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Who told Billings to cool it?


Pat Speer
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According to Jerry Policoff's article on the media and the Kennedy assassination, in January 1967, Life magazine's Dick Billings was told by a superior that "It is not Life Magazine's function to investigate the Kennedy assassination." This effectively ended the series begun in November 1966.

Does anyone know 1) who was the superior who told Billings to back off, 2) what day in January this occurred, and 3) where Policoff heard about this? Did Billings write about this incident? Tink Thompson? I've been unable to locate Policoff's source. Did Policoff interview Billings for his article? I'm trying to figure out if this incident is connected to McCloy's involvement in the CBS special. Your help appreciated...

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According to Jerry Policoff's article on the media and the Kennedy assassination, in January 1967, Life magazine's Dick Billings was told by a superior that "It is not Life Magazine's function to investigate the Kennedy assassination." This effectively ended the series begun in November 1966.

Does anyone know 1) who was the superior who told Billings to back off, 2) what day in January this occurred, and 3) where Policoff heard about this? Did Billings write about this incident? Tink Thompson? I've been unable to locate Policoff's source. Did Policoff interview Billings for his article? I'm trying to figure out if this incident is connected to McCloy's involvement in the CBS special. Your help appreciated...

Pat

The following excerpt is taken from "The Taking Of America 1 2 3," chapter nine,

"Control of The Media." It describes how Billings was abruptly told by Life to stop the

investigatory piece he was working on.

Bill C

The government naturally did not respond to Life's suggestion for a new investigation, so nothing ever came of that editorial policy. Billings, however, continued his team's efforts and in October 1968 was preparing a comprehensive article for the November anniversary issue. The author continued to work with him and continued being given access to the photos right up to October 1968.

It was at that point in time that a drastic change in management policy occurred at Life magazine. Dick Billings was told to stop all work on the assassination; his entire team was stopped. All of the research files, including the Zapruder film and slides and thousands of other film frames and photographs, were locked up. No one at the magazine was permitted access to these materials and no one (including the author) was ever allowed to see them again.

Simultaneously, editorial and management policy toward the assassination changed to complete silence. Billings and crew were not allowed to discuss the subject at Life, let alone work on it. In November 1968 the article Billings had been working on was turned into a non-entity. A few of the hundreds of photographs collected by the author and purchased by Life were published in the article, along with an innocuous commentary. Credit for discovering the photos was given to a number of people at Life magazine in New York and Dallas, not to the individuals who actually found them.

That article, published nearly nine years ago, was the last word Life has ever uttered about their extensive research probe and their feelings about a conspiracy. Dick Billings moved to Washington, D.C. to become editor of the Congressional Quarterly and is a member on the board of directors of the Committee to Investigate Assassinations (CTIA).

Who made the policy change decision at Life and why? Various high-level conspiracy enthusiasts claim that the cabal behind the assassination of the President brought extreme pressure to bear upon the owners and management of Time Inc. to silence all opposition to the Warren Commission findings. Others conclude it had something to do with the CIA's control of Life's editorial policy from inside. This author takes no position on why. Dick Billings knows only that the decision was made at high levels and passed downward and that it was irrevocable.

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According to Jerry Policoff's article on the media and the Kennedy assassination, in January 1967, Life magazine's Dick Billings was told by a superior that "It is not Life Magazine's function to investigate the Kennedy assassination." This effectively ended the series begun in November 1966.

Does anyone know 1) who was the superior who told Billings to back off, 2) what day in January this occurred, and 3) where Policoff heard about this? Did Billings write about this incident? Tink Thompson? I've been unable to locate Policoff's source. Did Policoff interview Billings for his article? I'm trying to figure out if this incident is connected to McCloy's involvement in the CBS special. Your help appreciated...

Pat

The following excerpt is taken from "The Taking Of America 1 2 3," chapter nine,

"Control of The Media." It describes how Billings was abruptly told by Life to stop the

investigatory piece he was working on.

Bill C

The government naturally did not respond to Life's suggestion for a new investigation, so nothing ever came of that editorial policy. Billings, however, continued his team's efforts and in October 1968 was preparing a comprehensive article for the November anniversary issue. The author continued to work with him and continued being given access to the photos right up to October 1968.

It was at that point in time that a drastic change in management policy occurred at Life magazine. Dick Billings was told to stop all work on the assassination; his entire team was stopped. All of the research files, including the Zapruder film and slides and thousands of other film frames and photographs, were locked up. No one at the magazine was permitted access to these materials and no one (including the author) was ever allowed to see them again.

Simultaneously, editorial and management policy toward the assassination changed to complete silence. Billings and crew were not allowed to discuss the subject at Life, let alone work on it. In November 1968 the article Billings had been working on was turned into a non-entity. A few of the hundreds of photographs collected by the author and purchased by Life were published in the article, along with an innocuous commentary. Credit for discovering the photos was given to a number of people at Life magazine in New York and Dallas, not to the individuals who actually found them.

That article, published nearly nine years ago, was the last word Life has ever uttered about their extensive research probe and their feelings about a conspiracy. Dick Billings moved to Washington, D.C. to become editor of the Congressional Quarterly and is a member on the board of directors of the Committee to Investigate Assassinations (CTIA).

Who made the policy change decision at Life and why? Various high-level conspiracy enthusiasts claim that the cabal behind the assassination of the President brought extreme pressure to bear upon the owners and management of Time Inc. to silence all opposition to the Warren Commission findings. Others conclude it had something to do with the CIA's control of Life's editorial policy from inside. This author takes no position on why. Dick Billings knows only that the decision was made at high levels and passed downward and that it was irrevocable.

Hi Pat/Bill:

I have other material that relates directly to this particular issue, Pat, some of which are part and parcel of my forthcoming Connally book. If I can find the time, I will share some of this with the Forum.

Gary Murr

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According to Jerry Policoff's article on the media and the Kennedy assassination, in January 1967, Life magazine's Dick Billings was told by a superior that "It is not Life Magazine's function to investigate the Kennedy assassination." This effectively ended the series begun in November 1966.

As the Policoff article states: "Within months, Billings was told by a superior he won't name, "It is not Life's function to investigate the Kennedy assassination." The investigative team was disbanded. The first article in the series was also the last." I've encountered nothing to indicate Billings ever had a change of heart on naming that name. Further, whomever made this demand to Billings may have merely been the messenger, rather than the party who dictated that the message be delivered. Hence, it may be unknowable.

Does anyone know 1) who was the superior who told Billings to back off, 2) what day in January this occurred, and 3) where Policoff heard about this? Did Billings write about this incident? Tink Thompson? I've been unable to locate Policoff's source. Did Policoff interview Billings for his article? I'm trying to figure out if this incident is connected to McCloy's involvement in the CBS special. Your help appreciated...

Ed Kearns and Tink Thompson were Billings' cohorts in the LIFE debacle. I don't know whether Kearns is still alive, but if you post something about where Mary Moorman was standing at the time she took her famous Polaroid, you'll no doubt hear from Tink in short order. If you ask nicely, perhaps he'll disclose what Billings hasn't.

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Thanks for the help, guys. Is Billings mistaken about the timing? Policoff says it happened in January 67, not 68. It occurred to me that, according to Policoff's article, Life and the NY Times both closed ranks behind the WC's findings in December 66/January 67. This was precisely when McCloy took over the CBS investigation and changed it from The Warren Commission on Trial to A Defense of the Warren Commission. How close was McCloy to the Luce and Sulzberger clans?

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  • 4 months later...

Does anyone know IF C.D. Jackson had any involvement in the Pawley-Bayo mission? Billings was on this 1963 mission that was run by the CIA behind Kennedy's back. C. D. is an interesting character, given his very close ties to Eisenhower, his expertise in the media manipulation. If I am not mistaken, he was working for Eisenhower during Operation PBSUCCESS, and then began working for Time-Life before later returning to the White House. Might he have known any of the people involved in early Ike-Nixon anti-Castro operations?

Also would C.D. Jackson still have been with Time-Life in 1967? Would he have been involved in manipulating the Billings investigation? Given Billings participation in the Pawley-Bayo mission, and his very close ties to vitriolic anti-Kennedy forces doesn't it seem strange that he would be put in charge of a

Time-Life assassinaiton story? Might his objectivity be questioned?

On the other hand he may have had the right phone numbers. Was he foolishly honest? Did his first hand knowledge get him too close to the truth?

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Thanks James. That detail would seem to be relevant to the 1967 part of my question.

I just looked up C.D. Jackson in P.D. Scott's Deep Politics and the Death of JFK. Perhaps this is the source of my curiosity:

Carl Bernstein called jackson "Herny Luce's personal emissary to the CIA", and claimed that in the 1950s Jackson had

arranged for CIA employees to travel with Time-Life credentials as cover. If Bernstein is right, then Jackson may have

coordinated Luce's subsidy through Life of Cuban exile raids on Castro's Cuba which were explicitly designed to challenge

Kennedy's steps towards detente with the Soviet Union. In that case, it would have been Jackson who arranged for Richard Billings,

then one of his in-laws, to represent Life on boar a joint Life-and mob-backed raid, the Bayo-Pawley mission, whose later

involvement in 'phase one' conspiracy allegations may have impelled both the CIA and Life itself into the ranks

of phase two supporters (p. 55)

I did not remember that Billings was an in-law of Jackson.

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  • 4 years later...

Thanks for the help, guys. Is Billings mistaken about the timing? Policoff says it happened in January 67, not 68. It occurred to me that, according to Policoff's article, Life and the NY Times both closed ranks behind the WC's findings in December 66/January 67. This was precisely when McCloy took over the CBS investigation and changed it from The Warren Commission on Trial to A Defense of the Warren Commission. How close was McCloy to the Luce and Sulzberger clans?

I think Tink has responded to this before, but I couldn't find it. Sorry, Tink.

Tink, do you know anything about the shutdown of Billings' investigation, and who ordered it?

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Pat what brought this on, five years later?

Maybe it was Hollis McCombs.

I've been looking through a lot of old articles, which has resuscitated my interest in the 11-66--1-67 time period. In this period, Life, CBS, and the New York Times all launched investigations into the assassination. The NY Times canceled their investigation around December. CBS changed the direction of their investigation into being a defense of the WC around this same time. Which leaves Life. As I recall Life continued to do articles on the assassination, but stopped pushing for a new investigation, and ultimately helped undermine Garrison's investigation. I seem to recall Tink's putting some exact dates on the timing of these changes in attitude, and would like to include them in a time-line, if possible.

Thanks for the reminder about Holland McCombs.

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Patricia Lambert's FALSE WITNESS discusses the LIFE/Garrison episode.

Dave

David Reitzes' Amazon review:

The assassination of John F. Kennedy was one of the great tragedies in our history. People have always suspected that there was something being covered up about the crime, and when Jim Garrison came along to point fingers at the FBI, the CIA, the military-industrial complex, President Lyndon B. Johnson, and anyone else he could get a bead on, many people thought, "He must have SOMETHING."

But he didn't. As Patricia Lambert's groundbreaking book demonstrates in brutal detail, every claim of Garrison's was a lie and every bit of "evidence" was phony. He conducted a witch-hunt that wrecked the lives of several innocent people, all the while shouting, "Wait till the trial! Wait till the trial!" And at the trial, he had . . . nothing.

But Garrison proved to be a master craftsman at one particular feat: the comeback. His 1988 memoirs make a compulsive page-turner that convinced Oliver Stone to bring Garrison to the big screen. There was only one problem: a whole new generation was conned.

Patricia Lambert dismantles the entire fiction, revealing the truth behind what really went on in Garrison's circus, debunking the DA's book page by page, and examining the way Oliver Stone fudged the facts to make a hero out of a McCarthy-esque demagogue. The result is the devastating true story of a monstrous abuse of power and public trust.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A3S12OSXYDQOTR/ref=cm_cr_pr_auth_rev?ie=UTF8&sort_by=MostRecentReview

An excerpt from another review by Reitzes:

All of these reservations must be taken in context: Lambert's book is neither an unimportant work or an example of poor scholarship. Rather, I am lamenting that a groundbreaking, eye-opening, highly significant examination of a genuine American disgrace isn't the exhaustive and wholly definitive study I would have liked, nor is Lambert's work presented with the ample documentary resources necessary to demonstrate just how thoroughly researched and well supported are her conclusions.

The bottom line is that Lambert has exposed the real Jim Garrison for the very first time in a way that illuminates both the bizarre nature of his investigation and the personal and political forces that not only made it possible, but that enabled Garrison to rise from his own ashes two decades later with the paradoxical triumph of Oliver Stone's artistically magnificent and historically indefensible motion picture.

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/lambert.htm

An excerpt from Rosemary James' review:

False Witness is an admirable compilation, a reliable history, suitable for use in classroom teaching.

One can hope that future generations will get their history from unbiased, thoroughly documented accounts such as Lambert's instead of relying lazily on the fiction of movies. The depressing thing is that even if the book turns into a huge success, the vast majority of those who saw "JFK" will never read this book.

One must rely on the discernment and common sense of the American public, which, after all, produced Patricia Lambert. A free-lance writer, line editor and researcher, Lambert, like so many Americans, thought "He must have something," and was disillusioned in the wake of the trial. "I felt I had been conned," she said in a recent interview. "When Oliver Stone cranked up 'JFK,' I realized we were being conned yet again. I wanted to know just how Garrison was managing to do it one more time." Her book is the result of her determination to get some answers to that question.

http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/james_on_lambert.htm

An excerpt from Tracy Parnell's review:

Patricia Lambert has done a tremendous service with the publication of False Witness. This book should be required reading for anyone seeing JFK; in fact, they should sell it at Blockbuster Video. I believe that the opinion of Stone and his film among the general public would be much different if it were. Stone knew, however, that the average movie-goer (especially generation “X” types) would not be knowledgeable about the subject, and he would be free to rewrite history.

Stone’s motive in all this? Money, of course, but also he sought in this film (as he had in Nixon and Born on the Fourth of July, among others) to inject meaning into his own Vietnam experience. Garrison’s motive in prosecuting Shaw in the first place? Most likely, he sought publicity that he hoped would help him attain higher office.

In addition to the material discussed in this review, Lambert adds a full chapter on the Christenberry decision in which Garrison was prevented from further prosecution of Shaw. Also included is an appendix, which lists the many lies and distortions of Garrison’s book On the Trail of the Assassins.

In False Witness, Lambert shows without a doubt that Jim Garrison’s case against Clay Shaw was completely without merit. She also demonstrates that any film based on this miscarriage of justice would be congenitally flawed This is a landmark work and should be required reading for anyone studying the assassination of John F. Kennedy, particularly Garrison’s investigation.

http://jfkassassination.net/parnell/fw.htm

And finally, for a little balance, here is Jim DiEugenio and Bill Davy's Probe review: http://www.ctka.net/pr599-lambert.html

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Glad to help, Pat. But I don't think I have anything significant.

I was employed as a consultant to LIFE from about November 1, 1966 to March 1, 1967. I think the last interview I did for LIFE was of Dr. Boswell in Maryland in January 1967. It was done with Ed Kern and could have been December 1966 but I don't think so. I never heard from Dick Billings of anyone "shutting down" the investigation. The impression I had was that it simply ran out of gas. I was not displeased by this because I was teaching fulltime and had to get this book done. I should also point out that I was closer to Ed Kern because we worked together. Had someone "shut down" Billings' investigation, I think it is doubtful he would have told me that, or complained about it. I never did come to understand who Billings reported to besides George Hunt, the editor, and never had an understanding of how decisions got made there. I do know that I was told that some ten or twelve editors had to sign off on the November 25, 1966 article we put together before it could be published. This style of "Committee journalism" meant that things got reduced to a common denominator.

JT

Thanks for the help, guys. Is Billings mistaken about the timing? Policoff says it happened in January 67, not 68. It occurred to me that, according to Policoff's article, Life and the NY Times both closed ranks behind the WC's findings in December 66/January 67. This was precisely when McCloy took over the CBS investigation and changed it from The Warren Commission on Trial to A Defense of the Warren Commission. How close was McCloy to the Luce and Sulzberger clans?

I think Tink has responded to this before, but I couldn't find it. Sorry, Tink.

Tink, do you know anything about the shutdown of Billings' investigation, and who ordered it?

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