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CNN, Vincent Bugliosi, and The Assassination of President Kennedy

Pat Speer

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I am keeping track of the media's response to the 50th anniversary here:


Here is my latest post;

November 14: The Assassination of President Kennedy, a two-hour program, premieres on CNN. It is not a CNN production, however. It is a Playtone Production, a Tom Hanks Production. While the feature film Parkland was a Playtone Production, and was purported to have been based on Vincent Bugliosi's 1800-page hate letter to the JFK research community, Reclaiming History, it was not, as many of the facts presented ran counter to the facts in Bugliosi's book. This one is the real deal, however. Oddly, however, this film gives no credit to Bugliosi. While he is heavily featured in the film, he is but one of a number of talking heads. And yet, there he is, repeatedly spewing crazy-assed nonsense about how the conspiracy research community nit-picked at the Warren Report, and convinced a gullible public it should no longer trust its government. I'm not kidding. According to this program, it was the JFK research community, not Lyndon Johnson's lies about Vietnam, not Richard Nixon's embrace of the Southern Strategy, not Watergate, that tore this country apart and destroyed the public's trust in institutions. While other heads are shown, it is Bugliosi's nasty demeanor and finger-pointing that dominates. Now, this may seem mean, and it probably is, but it's clear this was not a decision made by a director: Bugliosi, as fellow talking heads Edward Jay Epstein, and Priscilla McMillan, looks terrible, like a talking corpse. No competent director of a television program wants to show horrible looking faces talking when he can show archival footage or photos using the Ken Burns effect. It seems clear then that someone partial to Bugliosi insisted his horrible visage be featured--so that he could personally scold the majority of the audience thinking he is wrong. And that's terrible, in my opinion. This program is on CNN, a news channel, and yet the program is, at its core, not a news program, but a commentary. It's pretty much Vincent Bugliosi, with the help of long-dead colleagues such as Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid, calling the research community--many of whom CNN knows will be watching the program, a bunch of "ignorant sluts." It's a disgrace, in my opinion. I mean, I don't recall anything in the build up to the program or its opening credits admitting that the program was based upon Bugliosi's Reclaiming History, and was a pre-planned defense of the Warren Commission. But that's what it was.

There was, for example:

Bugliosi claiming the Dallas Police were 100% convinced Oswald was a nut and that he acted alone before he was killed. This is nonsense. They were then, and remained, concerned that Oswald was part of a larger plot.

Robert Caro claiming that Earl Warren was asked to run the commission investigating Kennedy's murder because he was "universally respected for his integrity." This is hoo-ha, designed to hide that Warren was a highly controversial figure, and perhaps the least trusted American among a large minority of the populace. He then says pretty much the same about Senator Richard Russell, who was also roped onto the commission. This served to hide that Russell was put on the Commission to be President Johnson's "man" on the Commission, and that the Commission was not just designed to please the public, but be subservient to Johnson's will.

Old footage of Mark Lane on the Merv Griffin show arguing with David Susskind. In this footage, Lane shows a photo of someone he thinks is Jack Ruby taken outside the school book depository. If it's Ruby, that's a problem. Ruby said he wasn't anywhere near there. But it wasn't. It seems likely then that this footage was cherry-picked to give the indication the claims of the critics were spurious. Sure enough, just after this Bugliosi's horrible face complains that when you have critics "looking at every word, every comma, they can create a lot of mischief."

After showing more vintage TV appearances by Penn Jones, Robert Welch, Carlos Bringuier, Edward Jay Epstein and Cyril Wecht, including Mark Lane's famous clash with conservative pundit William F. Buckley, Bugliosi returns to explain that the American public's "decreasing trust in the government all started with the Kennedy assassination." Now, Mark Lane might say the same thing, but in context Bugliosi is saying that this was a bad thing, based on nothing. Max Holland then appears and says much the same thing: "those critics" caused a lot of turmoil. In the eyes of Bugliosi and Holland, apparently, President Johnson's sending thousands of young men off to die in a little-known corner of the world called Vietnam had little to do with it.

And the hits just keep on coming. We see Arlen Specter on the BBC, defending the Warren Report. We see former FBI man Bill Turner talk about the grassy knoll. We see Mark Lane interview S.M. Holland about the smoke he saw on the knoll. At this point, Bugliosi returns to tell us no bullets were found. Why, of course. The program then briefly addresses the problems with the autopsy. Well, not really. Warren Commission attorney Howard Willens tells the audience "There was a wound in the back of the neck that had not been seen by the Parkland doctors because they never turned the body over." As he says this, moreover, the program shows us the HSCA's tracing of the back wound photo, which proves the wound to have been in the back, not neck! And then, instead of pointing out the problems with the location of the back wound, and that the Warren Commission's exhibits had moved it up to the base of the neck, the program brings Max Holland on to describe Dr. Perry's saying the throat wound was an entrance in the press conference shortly following the death of the president. He presents this as just a mistake, which would be fine, if he acknowledged that the Warren Commission gave red meat to the "critics" by concluding Dr. Perry had never said the wound was an entrance, and that it was all a misinterpretation on the part of the press, while simultaneously claiming they couldn't find a transcript for the press conference...even though it would eventually come out that President Johnson had one all along.

Bugliosi then pounces on the critics' claim Kennedy's back and to the left movement in the Zapruder film suggested he was shot from the front. He fails to admit, of course, that his argument against this came courtesy a "critic." The program then shows Dan Rather ask Kennedy's autopsist in 1967 if the entry he observed on the back of Kennedy's head was an entrance, and Humes respond that he had "No doubt." Well, my God. This hid from the viewers that the government whom those creating this program wishes we would trust decided less than a year later that Humes was either lying or grossly mistaken, and that there was no entrance on the back of Kennedy's head within 4 inches of where he claimed he saw an entrance. And this hid that, within this same interview, Dr. Humes offered unconditional support for the accuracy of a drawing made for the Warren Commission that the government, in 1978, would come to claim was inaccurate, and offer a tracing of an autopsy photo as proof.

The program then moves on to discuss the single-bullet theory, and how the timing of the Zapruder film made its creation necessary. It shows vintage footage of Dr. Cyril Wecht arguing against the theory. The program shows an overview of the limousine, with Governor Connally sitting directly in front of President Kennedy, and a bullet trajectory connecting Kennedy's throat with Connally's right armpit that makes a right then left turn. Then up pops Bugliosi to tell his favorite lie. He says "The reality is that Connally was not seated directly in front of Kennedy." Then BAM, Connally's seat is slid over 6 inches, and everything aligns. Now, this of course, is a lie. As discussed throughout my website, the seat was not 6 inches inboard of the door, but 2 1/2. I squabbled over this with Bugliosi's associate Dale Myers, who admitted this was the case. It's intriguing, then, that Bugliosi doesn't say the seat was inboard 6 inches in the program--like he did in his book. Perhaps, then, he's been told this is a lie, and is no longer willing to say that. If so, well, then the program's sliding the seat over six inches is even more deceptive, and inexcusable.

Jack Ruby is up next. Bugliosi, of course, totally dismisses that Ruby would kill Oswald for the mob, as purported. He acts as though that's the silliest thing he'd ever heard. The program does not let ts viewers know that Ruby was in contact with a number of mob killers in the weeks leading up to the assassination, and also hides that Robert Blakey, the chief counsel to the House Select Committee that re-investigated the assassination in the 1970's, and followed through on a number of leads over-looked by the Warren Commission, suspects mob involvement to this day.

The program then goes after a prime target: former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who tried to investigate Kennedy's death in the late sixties. Jim Garrison's prosecution of Clay Shaw as an accessory to the murder of Kennedy is presented not just as an unfortunate over-reach, but a total farce. Bugliosi denounces it as "The most shameful thing you've ever seen." As if there was no there there. According to Bugliosi and a woman named Rosemary James, Garrison bribed witnesses to go after Shaw and keep his name in the headlines; they make it seem, even, that Perry Russo, a man claiming to have been at a meeting with Shaw and Oswald, was hypnotized by Garrison into saying so. They show Garrison on the Johnny Carson show, being criticized by Johnny. They fail to show Garrison's response to Carson's criticisms, in which he more than held his own. They fail to mention that David Ferrie, a man with long-since proven ties to Shaw, Oswald, the mafia, and a right-wing private investigator/former FBI man named Guy Banister, died unexpectedly, just as Garrison's investigation was circling in on him. They fail to mention that leaflets printed up by Oswald had an address on them with which he had no connection, but which was in the building of Banister's office. They fail to mention that a number of residents of the town of Clinton, Louisiana claimed to see Oswald in the company of Ferrie and another man who some think was Shaw, and that the HSCA found them credible.

It just gets worse and worse. Now Bugliosi goes after the critics as a whole, arguing that the critics have accused so many people of involvement in the assassination that they shouldn't be taken seriously. This argument is one of the lamest-brained arguments in existence. How does a complaint that someone in the position to get at the bottom of something has failed to do so require the one making the complaint to first get at the bottom of this something? What kind of batxxxx-crazy logic is that, counselor? Dan Rather is then brought in to support this we-never-found-nothing-so-nothing-exists kind of argument. It then falls upon Bugliosi and Max Holland to go through Oswald's life, and make him out as a potential assassin for wanting to be more than he was--as if ambition is itself suspicious--as if these smug uglies never wanted to be more than they turned out to be? Priscilla McMillan then joins in on the character assassination and performs the tortured twist that Oswald's purported attempt on the life of General Walker--a racist fascist at war with the U.S. Government--is the "Rosetta Stone" proving Oswald also had it within him to kill Kennedy.

The program now reaches the home stretch, which means its time to call out all the dogs to try to sell both Oswald's guilt, and the guilt of the research community for trying to make us think he might have been innocent. In short order, the ghost of CBS commentator Eric Sevareid tells us that people can't accept Oswald's killing Kennedy because it's too hard to accept "all that power and majesty being wiped out by one skinny, weak-chinned, little character." This is followed by historian Jim Newton, an obvious Bugliosi sycophant, who was not coincidentally pegged to review Bugliosi's book for The Los Angeles Times, and who called Bugliosi's book "A book for the ages" at the same time Bugliosi was telling people he'd like his book to be called "A book for the ages," telling us that it is just hard for people to grasp that a "small person of no distinction can be of such historical consequence." The program then cuts back to 1967, with Walter Cronkite defending the single-bullet theory, and then back to today with Robert Caro telling us the randomness of the killing forces us--people who he assumes have never had a family member die unexpectedly, or had a kid shipped off to die for no reason--seek meaning behind the act by grasping for conspiracy theories. This theme is then repeated--that for some--clearly not the superior people on the program--it feels safer to believe a conspiracy killed Kennedy and that we've been lied to ever since than that he was killed by one weirdo. Bugliosi is then whisked back to mourn that due to the efforts of the Warren Commission's critics many have "lost so much faith in the government that they actually think the government is an accessory after the fact to the President's murder." Caro then closes it out, claiming the presidents that followed Kennedy lacked his inspirational qualities, and that the country won't get over his death until an equally inspirational president comes along.

Holy smokes... The program couldn't have been any more deceptive and insulting... Its clear purpose was to scold people who still suspect a conspiracy for not being as wise as the likes of Walter Cronkite, David Susskind, Eric Sevareid, Dan Rather, Johnny Carson, Vincent Bugliosi, Max Holland, and Robert Caro. What a disgrace. CNN's viewers--not to mention the world as a whole--deserved a thoughtful analysis of the evidence, not this crap.

Edited by Pat Speer
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  • 5 months later...

It is true that there are many who believe that the “decreasing trust in the government all started with the Kennedy assassination.” I have had that distrust laid at my feet many times by many people, as I was the first to question J. Edgar Hoover’s assertion, made within hours, almost minutes, of the assassination, with no time for any investigation, that Oswald shot the President and did it alone. Somehow, without my knowledge, I became the father of the credibility gap.

While I no longer look into the details of the assassination -- I leave that to the rest of you -- I am aware of how the questioning of the government is used as a two edged sword against those of us who continue to seek the truth about all aspects of the government. Transparency is something to fight for, but is almost always, especially in this era of increasing oligarchic tendencies, elusive.

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Mr Lane, thanks for posting on this forum. Despite the dwindling numbers, there's still some great interaction here. I've been reading this forum for years. I hope the powers that be keep it functioning. I had the pleasure of meeting you in Pittsburgh last year. Here's my take... I lived in Hoboken NJ for 16 years. 2 of the 4 mayors while I was in town went to jail for corruption related charges. I then moved to central New Jersey. In the last few years the mayor for Hamilton has gone to jail and the major of Trenton has been busted too. Throw in the problems our Gov has had and you get the picture of what's going on here. Of course you lived in NYC so you know the deal. We've recently had two incidents in our country that have shown the willingness of society to evolve: the incident with the NBA Clippers' owner (race related), and the first openly gay football player drafted in the NFL (sexual orientation). I ask you, when is our political system going to evolve in the same way. When are the people going demand truth and transparency. Something has to turn the tide. Perhaps people who vote in all their state, local, national elections get a tax credit.. that might work..Ha! Someone needs to write a book that links the events from the 60's to today... that explains the impact that fraudulent behavior has on society. A book that's geared towards the younger generation. If it's been written, I'd like to buy it!

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