The past week’s news coverage and commentary on President Kennedy’s 1963 assassination provides a rare if not unique window into the practices of the nation’s news media.
The vast majority of the nation’s largest and most prestigious media stuck to the Warren Commission’s 1964 “lone assassin” theory blaming Lee Harvey Oswald, according to my unscientific observations for this seventh part in the Justice Integrity Project’s “JFK Assassination Readers Guide.”
Thus, Dan Rather and his former CBS colleague Marvin Kalb agreed that Oswald was the sole killer at a forum on the topic sponsored by the National Press Club on Nov. 22. Rather, at left in the photo by Noel St. John, anchors HDNet on cable after more than three decades at CBS News, including a report from Dallas breaking on radio the first news that Kennedy had died. Kalb, covering the State Department at the time for CBS, now teaches and offers a news discussion forum called The Kalb Report.
Much like the major players, significant numbers of left-of-center media that had established web-based platforms as alternative voices fell in line also with conventional wisdom sneering at so-called “conspiracy theories” that are endorsed by large majorities of the public, according to polls.
As nearly always since the assassination, top leaders undertook symbolic gestures with soaring rhetoric but scant comment on the substance of the mysteries that linger from the greatest murder mystery of the past century.
In the White House photo at left, the Obamas and Clintons participated in a ceremony Nov. 20 at President Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Ceremony. The capital’s Washington Monument visible in the background.
Meanwhile, iconoclastic writers continued to publish books and articles blaming the JFK assassination on the CIA, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and sinister forces that included others in the Eastern Establishment working with a network of other Kennedy opponents or hirelings that included Texas oil plutocrats, the Mafia, and anti-Castro extremists.
Those gaining the most sales traction with such views included authors Dr. Jerome Corsi and Roger Stone, each a longtime conservative. Their muckraking attacks on the CIA, its patrons and allies (including at the top levels of the media) break with traditional support by conservatives to provide much-expanded powers for intelligence agencies.
Strange though the unconventional view might seem regarding multiple sinister alliances, my research has found significant support for its themes, as amplified below in a survey of recent commentary.
On a trip to Dallas from Nov. 21 to 24, for example, I sampled four conferences or ceremonies focused on the Kennedy death. I met a number of experts who made compelling arguments that their views are ignored by media and government alike, no matter what their proof or first-hand experience. These included physicians, scientists, authors, journalists, and friends of Oswald.
To varying degrees, they argued that the fatal shots came from the front, that evidence was faked in advance, that Oswald was a “patsy” because he was a CIA and FBI informant under longstanding orders to do what he was told. Most important, they said the mainstream media’s failure to examine the evidence represents professional cowardice and a danger to democracy.