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Gaeton Fonzi on Vincent Bugliosi

John Simkin

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There is an article by Gaeton Fonzi on the Mary Ferrell website about Vincent Bugliosi:


It includes the following:

Vincent Bugliosi must be exhausted. He not only churned out more than 1600 pages of tautologically strained contentions to support his book’s pretentious title, Reclaiming History, he must be weary from wrestling with the multitude of distortions and twisted conclusions he was forced to make to support his primary assertion.

His primary assertion? Swallow that mouthful of Dr. Pepper before you read this: “...it has been established beyond all doubt that Oswald killed Kennedy.”

Fearful of endowing his abhorrent duplicity with any hint of legitimacy, I hesitate to take the time and effort to respond to all the ungrounded contentions he makes about my role as a federal investigator in the case and about certain areas of evidence with which I was involved. There are, however, two very significant segments of the investigation that Bugliosi, with clever distortion and selected omission of facts, defiles truth and history. And having cited as a source my own book, The Last Investigation, he had to be well aware of its documented adherence to the historical facts. (Former U.S. Senator Richard Schweiker graciously provided a jacket blurb citing the book for exactly that : “A rarity among Kennedy assassination books, [it] does not indulge in sensational or bizarre conspiracy theories.”)

One key contention that Bugliosi repeatedly makes is that my approach to the investigation was biased because, before I was hired by the HSCA, I “had long been a conspiracy theorist.” Bugliosi uses the term “conspiracy theorist” with the same poisonous implication that Joe McCarthy used when he stigmatized anyone who defied him as a “Communist sympathizer.” In my case, Bugliosi was forced to characterize my viewpoint as anything but objective in order to distort the validity of certain evidence I had discovered – evidence that knocked hell out of his and the Warren Commission’s crucial single bullet theory and the branding of Oswald as the lone assassin.

Bugliosi is wrong. I was never a “conspiracy theorist.” I went from an agnostic to a conspiracy believer. Like millions of Americans and almost all journalists whose Fourth Estate responsibility mandates that they maintain a critical oversight of our Government, I didn’t question the Warren Report when it was published. Didn’t even read it. Its assertions and conclusions came to me from the daily press and the national news networks. And the most respected and nationally influential newspapers – including The New York Times – editorially praised the Report and instantly endorsed its conclusions. This despite the fact that the 26-volumes of evidence which the Commission claimed backed its critical conclusions weren’t available to the press until more than two months after the release of the Report.

I was then writing feature articles for Philadelphia Magazine. By the time the Warren Report was published, a Philadelphian named Arlen Specter who had worked for the Commission returned home to run and win a job as the city’s district attorney. Specter was a bright, ambitious young lawyer who, it turned out, was being credited with postulating “the single-bullet theory,” essential to the Commission’s lone assassin contention. An interview with the budding celebrity Specter was a natural for a local publication.

I had known Specter and respected his integrity. He was exceptionally smart, unabashedly ambitious and articulate enough to once be captain of the Yale Debating Team. If there were seeming inconsistencies in the Commission Report and disparities between its conclusions and the evidence, Arlen Specter would explain it all. After all, he was there.

Before I interviewed Specter, I got access to a copy of the Report and the 26 volumes of evidence. It would later turn out that I was the first reporter to confront Specter knowing the details of the evidence from which the Commission drew its conclusions. And I had especially studied the evidence in that area of the case – the actual killing itself, the shots and the trajectories – out of which Specter pulled the single-bullet theory critical to the Commission’s conclusions.

After two sessions and almost four hours of interviewing Specter, I came away with great doubts about the key conclusions in the Warren Commission Report. While vigorously defending his single-bullet theory, Specter admitted that one of the principal factors in favor of the theory was that there was no other way to explain what happened to the bullet which emerged from the President’s neck – unless it also hit Connally. (Connally later testified that he disagreed because he heard the first shot but wasn’t hit until later.) Specter had an answer but no factual explanation to the Commission’s claim that a single bullet went through President Kennedy’s body before it went through and did extensive damage to Governor Connally’s body before it emerged in what appeared to be pristine condition.

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