Fact Check: Were Bobby Kennedy Jr.’s comments about JFK evidence accurate?

RFK Jr.’s claims

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s comments that his father did not believe that a “lone-gunman” killed his uncle, President John F. Kennedy, have now been covered by all four television networks (CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC), and gone viral on the internet. The remarks marked the first time a Kennedy family member has publicly questioned the official theory that JFK was killed by a lone gunman.

Were RFK Jr.’s remarks factually accurate? 

Interviewed before an audience at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, RFK Jr. told moderator Charlie Rose, “…when they examined Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald’s phone records…they saw…an inventory of the Mafia leaders that they had been investigating….”

Ideally, we would fact check from a recording, but no video or audio of the Winspear event is yet available. JFK Facts is seeking to obtain a tape, but with two fairly consistent published accounts of RFK Jr.’s remarks in the Dallas Morning News (one by staff writer David Flick, one by editorial writer Rodger Jones), RFK Jr.’s comments can be checked.

JFK Facts started by checking in with Jean Davison. As author of the book Oswald’s Game, which portrays Oswald as the lone assassin, Davis is known as a meticulous researcher. She comes to an unpopular (and, I would say mistaken) conclusion concerning Oswald’s singular guilt, but her intellectual independence is not in question.

“This stood out to me,” Davison wrote in an email. “‘Phone records of Oswald … ‘were like an inventory’ of Mafia leaders…’ Of course, Oswald had no phone records since he never had a phone. Anyone can believe in a conspiracy, but where is the evidence? If Robert Kennedy ‘had investigators do research into the assassination,’ are Ruby’s phone records (or Oswald’s non-existent ones) really the best they could come up with? Belief isn’t evidence, is it?”

Davison is correct. Oswald did not have his own telephone so there are no “Oswald phone records,” in the sense of a phone bill or a telephone company log. But, it is worth noting that Oswald is known to have made two phone calls in 1963 to his uncle, Charles “Dutz” Murret. In 1979, the final report of the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA), established that Murret associated “with organized crime figures in New Orleans, having worked for years in an underworld gambling syndicate affiliated with the Carlos Marcello crime family.”

Oswald called Murret for help twice in 1963. He called him when he first moved from Texas to New Orleans in April, and he called Murret when he was jailed for fighting with anti-Castro Cubans in August. On that occasion Murret sent a friend named Emile Bruneau to bail him out.

The HSCA’s information was credible. It came from a former prosecution witness against Teamster leader James R. Hoffa. At the time both Carlos Marcello and Jimmy Hoffa were subjects of RFK’s Justice Department investigations and both were prosecuted in Federal courts. So while Murret himself was not under investigation, he moved in a milieu that was threatened by RFK’s investigations and he provided assistance to Oswald.

As for Ruby’s phone calls, records do exist and have been studied, most extensively by the HSCA in 1979. They show that Ruby called or received phone calls in 1963 from at least seven known mobsters and union racketeers who had been investigated by RFK’s Justice Department.

John McAdams, professor at Marquette University and moderator of a popular JFK Web site, disputed RFK Jr.’s assertion that Ruby spoke with “Mafia leaders.”

“The people Ruby was calling were rather marginal figures with some Mafia association,” McAdams wrote in an email. “He was trying to get help with his problems with the AGVA [Associated Guild of Variety Artists, a union that represented burlesque dancers in Ruby's nightclub], and none of the people would help him.”

RFK Jr.’s assertion is more accurate than McAdams’. The men Ruby spoke with are more accurately described as “leaders” than as “marginal figures.”

Barney Baker was a boxer, ex-convict and “one of Hoffa’s best known associates during the McClellan Committee investigation.” RFK was the chief counsel to that committee, which “detailed Baker’s role as Hoffa’s personal liaison to various Mafia figures, as well as to a number of well-known syndicate executioners.” As counsel to the committee, RFK noted that, “sometimes the mere threat of [Baker’s] presence in a room was enough to silence the men who would otherwise have opposed Hoffa’s reign.”

Dusty Miller was another Hoffa assistant and head of the Teamster’s southern conference.

Lenny Patrick was a capo under Chicago mob boss Sam Giancana. He was, according to the HSCA, “one of the Chicago Mafia’s leading assassins and was responsible, according to Federal and State law enforcement files, for the murders of over a dozen victims of the mob,” according to Patrick.

Dave Yaras, like Patrick, was a childhood friend of Ruby from his old Chicago neighborhood, and “was overheard in a 1962 electronic surveillance discussing various underworld murder contracts he had carried out and one he had only recently been assigned.”

Lewis McWillie moved from Dallas to Cuba in 1958 to work in the Havana gambling casinos owned by Meyer Lansky and Santos Trafficante. Ruby visited him in Cuba twice and returned with cash that he deposited in a Miami bank for McWillie’s boss.

Irwin Weiner was a Chicago bail bondsman and close associate of Hoffa and Giancana and was described by investigative journalist Jack Anderson as “the underworld’s major financial figure in the Midwest.”

Nofio Pecora was an associate of an associate of Carlos Marcello. He was friends with Emile Bruneau, the man who bailed Oswald out of jail when he was arrested in August 1963.

So Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was correct in stating that Ruby made telephone calls of investigative significance to mobsters that Robert F. Kennedy, as Attorney General, would have recognized as suspects under investigation. However, he misspoke in referring to “Oswald phone records.”

26 comments

  1. Mark Groubert says:

    Where do I find these quotes about Oswald’s phone records exactly? What transcripts? They are not mentioned in the two gentlemen’s articles linked. BTW, What is your rush to get McAdams and Jean Davison on your blog to denounce RFK, JR. on the eve of such a big breakthrough in the study of the assassination? I don’t understand your thought patterns, sir. As for Davison, her book is insane. Filled with mistakes. Davison “is known as a meticulous researcher.” By whom? The Society of Meticulous Researchers? She was a psychologist for the Dallas Police Department. And McAdams of course, as always, deserves no comment. What gives here? Where is the quote about Oswald’s phone records? You boldly say at the end of your piece that RFK jr. “misspoke in referring to ‘Oswald phone records’.” Where did he misspeak? What RFKFacts are you referring to? How can you accuse this heroic man of misspeaking? Must he be discredited already? So quickly? No tape. No video. No transcript? What is this Rush To Judgement to discredit RFK jr.?

    • billkelly says:

      Cool your jets pal, I responded to McAdams and Davison’s criticism of RFK Jr.’s remarks and am defending him and what he said. Davison knows more about Oswald than practically anyone on the planet, she just comes to the wrong conclusion as to his lone guilt. I know she is meticulous. RFK misspoke about Oswald’s phone records connecting him to mobsters his father recognized from his investigations. That was the case with Ruby, not Oswald. Read it again, I am supporting RFK, Jr. not discrediting him. Get some sleep and read it again with a clear head. – Bill Kelly

      • Oh, I think David Lifton knows a lot more about Oswald than Jean Davison. She thinks Oswald was a Marxist, which is absurd; he was anything but that. As a teenager Oswald was playing spy games for the “good guys.” Davison thinks Oswald attempted to assassinate Edwin Walker, which is laughable. She thinks Oswald was a pro-Castro activist – again absurb as she buys into Oswald’s fake public persona. As Guy Bannister said, don’t worry about Oswald, he is with the office. Need I mention Oswald’s associations with ultra-rightist David Ferrie, the Civil Air Patrol and the fact that the military tested him on Russian!

        Oswald was US intelligence and very likely an FBI informer and if you don’t know that then you don’t know hardly *a thing* about Oswald.

        On top of all that Davison thinks the head kill shot to JFK came from 88 yards to his rear; another absurd notion.

        Nope – Davison has filled her head and her books with a phony narrative of Oswald created (by himself) and by his murderers (and JFK’s murderers) to posthumously frame Oswald for the JFK assassination. (Which he may have had a peripheral role in simply because he was US intelligence.)

        Other than completely blowing the reality of Oswald and who he really was, Davison knows a lot about him. Not.

        • Mark Groubert says:

          Great reply Rob to this absurd article. Thanks for that. Quoting Ms. Davison’s fictional book is simply silly at this point. It’s been thoroughly discredited.

          While I am cooling my jets, maybe the author of the piece should look at this quote from reporter Michael Granberry of the Dallas Morning News who attended the event regarding RFK Jr’s comments:

          “He then dropped a bombshell within a bombshell: RFK’s investigators secured phone records “between Oswald and Jack Ruby” for the months leading up to the assassination and they read “like an inventory of the Mafia leaders they had been investigating for the past two years.””

          RFK’s investigators secured phone records BETWEEN Oswald and Jack Ruby. BETWEEN being the operative word – not PHONE RECORDS OF OSWALD as described by author of this article. Who to believe? The reporter who attended the event, McAdams or Ms Davison?

          http://popcultureblog.dallasnews.com/2013/01/robert-f-kennedy-jr-creates-a-story-with-legs-by-offering-pro-conspiracy-views-on-his-uncles-1963-assassination-in-dealey-plaza.html/

          • billkelly says:

            Well we know there were no phone conversations BETWEEN Oswald and Ruby, and I don’t believe RFJ, Jr. meant to imply that. Gary Mack is also picking up on that BETWEEN remark and using it to discredit all of his remarks. If RFJ, Jr. did say that, then he certainly “misspoke.” You want to believe RFJ, Jr. said that then you are playing into the hands of those who want to discredit him. Jean Davison has already discredited you’re allegation that she worked for DPD.

    • Jean Davison says:

      Just for the record, I am not now nor have I ever been “a psychologist for the Dallas Police Department.”
      Jean Davison

      • Mark Groubert says:

        From Ms. Davison’s book:

        “The following month Ruby was allowed to take a
        polygraph test in his jail cell, and he showed no signs of
        deception when he denied being part of a conspiracy. Because
        of the doubts about his sanity, however, the test results
        were considered inconclusive.

        (Has she seen the results of this polygraph supposedly given by the Dallas Police Department? I would love to see the results. We would all benefit from seeing that document, I believe.)

        “The only part of this background that appears in Lane’s
        book is Ruby’s statement, “All I want to do is tell the
        truth, and that is all.” Had he presented the accompanying
        material, Lane might have argued that Ruby was faking.
        Instead, Lane cheated. He transformed a man who seemed
        pathetically anxious to prove his innocence into an honest
        conspirator desperate to reveal everything he knew. And this
        was only one of many similar distortions in RUSH TO
        JUDGMENT. ”

        (Just so we understand – Ruby, who was considered quite functional in the outside world suddenly goes crazy in jail. I presume this is after he is visited by his first visitors – the NON-MOB Campisi Brothers.)

        ” I remember feeling outraged when I realized what Lane
        had done. Evidently, the Warren records were like a vast
        lumberyard. By picking up a few pieces here and there, and
        doing some cutting and fitting, any theory could be built
        for which someone had a blueprint.”

        As we now know, Ruby named LBJ and also General Walker as being involved in the killing. How? Because of newsreel film footage we have seen and heard.
        So the question becomes: do we want to believe Ms. Davison’s book or the book Rush To Judgement by Mark Lane – who history has now proven to truly be an American Hero. Here she calls him a cheater, distorter and implies he is a liar. Really? Mark Lane? Hmm.

        Which again begs the question: Why is she being used as a source as an “expert” on Lee Harvey Oswald for this article?

        • billkelly says:

          Ruby was most certainly given a lie detector test, at his request. I don’t and will not use Lane as a source. Which again begs the answer that JD isn’t being used as a source, she merely was the first to point out that there are no Oswald phone records in evidence, which confirms RFK and RFK Jr.’s statement that the WC conducted a “Shoddy” investigation. We are attempting to correct that by compiling an survey of Oswald’s known phone calls. You can either rant and rave about what you think you know or you can do some research and add to the extent of knowledge we know about the case.

          • greg parker says:

            Bill,

            Didn’t RFK, Jr supposedly say that his father’s investigators had obtained Oswald’s phone records?

            But do we know if he was being correctly quoted?

            When Ms Davidson pointed out that Oswald’s phone records are not in evidence, surely she was merely stating what everyone already knew?

            Ruby, it seems to me, was given the “artichoke” treatment to make him appear to be a mental case.

            I agree that Jean is a very good researcher – it’s her spin on the evidence that is essentially askew and she is as capable as any she may accuse of cherry-picking of doing the same. One example: She once said I was using the Post hoc ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. The problem for her was that her own source on that fallacy actually went on to say ***”Correlation does not suggest causation” is not necessarily true:
            A demonstrably consistent correlation often suggests or increases the
            probability of some causal relationship (or implies it, in the latter
            sense of the term).**** Which was the point I was making about Oswald.

          • Mark Groubert says:

            Bill the whole point of my rants as you call them is you have no transcript of what RFK Jr. said the other night. Right? Yet you brought in two of the most vocal supporters of the Warren Commission to offer opinions on something you don’t even know that RFK Jr. said. I am merely showing you that another reporter said something different about RFK Jr’s. comments. Your Rush To Judgement really jumped the gun and created an unneeded diatribe about something you (nor I) no anything about – the actual words of RFK Jr. in Dallas the other night. Wait for the transcript and then say something. It is simply good journalism. You should know better, tsk, tsk. That being said, big fan of your work.

    • jeffmorley says:

      He misspoke in precisely the way that Bill said in his article. There are no “Oswald phone records” in the sense that there are Ruby phone records.

      There is no rush to judgement. Lighten up dude! We take an empirical approach to the JFK case. We submit the statement sof people with whom we sympathize (like RFK) to critical scrutiny just like we submit the statements of people like John McAdams. In this case, Bill stateed clearly that RFK’s information was more accurate than McAdams?

      We did not discredit RFK Jr. We assessed his statements for their factual validity and found that for the most part they were accurate.

      • Mark Groubert says:

        Jeff: you have no idea what RFK Jr. said. That is my point. Wait for a transcript. I think that might be empirical evidence. You for one should know how misquotes happen. This is how. If RFK Jr. called you tomorrow and said that is not what I said. What would you say, well, that’s what I heard you said? Wait for the transcript like everyone else. It will be empirical evidence as you call it me thinks.

  2. JSA says:

    How about Oswald’s call from Dallas to a man named “John Hurt” in North Carolina? Anybody want to follow up on this? It looks to me as though Oswald was trying to get in touch with his handler.
    http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/jfk-oswald-and-the-raleigh-connection/Content?oid=3192079

    • jeffmorley says:

      A number of researchers have taken a run at this intriguing subject and I don’t know that anyone has been able to develop any substantive information about it. If I am wrong, please let me know.

      • Mark Groubert says:

        Jeff how about the call before that from the Dallas Police station? Some have reported it was nearly an hour long. No one knows who Oswald spoke to on that occasion before the Hurt call.

        • billkelly says:

          There is a report by the Dallas policeman who was assigned to Oswald and escorted him to a telephone to make a call that lasted a long time – over a half hour, and there is no official record of this call, who was to or what it was about. I will look for the original police report on this call.

      • Marcus Hanson says:

        Long discussion but bottom line per David Lifton :

        “For what its worth. . . : I called Hurt back around 1970, and spoke with
        him for between 30 minutes and an hour. I believe he told me the same “I
        was drunk” story–and, again “FWIW”, he sounded credible (i.e., that he
        was indeed drunk). I have a BASF tape of the entire conversation.
        Somewhere in my collection. With regard to anything I write here, I would
        defer to the tape as the better evidence. What I do remember is coming
        away from the call believing I had done what I could do, pursuing this
        lead, and there wasn’t much to it.”

        Thread here:
        https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/alt.assassination.jfk/U7PuuFKJpvQ

  3. Mark Groubert says:

    Is it possible that RFK might have known something, anything, that you researchers do not know? is that conceivable? I mean, he was the Attorney General. His brother was killed. He specialized in phone taps and accessing phone records as Attorney General. That was his M.O. especially regarding mobsters – so that being said, is it possible, just possible his son is privy to information that you researchers do not know? I know it seems impossible, but what a break if it’s true! It seems arrogant to me to say the man misspoke about anything at all when a) You have no tape of the event and b) when it was his father and his uncle who were killed. Maybe, just maybe he knows more than you folks give him credit for. Just a thought.

    • JSA says:

      I’ve read ‘Brothers’ by David Talbot, and many other books on the JFK assassination over the years, starting with Mark Lane’s ‘Rush To Judgement’ which I picked up while the House Subcommittee was reopening the JFK and other assassination cases. My guess is that RFK, Jr. may know more than he is letting on, and also may harbor private suspicion about his own father’s murder in Los Angeles, and maybe also MLK’s murder in Memphis a few months before his father’s. But given the Kennedy family’s VERY cagey if not oblique comments about the two Kennedy assassinations over the years, I suspect that Robert Kennedy Jr.’s comments are a very carefully orchestrated “thaw” to slowly reopen the historical record. Anyone who looks at how the JFK case had to have been orchestrated, from the handling of the “Best Evidence” as Lifton wrote so well about, through the Warren Commission etc. would have to reach the logical conclusion that the JFK hit was more than just a “mob hit.” The mob couldn’t have orchestrated the cover up and destruction of the evidence. It had to be Lyndon Johnson cooperating with some very key power players working to close up the files and the questions, working to steer a ‘lone gunman’ story that I suppose they thought would be water tight. At any rate, RFK, Jr. is just stating the open ended idea that there was more than one shot at JFK’s motorcade. This reminds me of the very careful way that the former Soviet leaders began to open their country under Glasnost. And even today, Russia remains a pretty closed society. I think the next step might be one or more prominent historians making a statement that challenges the orthodoxy on JFK’s assassination, but it won’t be easy to do because as Robert Morrow points out, this means challenging our very structure as a nation. Perhaps we could look to the ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ process of South Africa in recognizing the evils of the fallen apartheid regime as a model. But to do this, we have to change some of the evils of our own intelligence regimes. And with Homeland Security as tight as it is, as Dana Priest points out in her latest book, that’s another HUGE problem for us to deal with.

    • larry wheels says:

      RFK with his background on the rackets committee and as att. general had to know Ruby’s connections were “underworld” connections. the teamsters under dave beck and jimmy Hoffa was a big money racket for the mob. from barney baker to campisi, – ruby even contacted a gun runner in texas for a castro contact. Ruby was portrayed as some emotional dupe doing some patriotic duty by killing the “guilty ” commie.
      JFK was behind the 8 ball with regard to the Cuban situation and RFK had to suspect it was a domestic sponsored hit – he knew the atmosphere at the time.

  4. billkelly says:

    Mark wrote: “Your Rush To Judgement really jumped the gun and created an unneeded diatribe about something you (nor I) no anything about – the actual words of RFK Jr. in Dallas the other night. Wait for the transcript and then say something. It is simply good journalism. You should know better, tsk, tsk”
    Mark, As for McAdams and Davison, I will reply to their comments every time I disagree with them. I have tried to get a transcript, but they are apparently not going to release one until the show is aired, they say maybe November. I can’t wait that long. I am basing my work on what has been reported. Now they are trying to say that RFK, Jr. said there are phone calls BETWEEN Oswald and Ruby and we know that is not true. We are however, compiling an survey of all of Oswald’s known calls.

    • Mark Groubert says:

      “We know that is not true” is pure hubris, Bill. We don’t know probably 50% of the facts. What with file destruction, witness murders, intimidation. “We know that is not true of what is in the public domain” might be more appropriate. But again, maybe RFK Jr. knows something. Keep an open mind. Don’t mince, slice and dice his non-recorded, non transcribed quotes because you can’t wait.

      You are writing on a website that Jeff said would be the whole facts and nothing but the facts, now you are simply saying you cannot wait til November to get the facts, DESPITE immediate contradiction of the factual quotes in question less than 24 hrs later.

      In fact, you are admitting you are Rushing to Judgment literally! Surely, you can see some irony in that. I find it funny.
      I put out some feelers. I am attempting to get a transcript myself. More later. Of course, I will immediately forward. Amazing, there is no cell phone video, no audio, nada. Simply amazing.

      • billkelly says:

        I’m basing my judgement on what we know now – Oswald didn’t have a phone but made phone calls. I’m moving on, you let me know when a transcript is available and it won’t change the fact Oswald didn’t have a phone. Now you are harping.

  5. Shane McBryde says:

    I am and have been a fan of Jefferson Morley’s work on the JFK assassination ever since I discovered his article on Jane Roman. In fact, I Google him every few months or so for new articles that he has written. I absolutely love his approach to the whole thing, and truly believe his is the type of work that contributes to discovering facts about the case uncluttered by opinion, speculation and leaps of logic.

    I’ve only recently turned onto his website, and really I only wanted to comment on how much I have enjoyed not only the article here by Bill Kelly, but also the lively exchange of dialog which followed. I am only an interested spectator, but have followed the case over many years. I had a 22 year career in radio broadcasting, and in that time had the chance to interview authors of some of the books that have been written.

    As a post script here, let me add, I live in Mobile, Al. Spring Hill College is located here. It is the Jesuit school at which Oswald gave a lecture following his return from the Soviet Union. In fact his relatives, the Murrets, are from here. I believe it was a cousin of his which arranged for him to speak at Spring Hill. I am not a researcher, nor do I have the training, nor the inclination to become one. But, I’ve always hoped that someone would produce some sort of work which more closely, and in more detail examined his visit here at the lecture he gave at the college.

  6. To Shane McBryde: In the months following your post of 24 Jan. 2013, have you discovered more records of the speech given by Lee Harvey Oswald at Spring Hill college? A college run by Jesuits has a high standard for intellectual accuracy. Of course, Mr. Oswald would be giving mostly his impressions, but does this sound like a man that some have called 3/4 crazy? I have read that Lee Harvey Oswald had a “201″ file. This is the name of a file that is kept on every government employee. Mostly it is a record of promotions, transfers, ect., usually boring. But the fact of its existance (if this is indeed a fact) opens up a whole new perspective. Your post about his lecture at a Jesuit college opens it still wider. Have others commented on this? We know he was fluent in Russian. Why then, did he work pushing piles of text-books around? Did he realize the implications of this assignment? Was he familiar with the streets in downtown Dallas, Texas? Did he believe he would emerge the hero rather than the “fall guy?”

  7. Michael kolle says:

    I believe about 70 percent of Oliver Stones Movie JFK is accurate.
    I still have all the newspaper articles in the Miami herald.
    They, the mob, Cubans who were screwed during the Bay of Pigs and some of the Joint Chiefs, Killed JFK to disarm RFK. After that RFK was unplugged.

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