named Rosemary James, Garrison bribed witnesses to go after Shaw and keep his name in the headlines; they make it seem, even, that Perry Russo, a man claiming to have been at a meeting with Shaw and Oswald, was hypnotized by Garrison into saying so. They show Garrison on the Johnny Carson show, being criticized by Johnny. They fail to show Garrison's response to Carson's criticisms, in which he more than held his own. They fail to mention that David Ferrie, a man with long-since proven ties to Shaw, Oswald, New Orleans mob boss Carlos Marcello, and a right-wing private investigator/former FBI man named Guy Banister, died unexpectedly, just as Garrison's investigation was circling in on him. They fail to mention that leaflets printed up by Oswald had an address on them with which he had no known connection, but which was in the building of Banister's office. They fail to mention that a number of residents of the town of Clinton, Louisiana claimed to see Oswald in the company of Ferrie and another man who some think was Shaw, and that the HSCA found them credible.
It just gets worse and worse. Now Bugliosi goes after the critics as a whole, arguing that the critics have accused so many people of involvement in the assassination that they shouldn't be taken seriously. This argument is one of the lamest-brained arguments in existence. How does a complaint that someone in the position to get at the bottom of something has failed to do so require the one making the complaint to first get at the bottom of this something? What kind of crazy logic is that, counselor? Dan Rather is then brought in to support this we-never-found-nothing-so-nothing-exists kind of argument. It then falls upon Bugliosi and Max Holland to go through Oswald's life, and make him out as a potential assassin for wanting to be more than he was--as if ambition is itself suspicious--as if these smug curmudgeons never wanted to be more than they turned out to be? Priscilla McMillan then joins in on the character assassination and performs the tortured twist that Oswald's purported attempt on the life of General Edwin Walker--a racist fascist at war with the U.S. Government, who was behind the circulation of the Kennedy Wanted for Treason leaflets in Dallas, and who would subsequently be arrested numerous times for lewd behavior--is the "Rosetta Stone" proving Oswald also had it within him to kill Kennedy.
The program now reaches the home stretch, which means its time to call out all the dogs to try to sell both Oswald's guilt, and the guilt of the research community for trying to make us think he might have been innocent. In short order, the ghost of CBS commentator Eric Sevareid tells us that people can't accept Oswald's killing Kennedy because it's too hard to accept "all that power and majesty being wiped out by one skinny, weak-chinned, little character." This is followed by historian Jim Newton, an obvious Bugliosi sycophant, who was not coincidentally pegged to review Bugliosi's book for The Los Angeles Times, and who called Bugliosi's book "A book for the ages" at the same time Bugliosi was telling people he'd like his book to be called "A book for the ages," telling us that it is just hard for people to grasp that a "small person of no distinction can be of such historical consequence." The program then cuts back to 1967, with Walter Cronkite defending the single-bullet theory, and then back to today with Robert Caro telling us the randomness of the killing forces us--people who he assumes have never had a family member die unexpectedly, or had a kid shipped off to die for no reason--seek meaning behind the act by grasping for conspiracy theories. This theme is then repeated--that for some--clearly not the superior people on the program--it feels safer to believe a conspiracy killed Kennedy and that we've been lied to ever since than that he was killed by one weirdo. Bugliosi is then whisked back to mourn that due to the efforts of the Warren Commission's critics many have "lost so much faith in the government that they actually think the government is an accessory after the fact to the President's murder." Caro then closes it out, claiming the presidents that followed Kennedy lacked his inspirational qualities, and that the country won't get over his death until an equally inspirational president comes along.
Holy smokes... The program couldn't have been any more deceptive and insulting... Its clear purpose was to scold people who still suspect a conspiracy for not being as wise as the likes of Walter Cronkite, David Susskind, Eric Sevareid, Dan Rather, Johnny Carson, Vincent Bugliosi, Max Holland, and Robert Caro. What a disgrace. CNN's viewers--not to mention the world as a whole--deserved a thoughtful analysis of the evidence, not this crap.
Making matters worse, this program is re-shown at least 6 times before 11-22. (This program would later be edited down into an hour-long episode of a Tom Hanks-produced documentary series for CNN entitled The Sixties. In what does not come as a surprise, most of the discussion of the medical evidence, including Willens' embarrassing mistake, is excised for this "new" program, while most all of Bugliosi's horrifying diatribes are preserved. This program is re-shown multiple times, most prominently on Sunday July 6, on the final eve of the Fourth of July weekend.)
Score: Lone-nuts 37, Conspiracy Theorists 14.
November 14: Fred Kaplan, an "Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations," writes an article for Slate.com, in which he claims all the "best" JFK conspiracies are bunk. The article is filled with supposed proofs of this central point, but these are all driven by Kaplan's ignorance of the actual issues. For example, he defends the single-bullet theory by claiming that he was won over after watching Dale Myers' animation in 2003's Beyond Conspiracy, and discovering "The back seat, where JFK rode, was three inches higher than the front seat, where Connally rode. Once that adjustment was made, the line from Oswald’s rifle to Kennedy’s upper back to Connally’s ribcage and wrist appeared absolutely straight. There was no need for a magic bullet." In other words, he saw a cartoon, and was convinced, and never bothered to compare this cartoon to the actual evidence, to see if the back wound in the animation was in the right location, and if he'd been conned. He then spews more under-informed silliness, such as: 1) Gerald Ford ordering the "release" of the Zapruder film in 1975, which conceals that Robert Groden and Geraldo Rivera showed it on TV without any government approval; and 2) Itek Corporation proving in 1975 that Kennedy's head went forward before going back, which ignores that this was first demonstrated by conspiracy theorist Josiah Thompson in his book Six Seconds in Dallas eight years earlier. Kaplan ends up by pulling back a bit, and proposing that although we know Oswald did it, "The mystery at the heart of the matter (why did Oswald do it?) remains unsolved. And that of course makes conspiracy theories all the more satisfying."
Score: Lone-nuts 38, Conspiracy Theorists 14.
November 15: I become aware of an article on "The Assassination of JFK" in the November AARP Bulletin. It presents "50 facts you may not know surrounding the death of our 35th President." Among these facts are "23. The Texas School Book depository's sixth floor, where assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had positioned himself for the shooting, is today a museum dedicated to JFK's assassination" and "24. Oswald was a self-described Marxist." There is no mention of the HSCA, nor of its conclusion Kennedy was killed by a probable conspiracy.
Score: Lone-nuts 39, Conspiracy Theorists 14.
November 15: The Telegraph publishes an article on Anthony Summers' latest version of Not in Your Lifetime, in which he identifies Herminio Diaz as a possible shooter of Kennedy. The article is straightforward and serious, and discusses a possible conspiracy as a real possibility, and not just as an annoyance. Is it any wonder then that this story isn't picked up in the States?
Score: Lone-nuts 39, Conspiracy Theorists 15.
November 15: The New York Times publishes an article on the Zapruder film as film. While the article is not about the assassination so much as the power of film to evoke feeling without full understanding, the closing is a bit dogmatic in its insistence that we don't know what is shown in the film. "The Zapruder film remains powerful partly because it seems to dwell in a zone of ambiguity that has become, over the years, a more and more familiar place. We accept it as true, without knowing what it means. Or, as Don DeLillo put it, referring explicitly, but surely not exclusively, to the Kennedy assassination: “We’re still in the dark. What we finally have are patches and shadows. It’s still a mystery.” While this could be considered a score for the Lone-nuts, the writer of the article, A.O. Scott, shows plenty of restraint, and could have discussed the deceptiveness of the film--how it shows what seems like a shot from the front, when it was really a shot from the sniper's nest where assassin Lee Harvey Oswald, etc etc etc. No score.
November 15: The Washington Post publishes an article recounting the assassination and aftermath. This story is by Monica Hesse, and bears the name Four Shattering Days. The story's recounting of the shooting itself is quite curious. Here it is: "And then, as crowds cheered and Jackie, enjoying her trip, smiled at them, the president of the United States was hit by his first bullet. It tore through his flesh above his right shoulder blade, exiting at the base of his throat, and searing into John Connally’s back. “Oh no, no, no, no!” the governor cried. An avid hunter, he immediately recognized the firecracker sounds that were coming from behind as rifle shots. “My God, they are going to kill us all.” A second bullet entered the right side of the president’s head." So, why is this curious, one might ask? Well, to start with, there is no mention of a third shot. While it supports the single-bullet theory, moreover, it does so while holding the shot to be the first shot--something very few now believe. I mean, the number of single-assassin theorists currently holding the second shot or third shot missed is next-to-non-existent. And from there, the article gets stranger. Ms. Hesse repeats canards that were in some of the early statements, but which had long since been accepted as nonsense. She repeats, for example, that Oswald was wearing a jacket when questioned in the building after the shooting (the Warren Commission concluded he was not wearing a jacket), and that chicken bones were found in the sniper's nest (the Warren Commission concluded these bones were discovered several aisles over). She suggests as well that Ruby killed Oswald to prevent Mrs. Kennedy from having to return to Dallas to testify (Ruby would ultimately admit this was a lie cooked up by his lawyer). Fortunately, this is all explained at the end. Ms. Hesse pieced her account together from a number of sources, "including "Four Days in November” by Vincent Bugliosi and “The Death of a President” by William Manchester." Manchester, of course, famously concluded there were but two shots fired. So that explains why there was no mention of a third shot (or the wounding of James Tague) and why the timeline accompanying the article claimed that at 12:30 P.M. "Lee Harvey Oswald fires two or three shots from the sixth-floor window of the Texas School Book Depository..." Eegads! Apparently, Hesse never ran her article by anyone who knew that Manchester was not a credible source on the shooting itself. Embarrassing, just embarrassing.
Score: Lone-nuts 40, Conspiracy Theorists 15
November 15: an article on a new poll appears on The Christian Science Monitor's website. According to this poll, 61 percent of those interviewed question the Warren Commission's conclusion Oswald acted alone. It notes that this number peaked at 81 percent in 2000. It then says 40 percent don't know who to suspect, 13 percent suspect organized crime, 13 percent suspect the government, 7 percent suspect the CIA, and 5 percent suspect Castro. (Yeah, I know, the numbers don't add up.) It then lists some of the reasons people are unsatisfied with the Oswald-did-it conclusion, including that documents are still being withheld. So far, so good. The article then takes a turn for the worse. The writer, Peter Grier, points out that 9/11 "Truthers" are pretty much left-wingers and Obama "Birthers" are pretty much right-wingers, but that JFK conspiracy theories are attractive to both camps, and thus have more supporters. I mean, God forbid that the EVIDENCE has anything to do with it... No score.
November 15: another article by Peter Mucha appears on Philly.com, a website connected with the Philadelphia Inquirer. This one details Josiah Thompson's frustration and disappointment with the recent NOVA special, in which he appeared. The writer/director of the program, Rushmore DeNooyer, is allowed to respond. But his response doesn't make much of a dent. The article takes the continued debate about the assassination seriously, and Thompson's complaint seriously. This marks it as a score for the Conspiracy Theorists.
Score: Lone-nuts 40, Conspiracy Theorists 16.
November 15: The Cleveland Plain Dealer publishes an article on former Warren Commission attorney Howard Willens' recent book History Will Prove Us Right. It is written by Plain Dealer Book Editor Joanna Connor. It is not a review as much as it is an advertisement for Willens' defense of the commission. Included in the article is an interview of Willens. This is clearly a written interview and not a transcript of an actual interview. Every answer appears scripted and designed for maximum effect. Willens, of course, makes some valid points. He even discusses the FBI and CIA's failure to disclose information to the commission. But there is no follow-up of any kind, and the article reveals a clear bias. Here is but one example. Willens is asked about Oswald's motive. Here is his response: "For starters, I question the premise that in every instance an actor must have only a single motive. In the absence of a conspiracy, or a statement by the actor himself, we are left with a more difficult question and one that the Warren Commission members believed (properly in my opinion) was beyond their training or assignment. The commission did identify the various factors that might have influenced his violent act: an overriding hostility to his environment, difficulty in establishing personal relations with other people, his hatred for American society, his commitment to Marxism and communism, his doomed search for a perfect society, and his seeking a place in history where he would be recognized as a “great man.” Today, I tend to emphasize his lust for a public historic role that necessitated a violent act such as the assassination." In a serious interview, the interviewer would have pointed out that the reasons given were all speculation, and that many of those who knew Oswald would dispute Willens' claims. It might also be pointed out that if Oswald was so lustful for fame, well, then, why didn't he boast about his act on TV on the night of the shooting? The question might also be asked if Willens' and the commission's desire to find some explanation hadn't led them to accept and then magnify what was at best a flimsy explanation. But this wasn't a proper interview.
Score: Lone-nuts 41, Conspiracy Theorists 16.
November 16: Mary Woodward, one of the first eyewitnesses to write about the assassination, writes a new article on the assassination for The Dallas Morning News. While her recollections differ from the scenario most commonly pushed by the Oswald-did-it crowd, she reserves her venom not for those claiming the first two shots were closer together than shots two and three, but those using her first impression that the last shot or shots came from her right to suggest a conspiracy. After retelling her story, she relates: "I reported then and still believe without the slightest equivocation that: The first shot missed completely. There was a noticeable time lapse between the first and second shot. The car slowed almost to a stop after the first shot. The second shot hit the target but was possibly not fatal. The third shot pierced the brain and was almost certainly fatal. I wasn’t perfect, however, and I did make one misstatement that haunts me to this day. I wrote that the shots sounded as if they had 'come from behind me and to my right,' the direction of the grassy knoll. What I failed to take into account was a hearing disability that makes it impossible for me to accurately determine the direction of sound. (Just ask anyone who has been a passenger in my car when a siren goes off.) I have also been told by experts, including hearing specialists and marksmen, that the lay of the land in that area might have distorted the sound. I tried to correct the misimpression, but it was too late. Conspiracy theorists used my words as 'evidence.' I was labeled 'the first dissenting witness.' Others claimed that my clarification was made under pressure by everyone from my bosses at the newspaper to Dallas city fathers to the FBI. I was sickened to read that my words had been used as evidence in a book claiming that Kennedy had been killed by the Secret Service agent who was driving his car. I have been called a liar who sold out (to whom or for how much was never revealed) and a disgrace to my profession. The twisting of my words, the questioning of my motives and the assault on my integrity were unexpected, bewildering and hurtful. I learned that the best defense was a low profile."
Score: Lone-nuts 42, Conspiracy Theorists 16.
November 16: The Dallas Morning News features another story on the assassination, this one on Larry Sabato's new book, The Kennedy Half Century. After discussing the HSCA's claim shots could be detected on a dictabelt, the article notes: "Sabato and his team re-examined the audio and concluded that the alleged gunshots were only the sounds of an idling motorcycle and the rattling of a microphone. Moreover, they said, the motorcycle was 2 miles from Dealey Plaza when the president was shot. 'There is simply no evidence for that fourth shot,' Sabato said on a promotional tour for the book. The debunking, if it’s correct, follows a pattern of JFK conspiracy myths based on things that some people desperately want to hear or see. Another example is the supposed photo of 'badge man,' snapped by a woman at Dealey Plaza on Nov. 22, 1963. It shows what appears to be a uniformed man firing a rifle on the grassy knoll. If one looks hard enough, there seems to be a puff of smoke emanating from the 'rifle.' Serious researchers, however, have concluded the image is a chimera — an assembly of light and shadows that allows a viewer to see what he or she wants."
Score: Lone-nuts 43, Conspiracy Theorists 16.
November 16: An article in Entertainment Weekly by Jim Jensen questions America's obsession with Kennedy. Towards the end, he admits:
"There’s one other thing I hope to learn from “Kennedy Week.” I am keenly interested to know if we’re still looking to conspiracy theories to explain Kennedy’s assassination, or if people are now more willing to accept that Oswald acted alone. The question popped to mind after watching Killing Kennedy a few weeks ago. It was an admirably reserved if altogether unremarkable TV movie — except for its resolute belief in a Lone Nut scenario. It was provocative for not even entertaining the usual alternatives, like a vengeance scheme perpetrated by agents of Castro or the notion advanced by Stone’s JFK that elements within America’s military industrial complex wanted to rub out a commander-in-chief who was bad for their business. I am agnostic on this issue, but I was surprised at how refreshing the no-conspiracy angle felt...I wonder if the storytelling that lies ahead will follow the Killing Kennedy example and give less or no credence to conspiracy theories, and if that might be seen as an indication that we have made some kind of peace with Nov. 22, or at least are now ready to do so. Regardless, let this 50th “anniversary” serve as a once-and-for-all mournful nod. It is time to stop killing Kennedy and lay him to rest for good."
Jensen's inability to see Killing Kennedy as the hack-job it was (I mean, it was so BAD many if not most of the prominent single-assassin theorists denounced it) is shocking, and a score for the lone-nuts.
Score: Lone-nuts 44, Conspiracy Theorists 16.
November 16: JFK 50: Eyewitness to History is shown on NBC. It is produced by Hugh Aynesworth and The Dallas Morning News. Well, that's the trouble right there. The producers of the program seem more interested in the assassination's impact on Dallas than any possible conspiracy. It decries the "scar of the assassination inflicted on the city." It discusses the vandalism--horrors--of cars with Texas plates in--horrors--California. In between this whining, the program tells an abbreviated version of the events of 11-22-63 and its aftermath through the eyes of a number of witnesses, some of them making their first appearance in years and/or last appearance ever. Although the program admits at the end that "the controversy will continue," it is pretty much an Oswald-did-it show. Ruth Paine is interviewed, to tell us about the Oswald family. Buell Frazier is interviewed, to tell us that Oswald had a package with him on the morning of the assassination. He is not permitted to tell the audience that the package he saw was too small to hold a rifle, of course. A number of newsmen are also interviewed, including, of course, Aynesworth himself. Much of what is said is deceptive. From watching this program, one would think the vast majority of policemen immediately thought the shots came from the school book depository, as opposed to the grassy knoll, where they ran, hoping to find the assassin. Only one Parkland doctor is interviewed, Dr. Kenneth Salyer. Salyer describes the large head wound as an "obvious severe injury of the right head and cranium." By presenting Salyer as it's sole witness the program sidesteps, of course, that most of his colleagues initially believed the wound was on the back of the head. The program reaches its low, however, when discussing Oswald. Reporter Jim Ewell asserts that the clearly vicious Oswald had a knife on him when arrested at the Texas Theater, but that it was taken as a souvenir by a policeman, and he'd taken an oath not to reveal this policeman's identity. Yeah, right. A policeman steals evidence so he can have a souvenir, and a reporter keeps his promise to protect him? Well, yeah, I guess that actually makes sense, and helps explain why so much of what we know was uncovered by non-reporters. In any event, the program bottoms out when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's propaganda chief Deke Deloach is interviewed presumably for the last time and assures the audience that the FBI did a thorough investigation and that "Oswald alone killed Kennedy."
Score: Lone-nuts 45, Conspiracy Theorists 16.
November 17: The Daily Beast publishes yet another article on Oswald's mother, this one by Steve North. He details his long-lasting contact with her, and ultimately reveals "Over the years, I had conversations with Marina and Lee’s brother, Robert, and I got to know Jack Ruby’s siblings as well. These essentially innocent bystanders all expressed regret and remorse about Oswald and Ruby, two pathetic men who failed miserably in nearly every aspect of their existences, yet succeeded in changing the course of American, if not world, history." So here it is, once again; Oswald's guilt is not to be doubted.
Score: Lone-nuts 46, Conspiracy Theorists 16.
November 17: The Richmond Times-Dispatch runs a series of articles on the assassination. All of these are written by Markus Schmidt. One of these is on Buell Frazier, who gave Oswald a ride to work on 11-22-63. After discussing Capt. Will Fritz's pressuring Frazier into signing a confession, the article reports: "Although he was never charged, Frazier was still guilty in the eyes of many. For years, he had trouble finding work. His reputation in Dallas was tainted for decades. At 69, he still works. And now, 50 years after Kennedy’s assassination, he said he’s still not convinced the man he drove to work so many times was the killer. But there’s one thing he claims to know for certain: that the package Oswald put on the back seat of his car that morning was not a rifle. 'It wasn’t long enough to put that type of rifle in that bag. There is no way it would fit in that package,' he said."
Another of these articles is on assassination witness Mary Moorman. In the article, Moorman is allowed to tell her story. It concludes: "To this day, she is certain that it was the first shot that hit Kennedy’s head. “It’s real vivid in my mind, exactly what I saw of what I felt like was taking place. I have not forgotten any of the details,” she said. When the Warren Commission concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, Moorman wasn’t convinced. 'I really don’t know what exactly happened, but I do know there is bound to be a lot more to the story that hasn’t been told,' she said. 'I was hoping it would come out in my lifetime, but who knows. So much has been hidden by the government; anything can take place and it can be hidden. 'Oswald probably wasn’t a lone person, he probably had backers. I really do think it was a conspiracy,' she said."
Yet another article is on assassination witness James Tague. The article mentions that Tague gradually made the transition from witness to researcher. It notes: "Working with other assassination researchers and studying files, Tague found inconsistencies in the Warren report. After more than 30 years of research, he says he believes Oswald was innocent and that Kennedy had been killed by a team of hit men paid by then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson." The first two paragraphs of this article, however, push a single-assassin theorist agenda, and are insulting to Tague. The article begins: "Not everyone knows that a third person was injured when Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at the presidential motorcade. James T. Tague, a car salesman, stood near the triple underpass of Dealey Plaza when the first shot missed the president’s limousine and hit the curbside a few feet away from him, spraying his face with pieces of concrete." That Tague was wounded by the first shot is, of course, held to be self-evident by those of the single-assassin persuasion. Tague, on the other hand, has always insisted that he was not wounded by the first shot. So what happened? Did an editor re-write the first two paragraphs to bring the article in line with what he'd read in books by Posner and Bugliosi?
Still another of these articles is on Dr. Robert McClelland, one of the emergency room doctors at Parkland Hospital. This article reports: "Because he was able to have a long and close look at Kennedy’s skull, McClelland, now 84, is possibly the most credible expert who openly questioned the conclusion by the Warren Commission that Kennedy was shot from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository by a lone gunman. 'I was about 18 inches above that wound. I got a better look at it than anybody in that room. It was way back in the back (of the head), which may lead to the thought that he was shot not only from the back, but also from the front,' McClelland said. 'In other words, there was more than one gunman, and therefore a conspiracy of some sort. And I looked into that wound for a long time, and there is no doubt what I saw,' he said. McClelland felt his opinion was validated when he watched the famous home movie by Abraham Zapruder when it first aired on television in 1975. 'The first bullet hit him in the back, not in the front as we thought at the time,' he said. 'Several seconds later, the second shot hits him and his head literally explodes, and he was thrown violently backward and to the left as you would expect someone hit by a high-caliber bullet from the front, not from above and behind.' To McClelland, who has seen a lot of bullet wounds throughout his medical career, there was never any other interpretation than that the second bullet hit Kennedy from the front and that the gaping hole he saw on the back of the head was an exit wound. 'It would have had to come in from the picket fence on the grassy knoll, in my view of it,' he said. McClelland believes there were at least two shooters. 'Whether there was anything else, I have no opinion on that,' he said."
Yet another article by Markus Schmidt appears in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. This one is an overview of the shooting, mixed in with some excerpts from some of the interviews Schmidt conducted. In keeping with the Tague piece, it pushes the lone-nut scenario, i.e. it has the first shot miss and wound Tague and the second shot hit Kennedy and Connally. Sadly, the day after letting Frazier have his say, Schmidt follows the recent pattern of using Frazier to put a gun in Oswald's hands without noting that Frazier has always maintained the bag he saw in Oswald's possession was too small to hold the rifle.
The sum of these articles, however, has to be considered a score for the Conspiracy Theorists.
Score: Lone-nuts 46, Conspiracy Theorists 17.
November 17: The Tulsa World runs an article by former Warren Commission staffer Richard Mosk entitled "Warren Commission: Truth Was Our Only Client." It is essentially the same piece Judge Mosk published in the L.A. Times on October 27. It is, in fact, the exact same piece. Mosk closes, once again, "For years, polls showed a public that was skeptical of the conclusions of the commission. Such polling results no doubt have been fueled by the multitude of books and films that have sought to profit from advancing a new conspiracy. But I suspect that most Americans have come to accept the conclusions of the Warren Commission. The history books now seem reconciled to the fact that Oswald, acting alone, assassinated the president. And there have recently been notable works supporting the Warren Commission report, including a massive book by Manson Family prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi, who spent 17 years researching the subject."
November 17: The Los Angeles Times runs an article on three witnesses to the events of 11-22-63. Tina Towner says nothing of substance as to conspiracy or no conspiracy. Pierce Allman says he feels guilt because if he'd looked up and saw Oswald in the sniper's nest window he could have stopped Oswald at the doorway and stopped him from killing Tippit. And then there's Phyllis Hall, who I feel fairly certain is a fake. Her story this time around:
"Suddenly, Hall saw a man carrying a long gun approach. FBI, police and Secret Service agents were everywhere, and many were armed. "He put his hand on my back and said, 'We need you back here,' and directed her to Trauma Room No. 1, she said. The small room was filled with so many doctors, nurses and others that at one point Hall was forced against a wall. Kennedy's face was deep blue around the eyes, and she could see a bullet hole near his Adam's apple. Hall checked for a pulse but didn't feel one. She watched as doctors performed a tracheotomy through the president's neck wound. Hall saw Jackie Kennedy standing nearby, her pink Chanel suit spattered with her husband's brain matter. A doctor lifted the president's hair to reveal the gaping wound. 'Jackie just stood at the foot of the carriage with her hand on his foot,' Hall said. 'She was in such deep shock, she was just staring at his face. At some point the supervisor came in and asked if she would like a chair out in the hallway and she said no, she was going to stay with him. We all wanted to do whatever we could, but there was nothing we could do.' Dr. William Kemp Clark, who to Hall looked like an old schoolmaster with beady eyes behind small glasses, pronounced Kennedy dead at 1 p.m. 'Call it,' the doctor said and then strode out past Jackie Kennedy, barely stopping as he said, 'Madam, your husband is dead.' Hall approached the first lady and said, "I am so sorry for your loss," but Kennedy just stared straight ahead and didn't seem to hear."
Well, my God! This woman's story is so obviously false. There is no record of her being in the room. And here she is changing her story from being asked into the room by a doctor to being forced into the room at gunpoint. She says she took the vitals. She says she spoke to Mrs. Kennedy afterward. Horse feathers! More telling than that, though, is the L.A. Times' leaving out a key feature of Hall's story--the wound's being on the back of Kennedy's head!
Score: Lone-nuts 47, Conspiracy Theorists 17.
November 17: UPI publishes an article by Marcella Kreiter entitled The Kennedy Assassination--Did the Mob Do It? which focuses on Lamar Waldron's belief the mob killed Kennedy, but made it look like it was Castro. Purdue University history professor Randy Roberts is allowed to counter Waldron's claims. But Kreiter tips the scale back the other way by allowing former HSCA counsel Robert Tanenbaum to say both that "I don't believe Oswald could have been convicted based on the shoddy evidence they had" and "I believe without question there were shots that came from the side, the grassy knoll." All in all, it is a slight score for the Conspiracy Theorists.
Score: Lone-nuts 47, Conspiracy Theorists 18.
November 17: ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos airs a 15 minute segment on the assassination. Several witnesses are interviewed. The narrator acknowledges that there are still questions. Dan Rather says he has "no apology" for getting emotional over how the country pulled together after the assassination. Director Ken Burns is then interviewed about JFK's legacy, how he offered "a sense of possibility." Burns repeats the mantra "Even with the conspiracy theories that continue to abide, it has to do with our seeing him as so high, and needing to elevate the person who took him away to that same height. It couldn't have been just one lonely person, it had to be a vast conspiracy, and that's a testament to the great man." Burns is a smart man, and it's sad to see him latch onto such a-historical gibberish. I mean, c'mon Ken, you're an historian. If most Americans had some irrational need to believe Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, it wouldn't have taken them three years to realize this, and this need wouldn't have grown over the years, and spread to so many that weren't even alive at the time.
Score: Lone-nuts 48, Conspiracy Theorists 18.
November 17: The History Channel replays its 2003 production JFK: A Presidency Revealed. It is a well-done investigation of Kennedy's presidency. It falls apart when it gets to the assassination, however. First, it tells us that Kennedy ordered the bubble-top removed from the limousine before the motorcade. This is simply not true. It then has the narrator describe the shooting. "The first bullet passed through Kennedy's neck but was not fatal. Lee Harvey Oswald had time to reload and take his second decisive shot at the President." It then cuts to an interview with a doctor blowing smoke about how Kennedy's back brace prevented him from falling over. He says "His being kept upright in the car is what let the second shot kill him."This is Posner/Lattimer nonsense.
Score: Lone-nuts 49, Conspiracy Theorists 18.
November 17: Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy premieres on TLC. I was not able to view this program.
November 17: Kennedy's Suicide Bomber premieres on the Smithsonian Channel. While this show unveils the stalking of Kennedy by a suicide bomber in 1960, the narrator repeats at least three times that if this man, Richard Pavlick, had been successful, he would have beat Oswald to the punch by three years. This marks it as an Oswald-did-it program. (I didn't see this program until the next August.)
Score: Lone-nuts 50, Conspiracy Theorists 18.
November 17: The Smithsonian Channel follows up Kennedy's Suicide Bomber with The Day Kennedy Died. While I miss its first showing, I check to see if it's up on youtube, and find some promo videos for the program. One of them races around an animated Dealey Plaza pointing out various conspiracy theories and the snipers and smoke supposedly seen in the Plaza. After awhile, it runs out of easy targets and starts throwing out facts that aren't theories at all, such as Kennedy's brain being missing, or the hole on his clothes being too low to support the single-bullet theory. It then zooms in on the sniper's nest and has three shots fired in six seconds. The net effect is an insult to the research community. The description of this video, furthermore, reads: "Conspiracies surrounding the assassination of JFK have proliferated in the 50 years since his death, but in the end, only one lone gunman fired the shots that would change history." My God! Could they be more insulting? I mean, who was behind this show? Credible researchers? Some punk kids? Certainly not anyone who knows anything more than what they've read in Posner or Bugliosi...
I later read a review of this program in The Telegraph, in which it mentions both that the "the documentary sensibly navigated us away from conspiracy theories" and that its use of witnesses Buell Frazier, Clint Hill, and Robert McClelland was a "coup." This makes me a bit sick. This implies that these witnesses were once again used as window-dressing to push something none of them believe. Frazier, after all, insists Oswald didn't bring the rifle with him to work that morning. Hill, after all, disputes the single-bullet theory. McClelland, after all, claims he saw a big hole on the back of Kennedy's head, and that the fatal shot came from the front. Do the creators of these programs have no shame?
I finally get to see the program on December 15, and discover it's not as bad as I feared. Not as bad, but still pretty bad. As but one example of its subtle but ever-present badness, the program repeats what has now become the standard trick, and has Buell Frazier describe Oswald bringing a package of curtain rods into the building on the morning of the shooting. It never lets on that Frazier has always insisted that the package was far too small to hold the assassination rifle. No, Oswald's guilt is not to be doubted. Not in this program. At another point, the narrator, Kevin Spacey, describes Oswald shooting Officer Tippit, (as opposed to someone shooting Tippit, whom witnesses would later identify as Oswald).
The program is not without its surprises, however. It doesn't show Oswald firing the shots. It doesn't say that Oswald was a complete nut who woke up one day and decided to kill the President, nor that Jack Ruby so loved Mrs. Kennedy he couldn't help but kill Oswald, or any similar nonsense. No, it tells its story mostly through witnesses. It has Ruth Paine relate how horrified she was when she saw an empty blanket in her garage that had at one point held Oswald's rifle. She relates that she knew then that Oswald had killed the President. It later has Detective Jim Leavelle, who'd interrogated Oswald in connection to the Tippit murder, admit that Oswald was actually a "pleasant individual." Of course, he then turns around and says Oswald enjoyed all the attention he received at the police station, seeing as "he wanted to make a name for himself and he knew he was making it." Leavelle then repeats the untrue fact that when Oswald held up his handcuffs for the press to see he'd been arrested, he was making an "iron-fisted salute for Russia" with a "pleased expression on his face." (The footage and photos, of course, show no such pleased expression, but a look of wordless protest, as if to say "I can't believe this is happening.") A bit later, Buell Frazier is brought on to talk about his own problems with the Dallas Police, who suspected him of being a co-conspirator with Oswald. There is no mention, of course, that Frazier told the Dallas Police the bag he saw Oswald carry towards the building that morning was too small to hold the rifle found in the building, and that he passed a lie detector test when he said so. While discussing Oswald's time at the police station, moreover, Kevin Spacey tells us that Oswald's palm print was found on the rifle. Uhhh...this is misleading. The Dallas Crime Lab never conducted a thorough comparison of the lift supposedly taken from the rifle with Oswald's prints until asked to do so by the Warren Commission, months later. Spacey then discusses the autopsy, and says "the autopsy concludes that two bullets struck the president; one passed through his back and exited through his throat; the fatal shot hit the back of his skull, and exploded his brain." Uhhh...this is also misleading. We don't really know what the autopsy concluded, because Dr. Humes changed his conclusion the next day after discovering that the tracheotomy incision had obscured a bullet wound. And notice how the program's creators play it safe, and fail to let Spacey tell the viewers WHERE the bullet hit Kennedy in the back of the head? Well, it seems more than a coincidence that this allowed them to avoid the strange circumstance that the bullet entrance observed and described at autopsy was subsequently "moved" four inches by a secret government panel. This would not make for nice, safe, Oswald-did-it-and-we-can-now-go-back-to-sleep, entertainment, after all. The program then concludes with Ruth Paine, Clint Hill, Buell Frazier, and PHYLLIS HALL (yes, here she is again) talking about the traumatic effect the assassination had on their lives.
Score: Lone-nuts 51, Conspiracy Theorists 18.