Hardly any of this fall’s crop of television shows about President Kennedy are new or otherwise interesting enough to watch, according to a comprehensive survey Nov. 8 by the Washington Post’s TV critic Hank Stuever.
But Stuever’s survey contains clues that he and his newspaper cannot be trusted on this survey.
“We still don’t know what made Oswald do it,” the critic wrote, “but we sure know a lot about his last two days alive.”
By such conclusory words, the Post shows that its critic lacks the curiosity, knowledge, or intellectual courage that might have made the topic interesting to him or to his readers. Seventy-one percent of the public disbelieve the “Lone Gunman Theory” documented by the Warren Commission in 1964, according to a recent poll by the History channel in advance of its special documentary scheduled for Nov. 22.
Other polls have shown a majority of Americans with similar views. Significant but rarely reported evidence exists also that Oswald was on the government payroll as a likely double-agent, and may not have shot anyone.
The Post’s treatment of TV shows provides an apt complement to the Justice Integrity Project’s previous Readers Guide report on new books about the JFK assassination.
On Nov. 6, our project published Disputes Erupt Over NY Times, New Yorker, WashPo Reviews of JFK Murder. That column showed that the Washington Post is among the leading print publications that self-censor their treatments of the 70 new books this year focused, at least in part, on the assassination. As the landmark 50th anniversary of the murder approaches on Nov. 22, most of the TV shows are respectful memories of the overall presidency, as in the family photo at right, or watered-down coverage of the assassination.
Therefore, no one should be surprised that Stuever’s newspaper — which has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Warren Commission findings from the start — would marginalize in its TV coverage those whose films and documentaries undercut conventional wisdom.
Newspaper self-censorship is self-reinforcing because TV producers need corporate go-aheads for financing. At many stages thereafter, their story-telling impulses to win viewers conflict with corporate realities, including federal regulation of parent companies and affiliates.
The column below examines more deeply these TV shows about the Kennedy era — and why critics like Stuever pooh-pooh the results.