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The Media and Oliver Stone's JFK

John Simkin

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A significant breakthrough came when leading Hollywood director, Oliver Stone, decided to make a movie on the assassination of Kennedy. The script for JFK (1991), written by Stone and Zachary Sklar, is based on two different books, On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison and Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy by Jim Marrs. Stone takes the view that Kennedy was killed because of his attempts to bring an end to the Cold War.

JFK was both a financial and artistic success earning over $205 million worldwide and being nominated for eight Academy Awards. However, the film was attacked by those journalists who had since 1963 had steadfastly defended the lone-gunman theory. Tom Wicker attacked Stone’s portrayal of Jim Garrison as a hero-figure and complained that he had ignored the claims that he was corrupt. He added that the film treats “matters that are highly speculative as fact and truth, in effect rewriting history”. (1)

Bernard Weinraub argued in the New York Times that the studio should withdraw the movie: "At what point does a studio exercise its leverage and blunt the highly charged message of a film maker like Oliver Stone?" (2) When veteran film critic, Pat Dowell, provided a good review for The Washingtonian, the editor, John Limpert, rejected it on the grounds that he did not want the magazine to be associated with this "preposterous" viewpoint. As a result Dowell resigned as the magazine’s film critic. (3)

Jack Valenti, who at that time was president and chief executive of the Motion Picture Association of America, but in the months following the assassination, was President Lyndon Johnson’s special advisor, denounced Stone's film in a seven-page statement. He wrote, "In much the same way, young German boys and girls in 1941 were mesmerized by Leni Reifenstahl's Triumph of the Will, in which Adolf Hitler was depicted as a newborn God. Both JFK and Triumph of the Will are equally a propaganda masterpiece and equally a hoax. Mr. Stone and Leni Reifenstahl have another genetic linkage: neither of them carried a disclaimer on their film that its contents were mostly pure fiction".

Oliver Stone appeared on the Larry King Show on 20th December 1991. King asked Stone: “Why do you think the Wickers, the Rathers, the Gerald Fords in an op-ed piece in a newspaper – in the Washington Post – why do you think they’re so mad?” Stone replied: “Well, they’re the official priesthood. They have a stake in their version of reality. Here I am – a film-maker, an artist – coming into their territory and I think that they resent that…. I think they blew it (the coverage of the Kennedy assassination) from day one.” (4)

Oliver Stone hit back at his critics in a speech made at the National Press Club on 15th January, 1992. “When in the last twenty years, have we seen serious research from Tom Wicker, Dan Rather, Anthony Lewis?” Stone said they objected to “this settled version of history… lest one call down the venom of leading journalists from around the country.” He pointed out that the criticism of the film mainly came from “older journalists on the right and left” who had in 1963 supported the lone-gunman theory and claimed that their “objectivity is in question here.” (5)

Dan Rather, another long-time lone-gunman advocate, hosted a CBS program on the JFK movie. Rather pointed out that he had reported the Kennedy assassination at the time. He went on to argue: “Long after Oliver Stone has gone onto his next movie and long after a lot of people who have been writing about this now have stopped, I’m going to keep coming on this one.” Rather suggested that a journalist was much more reliable than a film director for interpreting the past: “We do know a lot and there is much to support the Warren Commission’s conclusions, but unanswered questions also abound. Not all of the conspiracy theories are ridiculous… They explain the inexplicable, neatly tie up the loose ends, but a reporter should not, cannot find refuge there. Facts, hard evidence are the journalist’s guide.” (6)

In the interview that Rather carried out for the CBS documentary, he asked Stone: “I don’t understand why you include the press as either conspirators or accomplices to the conspiracy”. Stone replied: “Dan, when the House Report came out implying that there was a probable conspiracy in the murder of both Kennedy and King, why weren’t you running around trying to dig into the case again? I didn’t see you, you know, rush out there and look at some of these three dozen discrepancies that we present in our movie.” Stone added that “whether you accept my conclusion is not the point, we want people to examine this… subject”.

In the first few months after JFK was released, over 50 million people watched the movie. Robert Groden, who had worked as an advisor on JFK, predicted that: “The movie will raise public consciousness. People who can’t take the time to read books will be able to see the movie, and in three hours they’ll be able to see what the issues are.” (7)

Tom Wicker was well aware of the danger this film posed: “This movie… claims truth for itself. And among the many Americans likely to see it, particularly those who never accepted the Warren Commission’s theory of a single assassin, even more particularly those too young to remember November 22, 1963, JFK is all too likely to be taken as the final, unquestioned explanation.” (8) This was confirmed by a NBC poll that indicated that 51% of the American public believed, as the movie had suggested, that the CIA was responsible for Kennedy’s death and that only 6% believed the Warren Commission’s lone gunman theory. (9)

Oliver Stone called for the remaining CIA and FBI documents pertaining to the assassination of Kennedy to be released. Clifford Krauss, reported in the New York Times that members of the Kennedy family supported this move. (10) The historian, Stephen Ambrose, argued that “the crime of the century is too important to be allowed to remain unsolved and too complex to be left in the hands of Hollywood movie makers.” (11) Louis Stokes, who had chaired the House Select Committee on Assassinations, also called for the files to be unclassified. (12)

The President John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Collection Act of 1992, or the JFK Records Act, was passed by the United States Congress, and became effective on 26th October, 1992.

A more detailed account of the way the media covered the JFK assassination can be found in my introduction of my ebook on the assassination.


1. Tom Wicker, New York Times (15th December, 1991)

2. Bernard Weinraub, The New York Times (4th February, 1902)

3. James Petras, The Discrediting of the Fifth Estate: The Press Attacks on JFK, Cineaste (May 1992)

4. The Larry King Show (20th December 1991)

5. Oliver Stone, speech at the National Press Club (15th January, 1992)

6. JFK, CBS News (5th February, 1992)

7. Quoted in Barbie Zelizer, Covering the Body: The Kennedy Assassination, the Media, and the Shaping of Collective Memory (1992) page 206

8. Tom Wicker, New York Times (15th December, 1991)

9. NBC poll for the Today Show (February, 1992)

10. Clifford Krauss, New York Times (22nd January, 1992)

11.. Stephen Ambrose, New York Times Book Review (2nd February, 1992)

12. New York Times (27th March, 1992)

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Dec 20, 1991 was when JFK was first shown. It has stood the test of time and in the intervening decades many have "gotten" it. In spite of the press. And we have Stone to thank for the JFK Assassination Records Review Act. The press was silent on this as well.

I wish Stone would do a film of JFKU.


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.... Good Day.... Thank You John.

Most researchers that are also well-versed on the macro + micro levels of interpreting the multitude of the (known) evidence, also have realized that there are certainly some then-1991, now-known, discrepancy's in Oliver Stone's interpretations that he chose to and was probably also advised-to present in the film (for example, his incorrect attack scenario of shots time stamping's, along with where the real assassin's were actually located).

That being stated, IMHO, Mr. Stone accomplished a truly fine job of presenting many of the then-1991 known facts. (and public demand's by The People led directly to the very valuable ARRB, with its additional key information !)

....For those less-knowledgeable of the macro/micro of the before, during, and after 11-22-63, when I'm asked, along with several specific fine documentaries presented during the proceeding-towards 50-years, I also, always, recommend watching the 1973 film, "Executive Action," because, even though it is less visually impact-full, (and has its own incorrect disrepency's) many additional key, known, pre-attack facts + important considerations are also clearly detailed during the segments of the meetings of the "Board of Conspirators-Masterminds" and film segments shown between the "BOC-M" contracted employee's.

I will also say that with the lamestream-media bias exhibited in attacking "J F K" during its production, many months before it was ever publicly even seen by anyone (which also had the lamestream-media-backfired effect of increasing much more "buzz" about the film!!), it is also, imho, more than extremely hippo-critical of (and transparently reveals much about) some researchers, who also choose to attack projects that are currently in development.

Best Regards in Research,


Donald Roberdeau

United States Navy

U.S.S. John F. Kennedy, CV-67, plank walker

Sooner, or later, The Truth emerges Clearly

For your key considerations....

Homepage: President KENNEDY "Men of Courage" speech, and Assassination Evidence, Witnesses, Suspects + Outstanding Researchers Discoveries and Considerations.... http://droberdeau.bl...ination_09.html

The Dealey Plaza Map Detailing 11-22-63 Victims precise locations, Witnesses, Films & Photos, Evidence, Suspected bullet trajectories, Important information & Considerations, in One Convenient Resource.... http://img835.imageshack.us/img835/3966/dppluschartsupdated1111.gif

(new info, 2012 updated map)

Visual Report: "The First Bullet Impact Into President Kennedy: while JFK was Still Hidden Under the 'magic-limbed-ricochet-tree' ".... http://img504.images...k1102308ms8.gif

Visual Report: Reality versus C.A.D. : the Real World, versus, Garbage-In, Garbage-Out.... http://img248.images...ealityvscad.gif

Discovery: "Very Close JFK Assassination Witness ROSEMARY WILLIS

Zapruder Film Documented 2nd Headsnap: West, Ultrafast, and

Directly Towards the Grassy Knoll"....


T ogether

E veryone

A chieves

M ore

For the United States:



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On the subject topic, onetime Entertainment Weekly contributor Glenn Kenny (a respectable critic who sadly went down in my estimation after I read the following) included this line in a recent blog post


on the new film HITCHCOCK: -

"some might tell you that Oliver Stone's JFK has movie-movie value even as it insults American history. except Stone would argue that he's not insulting American history and that he made the movie from a conviction to tell a higher truth."

The blog refers to a full review Kenny did for MSN, in which he writes -

"Only it's stupid and it doesn't work. "Hitchcock" is the "JFK" of movies about moviemaking, but at least Oliver Stone had the excuse of Jim Garrison's "findings" to hang his loony fiction on."

Critic David Ehrenstein then pops into the comments section of Kenny's blog and adds

"My antipathy to Oliver Stone and his noxious fraud JFK knows no bounds. I was writing for "The Advocate" at the time it was unleashed, and thanks to my efforts James Kirkwood's definitive 1967 book about Garrison's folly, "American Grotesque," was republished."

At the Criterion-Collection sponsored Mubi forum, Ehrenstein expands on his hatred for the movie.


"Oswald did it and he acted alone. That’s the most “Politically Inccorect” thing anyone can say in this culture.

The entire “conspiracy” meghillah is premised on the belief that the klling couldn’t have happened without extra-special help. After all, don’t we have a “Secret Service” to guard the POTUS? Well we do , but it’s far from infallible. A number of years back I was in Dallas Texas for the USA film festival. Todd Haynes and I were on the jury

One day we had the afternoon off so we went to dealy Plaza and visited the 5th Floor Museum — what used to be the Texas School Book Depository.

Lots of interesting stuff in there: Pictures, kinescopes of The Day, etc. Despite the way it was depicted on film Dealy Plaza is VERY small. Todd and I looked out the window Oswald used. It’s so close to the street we could have swatted JFK over the head. The pretense of difficulty (Holy Write for Assasination Buffs) is ludicrous in the extreme."

Ehrenstein is gay and in 1992 wrote an article for The Advocate - "JFK - A New Low for Hollywood". I'm assuming he was one of the critics at the time that accused the film of being homophobic.

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i must again disagree with Valenti, as i know so many have in the past,before and after his death, as he ridicules the movie, and as well as most critics pile on their criticism of the many errors they see within the film, for their information within the book of the movie, everything within said movie is documented in the book, some may not agree with such but it is all there, if they would only check out a copy, before they let loose ..proving they know not of what they write even after all these years, i think critics write too much. but do not read enough, therefore not knowing the subject they are simply reiterating the given pattern what critics working for the w/c sponsors in the past have followed ..i wonder do they hand out prepared cards to say a new critic employee, this is what we write about so and so subject, oh about jfk the movie or assassination take card numer 48, hint always follow the standard information, it will get you anywhere within the business , as it did with Rather, they seem to hold him up as a fine example, never studying his information that proves he was lying..and still is..b... :dis

Edited by Bernice Moore
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