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Pat Speer

Is historian Michael L. Kurtz a reliable source?

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I have come to conclude that Professor Michael L. Kurtz, one of the few professional historians to write on the Kennedy assassination, is unreliable, and should not be cited by others writing on the assassination.

While I've been skeptical about some of professor Kurtz's claims in the past, I avoided taking a closer look at these claims, for fear I would find what I ended up finding.

I present my reasons for doubting Kurtz, here:

http://www.patspeer.com/chapter-19c-lost-in-the-jungle-with-kurtz

Your input appreciated. It could very well be that I'm being too hard on the guy.

But I'm fairly certain I'm not.

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One of the keys to evaluating Kurtz would be to verify that he has indeed turned over his interview tapes and other related documents to his Sensitivities archives as he said he would. Those primary materials are critical to evaluating his more explosive claims.....we checked with the archivist some time ago and he was unaware of any donations or plans to donate by professor Kurtz. Its probably time for someone to make a new check on whether or not the materials showed up or to contact Kurtz and ask when/where he will make them available.

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That's a good point, Larry. I found an online listing for the materials Kurtz has provided his alma mater, but it was virtually all newspaper articles. I end the chapter by accepting the possibility that Kurtz could still pull a rabbit out of his hat, and cough up the notes, tapes and transcripts to the interviews cited in his books.

But I no longer give him the benefit of the doubt.

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A few years ago I was part of a wide-ranging discussion of Kurtz with some top-notch researchers of all points of view. We were troubled by several things. One was his claim to have seen (or been told about) certain Garrison characters consorting with Oswald and the fact that he never came forward with this info during the Garrison investigation, the HSCA investigation, and didn't even include it in his first book. Another troubling point was his claim, in his second book, to have interviewed a former CIA Domestic Contact Service employee who gave important, game-changing info about Oswald and others. The interview is said to have taken place before the publication of his first book, which never mentioned it. By the time his second book was published, the CIA guy was dead. When the ARRB materials were released, it turned out that, all along, the CIA guy was telling headquarters pretty much the opposite of what he is supposed to have told Kurtz, and only Kurtz.

This sort of thing makes one cautious. And others in the group agreed.

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Sorry - I just read your article and realized that I was recalling from memory some of the same things you wrote about with more precision! Sorry!

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Sorry - I just read your article and realized that I was recalling from memory some of the same things you wrote about with more precision! Sorry!

That's fine, Stephen. It's important that people know that doubts about Kurtz have been around for awhile. While I knew enough about the medical evidence to have my doubts he'd spoken to Capt. Canada, I didn't realize until working on all this that there were strong reasons to doubt Kurtz's claims about Oswald and Banister and Oswald and Ferrie going back to 1980. In other words, age does not appear to have been a factor.

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Stephen Roy @ post #7:

I gather from your posts you are a skeptic. A skeptic is a questioner, not an unbeliever. An unbeliever rejects assumptions. A skeptic questions whether an assumption is true.

To me, Kurtz makes assumptions from which he draws conclusions. I reject his assumptions.

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Stephen Roy @ post #7:

I gather from your posts you are a skeptic. A skeptic is a questioner, not an unbeliever. An unbeliever rejects assumptions. A skeptic questions whether an assumption is true.

To me, Kurtz makes assumptions from which he draws conclusions. I reject his assumptions.

Yes, I guess I am. I come from the old school of researchers** - that we should go only as far as the evidence allows, that countertheories require the same scrutiny we give the WC theories. But I am beginning to think that I am out of step with the newer generation of researchers.

There is something that troubles me about Dr. Kurtz, and I'm almost afraid to say it: It is one thing for Joe Average to challenge the WC, but it is a different thing altogether for a professional historian to challenge the WC. I get the impression that Kurtz enjoys that role a little too much and that he feigns academic impartiality while being eager to place the imprimatur of "professional historian" on his interpretations of events. But I also think that even professional historians can have biases, be wrong, and make bad decisions.

** What is a researcher? I don't think a person who reads a lot of books and constructs theories is really a researcher. At the minimum, a researcher is one who has a grasp of the actual primary evidence (much of which is is now online at the MFF and other places) or better, one who conducts new interviews and finds new documentary evidence. I chuckle when a person reads, say, 15 books and thinks they're a researcher.

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As detailed in my chapter, Stephen, Kurtz started out pretty much on the fence, and then started making some suspicious claims, and then came back with even more incredible claims. I don't know what happened, but it seems possible he came to believe a conspiracy was likely, and that this led him to think it was okay for him to pepper the stew, so to speak.

I vehemently disagree with this approach, if that is indeed what has happened. If someone with Kurtz's resume makes stuff up, it makes it easy for some to pretend everyone claiming the evidence supports a conspiracy is making stuff up.

Edited by Pat Speer

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Pat, do you believe those who testified in the Garrison trial to have seen Oswald with Ferrie and Clay Shaw trying to discredit CORE? There were 5 witness from that small Louissiana town who made the claim, often cited by Jim DiEugenio.

That said, Kurtz's claims need to be evaluated separately and even if Oswald did meet with Ferry, Kurtz's work does appear to be unprofessional and weakly sourced..

Edited by Andric Perez

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Pat, do you believe those who testified in the Garrison trial to have seen Oswald with Ferrie and Clay Shaw trying to discredit CORE? There were 5 witness from that small Louissiana town who made the claim, often cited by Jim DiEugenio.

That said, Kurtz's claims need to be evaluated separately and even if Oswald did meet with Ferry, Kurtz's work does appear to be unprofessional and weakly sourced..

I no longer feel like I've done enough research on the Clinton witnesses to have a valid opinion as to their veracity. But my long-held suspicion has been that Oswald was in contact with Banister, and Ferrie, and that this contact was quite possibly related to Kennedy's assassination. Because of this suspicion, I accepted Kurtz's claims about seeing Oswald with Banister, etc. I mean, here was a professional historian, on a PBS program pushing that Oswald acted alone, telling the country that he'd personally observed Oswald with Banister. It felt important, and true.

Years later, in 2006, when The JFK Assassination Debates came out, I came to realize that I disagreed with much of Kurtz's analysis, and that there were reasons to doubt a number of his claims. It was only recently that I decided to go "there" and investigate Kurtz's claims in the manner that I'd previously investigated the claims of Specter and Lattimer. It was a bit disheartening, to say the least. I assumed going in that I would probably come out believing Kurtz had lost touch with reality between Crime of the Century in 1982 and The JFK Assassination Debates in 2006. But I came out instead doubting his integrity, and wondering if he'd been telling tall tales from his first article on the assassination, published in 1980.

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