Howard Willens writes via email to correct a couple of mistakes in my Nov. 12 post, “Howard Willens weighs in on RFK’s suspicions of conspiracy.” Let me quote him in full.
Willens: “You tell your audience that I prepared a document for the Attorney General labelled “Sworn Statement.” You obviously did not look at the actual document, which is labelled “Statement of Robert F. Kennedy.” Are you going to correct this error?
1) Yes, I am going to correct this error. I did look at the actual document, and it is indeed labelled “Statement of Robert F. Kennedy.” My assertion was based on the fact that the first paragraph of the statement refers to the Attorney General “having been duly sworn.” When I wrote the draft was “labelled” as a sworn statement, I meant labelled in the sense of prominently identified. My word choice is obviously poor, and my formulation was not accurate. It has been corrected.
Willens: “In addition, you report that the Attorney General ‘met with the Commission’ on June 4. He certainly did not meet with the Commission — in fact, whether he should or not was the subject of the meetings I describe in my two memoranda on this subject. It was on June 4 that I met with the Attorney General and Katzenbach; I forget whether Ed Guthman was at this final meeting. Are you going to correct this error?”
2) Yes, I am going to correct this error. By saying “Commission” I did not intend to refer to the seven commissioners but to the commission generically, meaning staffers. Again, my word choice was careless. The post has been corrected.
That said, I don’t think these errors fatally undermine my argument.
In the first instance, I wrote that RFK’s aides received a draft statement for RFK’s signature that referred to him being “sworn” and his aides rejected it. Willens says RFK himself did not reject the proposal for a “sworn” statement, which is true. I say his aides, acting on his behalf, rejected the proposal for a “sworn” statement — which is also true.
Phil Shenon emphasized this point in his Politico piece, and I agree with him. Readers can assess for themselves which statement is more significant to the issue of RFK and the conspiracy question.
In the second instance, the distinction between RFK meeting with “the Commission” or “a Commission staffer” is important, but it does not affect my point that RFK asked for further changes in the draft statement at this meeting. This request, I argued, indicated his desire to limit his testimony. The fact that RFK was not speaking to the Commission members themselves when seeking the changes, does not affect the fact that he sought them.
After correcting these errors, Willens goes on to write:
As I stated in my post, I hope that Willens will address the two additional questions that he posed but did not address in his post on HowardWillens.com. To wit:
(2) Should Robert Kennedy have provided the Commission with the information he had regarding the CIA’s plans to assassinate Castro? and (3) At the time he was assassinated in 1968 did Robert Kennedy believe that his brother’s death was the result of a conspiracy contrary to the conclusion of the Warren Commission.
In his email to me, Willens wrote, “It seems obvious that any discussion of the second and third questions I identified would be similarly fruitless.”
I disagree. I think it is obvious that this exchange has been fruitful. It has corrected my mistakes and clarified our differences. I still hope Willens will share his views on questions 2) and 3).