On JFK: Beware the conspiracy theorists
By Michael Smerconish
Published: Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Nov. 22 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination. Get ready for more of this:
“John F. Kennedy was murdered by a conspiracy involving disgruntled CIA agents, anti-Castro Cubans, and members of the Mafia, all of whom were extremely angry at what they viewed as Kennedy's appeasement policies toward Communist Cuba and the Soviet Union.”
That's according to Jesse Ventura in his new book, “They Killed Our President: 63 Reasons to Believe There Was a Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK.” Ventura's “smoking gun” is a memo written three days after the assassination by Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach to Bill Moyers, an aide to newly sworn-in President Lyndon B. Johnson.
“The public must be satisfied that Oswald was the assassin; that he did not have confederates who are still at large; and that the evidence was such that he would have been convicted at trial,” Katzenbach wrote.
Alone, it sounds ominous. But not when viewed in the context of the sentence that precedes it: “It is important that all the facts surrounding President Kennedy's assassination be made public in a way that will satisfy people in the United States and abroad that all of the facts have been told and that a statement to this effect be made now.”
Katzenbach died in 2012. But Moyers is still with us, and I asked him what he thought of the current use of the memo he was sent 50 years ago. He told me he hasn't kept up with any of this since leaving the White House.
“Some of my old colleagues and I collaborated a few years ago in a protest to the History Channel over a scurrilous documentary about LBJ and the assassination, but that's been the extent of the attention I've given it,” he wrote. “The Warren Commission settled the matter for me.”
While Ventura doesn't know who killed Kennedy, he believes FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover was in on it. President Johnson, too. And he impugned the integrity of Arlen Specter, who was a Warren Commission lawyer who developed what came to be known as the “single-bullet theory.”
Specter, who died last year, didn't take JFK conspiracies lightly. I recall how very angry he was over Oliver Stone's movie “JFK.” Specter thought he'd been defamed by the director and considered filing a lawsuit.
And I'll never forget once scheduling a radio interview with Specter back-to-back with pathologist Cyril Wecht, a Warren Commission skeptic.
Wecht went first. Specter then responded to all of Wecht's assertions. For example, he said: “When Dr. Wecht talks about the direction of the bullet, many people have challenged the direction because the hole in President Kennedy's shirt was way down, and they said: ‘Well, if the bullet entered there, it had to go up.' But the issue is not where the hole is on the shirt, but where it is on the body, and President Kennedy's shirt rode up.”
On the 40th anniversary, Specter told me this:
“I wrote it all down because hardly a week goes by that I'm not asked about it, at high schools and colleges, and I thought the guy who came up with it ought to write it all down because people will be interested in this for a long time.”
About that last statement, there is no debate.
Michael Smerconish writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bell gets respect from teammates, foes alike
- Penguins center Malkin won’t play tonight vs. Sharks
- Steelers notebook: Woodley practices but unsure where he’ll play
- Ex-Penguins winger Kennedy ‘emotional’ about return
- Kovacevic: Got proof on Tomlin? Let’s hear it
- MLB notebook: Mariners make push for Cano
- Local protesters strike fast-food places, demand higher minimum wage
- Homicide trial begins again after false start
- News Alert
- VA fears budget cuts will reverse drop in homelessness
- Film about former Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis in prestigious festival