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"Who shot JFK? Ask the man who was there"


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Who shot JFK? Ask the man who was there

Fifty years on, the one reporter who saw President John F Kennedy assassinated, Lee Harvey Oswald arrested and Jack Ruby open fire talks about what happened

By Nigel Richardson

8:26PM GMT 01 Nov 2013

The Telegraph

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10420732/Who-shot-JFK-Ask-the-man-who-was-there.html

This is how fate works. Hugh Aynesworth was a 32-year-old reporter with the Dallas Morning News when President John F Kennedy came to town on November 22 1963 – 50 years ago this month. That morning, feeling miffed that he wasn’t assigned to cover the story, Aynesworth finished his breakfast in the newspaper canteen – where, incidentally, a fellow diner was a well-known police groupie and Dallas low-life called Jack Ruby – and decided to stroll the four blocks to Dealey Plaza to see the presidential motorcade pass “because you don’t see a president every day, you know”.

When the first shot rang out, he thought it was a motorcycle backfiring – there were plenty of police motorcycles around that day. “But the second and third shots were very clearly the whine of rifle shots,” he remembers. In the few seconds it took to assassinate a president, an era was defined – and Aynesworth’s life became enmeshed in it forever, as he explains to me in an interview at his home in Dallas.

For once, the phrase “eyewitness to history” is not overblown. Aynesworth is the only reporter who was present at all the key moments: the shooting of the president; the arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald; and the shooting of Oswald by Jack Ruby. He seems to have spent the rest of his life in a love-hate relationship with that fact and now, at 82, he is facing his own stock-taking as Dallas prepares to commemorate a painful anniversary.

Back then, Aynesworth recalls, the city was a stronghold of “red-meat and wing-nut conservatism”; Kennedy, the modernising East Coast Democrat, was viscerally loathed and there was “bitter vitriol” in the air in the run-up to his visit. Locals are quick to point out that, half a century on, there are few people living there now who were around then, that the city that killed a president is a changed, cosmopolitan place (with a population that is more than 40 per cent Hispanic).

Dallas prefers to boast of its football team, the world-famous Dallas Cowboys, of its 160 museums and art galleries, and the 18 Fortune 500 companies (America’s richest corporations) that have chosen to call it home – even if there is inescapable irony in its current marketing slogan: “Big things happen here”.

Aynesworth has chosen not to attend the commemoration in Dealey Plaza on November 22 – a ticket-only event for 5,000 people that will take place in a security lock‑down – fearing that “something embarrassing” will happen (by which he means that a conspiracy nut will pull a stunt. “What would be the greatest thing for someone trying to sell a book? To get arrested by the Dallas police.”)

But he has finally made his peace with fate by writing a book of his own for a modest local imprint, entitled November 22, 1963: Witness to History. It concurs with the conclusion of the 1964 Warren Commission report that there was only one shooter, Oswald, and no plot involving the mob, Vice President Johnson, Fidel Castro, J Edgar Hoover or the man in the moon, and that Oswald and Ruby were complete strangers. If that’s an unpromising standpoint from a marketing point of view – a poll earlier this year found that 59 per cent of Americans still believe Oswald didn’t act alone – the book has two rare qualities in JFK assassination literature: authority and integrity.

The taxi driver who drove me out to Aynesworth’s discreetly affluent neighbourhood (George W Bush lives nearby) was from Togo, West Africa. He was 11 at the time of the Kennedy assassination and, like practically everyone in the world then alive and sentient, he remembers it well: the day off school that it procured, the sense of disbelief.

In the intervening years, Aynesworth has struggled not to be defined by this single event. But its enormity has defeated him. “I’ve done so many other things, covered so much,” he says of a distinguished career in investigative reporting across national newspapers, magazines and television (he has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist four times). “But I don’t know. [The Kennedy assassination] changed me because everybody, when they hear my name, they connect me to that story.”

“I think it changed him irrevocably,” says Paula, his wife, as she brings us iced teas in their front room and shoos away the cat. “It’s an odd thing, a very odd thing. Weird, that he was there in so many places.”

Or you could call it reporter’s luck. It took a few seconds, he says, for his instincts to kick in after the echoes of the shots faded and pandemonium broke out around him in Dealey Plaza. Then, realising there had been an assassination attempt, he requisitioned a novelty pencil from a little boy (giving the lad two quarters for it), found two utility bills in his pocket to write on, and he was in business.

Aynesworth was the first reporter to interview the most important witness of all, a pipe-fitter called Howard Brennan who was standing across Houston Street from him, facing the Texas School Book Depository, when the shots were fired at 12.30pm. “He had his hard hat with him. And he was scared to death. He said, 'I saw him up there in the window! He’s right up there!’ ”

Brennan’s description of the suspect he had seen in the sixth-floor window of the Book Depository formed the basis of the APB (all points bulletin) broadcast on police radios 15 minutes later, and picked up by Patrolman JD Tippit in the Oak Cliff area of the city. Tippit approached a man who answered the description and the man – who was indeed Oswald – shot and killed him.

Aynesworth heard of Tippit’s murder on the radio of a police motorcycle parked outside the Book Depository and immediately suspected a connection with what had just happened in Dealey Plaza (“It was good reasoning for a change,” he says modestly). This hunch took him to the scene of the Tippit shooting, where he learnt from another overheard report, on an FBI man’s radio, that the suspect had entered the Texas Theater cinema a few blocks away.

Here it was, as a film called War is Hell flickered in the background, that Aynesworth came face to face with Lee Harvey Oswald. He saw Oswald pull his .38 on Officer Nick McDonald, who managed to get his hand in the firing mechanism to jam it, then Kennedy’s assassin was jumped on by five or six policemen. “They knocked him down and that’s when he got the cut on his face. But he fought pretty good for a little guy.”

The next time Aynesworth saw Oswald was two days later in the basement of City Hall (the Dallas Police HQ), where he was being moved to the county jail. “I was about as far as from here to the swimming pool” – he points through the window to the garden beyond. “No, not that far, 15 feet maybe. People were in front of me but I saw Ruby lunge forward, I heard the pop – one shot.”

That shot from Ruby’s Colt Cobra is the full stop on an extraordinary 48‑hour narrative with which Aynesworth is uniquely associated. But his story did not end there. Over the 50 years since, he has gone deep into the background to events, getting to know Oswald’s widow, Marina (with whom he is still in touch: the most surreal moment of our interview is when he plays back her Russian-accented voice on his telephone answering machine), the Ruby family and many witnesses, and running down “oh gosh, dozens and dozens of conspiracy theories”.

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.”

But he has always refused to make a killing from the killing. “Who do you think, given my background, would like to 'solve’ the assassination more than me? God! All I can say is, there’s not one scintilla of evidence to the contrary [that both Oswald and Ruby acted alone].”

“He’s a beautifully humble man,” chips in Paula. “If he was a xxxx, he’d be so rich.”

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."

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If Aynesworth has ACTUALLY followed the Kennedy assassination story he would know that the following excerpt from this new article is nonsense:

"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.”

Uhhh...HELLO Mr. Reporter, perhaps you should open your eyes...HOW MANY conspiracy theorists have made even a PENNY off the now-dozens of TV specials on the assassination? TAKE A LOOK, Mr. Reporter. It's these "fruitcakes and frauds" who've kept the public interested in this case, so people like you and the guy writing this article can MAKE MONEY off it!

You live in an affluent neighborhood, Aynesworth. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do an article about the "fruitcakes and frauds" you despise, and figure out how many of them live in affluent neighborhoods.

I mean, I was just at the store and saw that Time/Life has pumped out another JFK: The Day He Died special issue. I even thought of buying it. But 12.99? For a magazine? Open your eyes, Mr. Aynesworth. The pigs at the trough aren't wearing tinfoil hats!

I apologize to my fellow forum members. But great gosh almighty--Aynesworth is a hypocrite. And a blind one at that.

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If Aynesworth has ACTUALLY followed the Kennedy assassination story he would know that the following excerpt from this new article is nonsense:

"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.”

Uhhh...HELLO Mr. Reporter, perhaps you should open your eyes...HOW MANY conspiracy theorists have made even a PENNY off the now-dozens of TV specials on the assassination? TAKE A LOOK, Mr. Reporter. It's these "fruitcakes and frauds" who've kept the public interested in this case, so people like you and the guy writing this article can MAKE MONEY off it!

You live in an affluent neighborhood, Aynesworth. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do an article about the "fruitcakes and frauds" you despise, and figure out how many of them live in affluent neighborhoods.

I mean, I was just at the store and saw that Time/Life has pumped out another JFK: The Day He Died special issue. I even thought of buying it. But 12.99? For a magazine? Open your eyes, Mr. Aynesworth. The pigs at the trough aren't wearing tinfoil hats!

I apologize to my fellow forum members. But great gosh almighty--Aynesworth is a hypocrite. And a blind one at that.

Aynesworth claimed to have been standing near Howard Brennan during the shots, to have run down to the Newman family on the Grassy Knoll right after the shots, and then to have made his way to the TSBD, where he may have asked Oswald where the nearest phone was. I'm wondering if he or his reporter sidekick were captured on film during any of this.

Also, just to have an idea what he looked like back then, was he caught on the footage taken of Oswald's murder?

--Tommy :sun

Edited by Thomas Graves
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If Aynesworth has ACTUALLY followed the Kennedy assassination story he would know that the following excerpt from this new article is nonsense:

"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.”

Uhhh...HELLO Mr. Reporter, perhaps you should open your eyes...HOW MANY conspiracy theorists have made even a PENNY off the now-dozens of TV specials on the assassination? TAKE A LOOK, Mr. Reporter. It's these "fruitcakes and frauds" who've kept the public interested in this case, so people like you and the guy writing this article can MAKE MONEY off it!

You live in an affluent neighborhood, Aynesworth. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do an article about the "fruitcakes and frauds" you despise, and figure out how many of them live in affluent neighborhoods.

I mean, I was just at the store and saw that Time/Life has pumped out another JFK: The Day He Died special issue. I even thought of buying it. But 12.99? For a magazine? Open your eyes, Mr. Aynesworth. The pigs at the trough aren't wearing tinfoil hats!

I apologize to my fellow forum members. But great gosh almighty--Aynesworth is a hypocrite. And a blind one at that.

Aynesworth claimed to have been standing near Howard Brennan during the shots, to have run down to the Newman family on the Grassy Knoll right after the shots, and then to have made his way to the TSBD, where he may have asked Oswald where the nearest phone was. I'm wondering if he or his reporter sidekick were captured on film during any of this.

Also, just to have an idea what he looked like back then, was he caught on the footage taken of Oswald's murder?

--Tommy :sun

You're mixing Aynesworth up with Pierce Allman. An understandable mistake...

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If Aynesworth has ACTUALLY followed the Kennedy assassination story he would know that the following excerpt from this new article is nonsense:

"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.”

Uhhh...HELLO Mr. Reporter, perhaps you should open your eyes...HOW MANY conspiracy theorists have made even a PENNY off the now-dozens of TV specials on the assassination? TAKE A LOOK, Mr. Reporter. It's these "fruitcakes and frauds" who've kept the public interested in this case, so people like you and the guy writing this article can MAKE MONEY off it!

You live in an affluent neighborhood, Aynesworth. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do an article about the "fruitcakes and frauds" you despise, and figure out how many of them live in affluent neighborhoods.

I mean, I was just at the store and saw that Time/Life has pumped out another JFK: The Day He Died special issue. I even thought of buying it. But 12.99? For a magazine? Open your eyes, Mr. Aynesworth. The pigs at the trough aren't wearing tinfoil hats!

I apologize to my fellow forum members. But great gosh almighty--Aynesworth is a hypocrite. And a blind one at that.

Aynesworth claimed to have been standing near Howard Brennan during the shots, to have run down to the Newman family on the Grassy Knoll right after the shots, and then to have made his way to the TSBD, where he may have asked Oswald where the nearest phone was. I'm wondering if he or his reporter sidekick were captured on film during any of this.

Also, just to have an idea what he looked like back then, was he caught on the footage taken of Oswald's murder?

--Tommy :sun

You're mixing Aynesworth up with Pierce Allman. An understandable mistake...

Thanks Pat.

That's what I get for "going from memory." LOL

OK, well, hmmm... Does anyone know of any footage of Pierce Allman or his sidekick right after the shooting stopped?

--Tommy :sun

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Mr. Aynesworth has an opinion, in fact, the same opinion he has had since the assassination. I do not agree with him, but my question to Billy King, Thomas Graves,Pat Speer and Bill Davies, with each having your own opinion as well, is; do each of you have the same, or a different opinion/theory, as to the who and why concerning what occurred in Dallas on that fateful day. The sheer number of theories is, IMO, why we have not been able to work toward getting another grand jury to look at this. I certainly, as Pat Speer indicated, do not appreciate his words: "fruitcakes and frauds". He has done a terrible injustice to the dedicated researchers who have basically spent their lives attempting to get at the truth. But we do have some whacked out theories out there, such as Bill Greer as the shooter, or the Secret Service man accidentally killing him with his Ak47. I could go on and on, but it is clear that the researchers here, which I do not begin to include myself as one, must work toward some consensus in order to counter such name calling by such people as Mr Aynesworth.

Edited by Terry Adams
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Mr. Aynesworth has an opinion, in fact, the same opinion he has had since the assassination. I do not agree with him, but my question to Billy King, Thomas Graves,Pat Speer and Bill Davies, witheach having your opinion, is; do each of you have the same, or a different opinion/theory, as to the who and why concerning what occured in Dallas on that fateful day. The sheer number of theories is, IMO, why we have not been able to work toward getting another grand jury to look at this. I certainly, as Pat Speer indicated, do not appreciate his words: "fruitcakes and frauds". He has done a terrible injustice to the dedicated researchers who have basically spent their lives attempting to get at the truth. But we do have some whacked out theories out there, such as Bill Greer as the shooter, or the Secret Service man accidentally killing him with his Ak47. I could go on and on, but it is clear that the researchers here, which I do not begin to include myself as one, must work toward some consensus in order to counter such name calling by such people as Mr Aynesworth.

Terry,

Be assured that some people are working behind the scenes towards a grand jury investigation, its just that they are mainly internet shy, and for good reason.

As for Aynsworth, his role as a CIA asset has been well documented, but he's not just working for the opposition, he does have some investigative instincts, as his article exposing the head of the Dallas Crime Commission as a criminal on the lam using an alias and wanted for fraud. It's a great story, and its a same he didn't apply the same journalist instincts to recognize that Oswald couldn't have committed the assassination alone, or at all.

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