Well-credentialed critics argued during recent days that three of the nation’s most prestigious publications failed in major retrospectives this fall to provide fair coverage of books about President Kennedy’s murder.
With many new books and films timed for the fiftieth anniversary Nov. 22, critics attacked the New York Times, New Yorker and Washington Post for separate comprehensive historical surveys that minimized criticism of the Warren Commission. The nine-member commission led by then-Chief Justice Earl Warren concluded in 1964 that Lee Harvey Oswald, age 24, shot the president no accomplices.
Salon founder David Talbot, author of a major book on the killing, published a Salon column Nov. 6 entitled, JFK assassination: CIA and New York Times are still lying to us. Talbot is among critics who argue that the CIA was involved in the killing and cover-up.
Somewhat similarly, Esquire blogger Josh Ozersky published The Big Problem With Calling People ‘Conspiracy Theorists,’ which denounced the New Yorker’s recent overview of the killing. Ozersky and Talbot are among those alleging that the CIA implemented a secret campaign to pressure leading news organizations to accept the commission’s findings with minimal scrutiny. Ozersky argued this week that the New Yorker’s coverage this fall followed the CIA’s 1960s request to the most trusted news executives to have their outlets label critics of the Warren Commission as “conspiracy theorists” and similar denigrating terms to marginalize their work and career opportunities.
In a different, more personal critique, University of Virginia professor Larry Sabato, left, author of a new best-seller and an innovative on-line course about the murder, objected to what he called misleading coverage in the Washington Post’s major survey of new books, including Sabato’s.
“David Greenberg’s review of my book The Kennedy Half Century in the Washington Post on Oct. 27,” Sabato wrote, “was highly inaccurate and misleading. While I don’t ordinarily respond to criticism, I am compelled to do so in this instance.” Greenberg defended his review, which included the mainstream writer Sabato but was part of overall coverage in a seven-page Outlook section that emphasized almost exclusively the Warren Commission’s themes despite a Sabato-commissioned poll finding that most Americans believe the commission was wrong.
The Justice Integrity Project examines these disputes below as part of our multi-part Readers Guide to the assassination. The significance is that major disputes of great current importance continue to percolate even at opinion-leading publications regarding one of the nation’s leading murder mysteries.
For a host of reasons, the claim of government complicity with the media in the crime and cover-up still prevents major publications from covering the story normally, without heavy self-censorship. The historical disputes noted in this column are one result.
So is continuing damage to democracy. Presidents Kennedy, Eisenhower and Truman — our first three Cold War leaders — all had strong views that the intelligence agencies they had helped create were becoming too powerful along with their private sector patrons.
Explore these themes below, and more fully in my new book, Presidential Puppetry and in future columns in this Readers Guide series. The series covers the more than 70 new books this year on the assassination, as well as the special conferences and movies on the topic.