Bill O’Reilly’s ‘fun’ JFK fictions

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was brutally and very publicly ambushed 49 years ago on November 22, 1963, though you wouldn’t know it from reading Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot, by Bill O’Reilly. Once closely read, however, it becomes apparent that the title is apt. The Fox Television host aims to assassinate JFK’s character today, and especially to obfuscate the truth of his murder.

Samuel Johnson once said, “You can abuse a tragedy, but you can’t write one.” O’Reilly, a self-described punk, has accomplished this abusive feat by writing what he calls “history that is fun to read.” That’s a perverse way of describing the murder of a president.

But salacious propaganda as history is eagerly devoured by too many Americans. Killing Kennedy is at or near the top of every best-seller list. Whether it will have any long-lasting effect on popular thinking about the subject remains to be seen. It would be tragic if anybody believes these spurious claims. That would be, in the popular parlance, getting punked.

Only about 20 percent of this book is actually devoted to the assassination of Kennedy, and that as an afterthought. The majority of its pages provide a histrionic rehashing of the years leading up to the  president’s death in Dallas. Along the way, we learn many highly significant things:

that JFK was an “easily likable man’s man”; that he “is naked and on-schedule” in “the indoor pool”; that this nakedness “stems from his notion of manliness”; that “real men do the breaststroke au natural, and that’s that”; that “Kennedy’s fixation on movies rivals his other favorite recreational pursuit: sex”; that during the Bay of Pigs invasion he spends the day “wallowing in grief”; that Jackie Kennedy “goes through life … feigning ignorance”; that in Kennedy’s relationship with his wife “there was little attempt at foreplay”; that “the president made love to Jackie as if it were a duty”; that “he liked a cigar and a daiquiri or two”; that he “can be just as cold-blooded” as his brother, Robert; that JFK is “an adrenaline junkie, relishing the rush of competing for power.”

This truly is a way of attacking the historical figure who was JFK. O’Reilly’s manly profundities seem intended to kill off the reality of a uniquely courageous president who confronted the military-industrial- intelligence complex and paid the price.

In a note of reassurance to readers, O’Reilly writes, “please know that this is a fact-based book,” that it “is completely a work of non-fiction. It’s all true.”

Here are some of his true facts of the imaginary sort, the kinds of things only an omniscient author could know.

In Minsk, Russia, Oswald meets his future wife who “is reluctant to smile because of her bad teeth.” Later, Oswald “festers in a quiet rage” and “dreams of living in the palm tree fringed workers’ paradise of Cuba.”

“When Jackie thinks of Camelot,” he writes, “she focuses on the final act of the play.” He tells us that JFK’s “thoughts are never far from another ‘Churchill’.”

One can almost hear the television narrator working with this script sometime next year as the 50th anniversary of the assassination approaches and the media propaganda machine goes into high gear.

O’Reilly writes of Jackie: “Her future is gazing at her intently with those beautiful greenish-grey eyes of his”; of Marina Oswald: “Because Lee Harvey will not be around to watch Audrey Marina Rachel Oswald grow up”; of the accused assassin: “Oswald can see every strand [of hair] through his scope.”

O’Reilly does have his fun.

He writes of JFK: “The president stands less than three feet away, paying no attention whatsoever to his wife. He gazes at a dark-haired beauty half his age named Lisa Gherardini. She is blessed with lips that are full and red, contrasting seductively with her smooth olive skin. Her smile is coy. The plunging neckline of her dress hints at an ample bosom. She bears the faintest of resemblances to the First Lady…. Surely John Kennedy can be allowed the minor indiscretion of appreciating this lovely twentysomething.”

Turn on the laugh meter. The vixen in question is the Mona Lisa at an unveiling at the National Gallery of Art in January 1963.

As for the actual events that lead to JFK’s assassination, this book could have been written in the late 1960s when O’Reilly was in college. Its primary source is the Warren Commission Report. O’Reilly seems unfamiliar with the actual historical record and related JFK scholarship that prove his facile thesis absurd. He is unaware of the vast body of JFK records made public since the late 1990s by the findings of the JFK Assassination Record Review Board.

He has not read other authors on his subject. No Jim Douglass’s JFK and the Unspeakable, no Gaeton Fonzi, no Peter Dale Scott, no Jim Garrison, no Mark Lane, no Gerald McKnight, no Sylvia Meagher, no John Newman, no Russ Baker, no Jim DiEugenio, to name but a few of those who have contributed to the new JFK scholarship. Furthermore, there is nary a word about Sylvia Odio, David Atlee Philips, David Morales, and many others figures investigated by prominent researchers.

The superficiality of this book is astounding.

Is O’Reilly ignorant of contemporary JFK scholarship? Or is he complicit in avoiding the weight of the new findings? Take your pick.

O’Reilly’s method is proudly simplistic. As he told USA Today on October 2, 2012, this writing is “No pinheaded stuff, just roar through!” And roar he does. Through the first four-fifths of the book, he intersperses short snippets on Lee Harvey Oswald with background on Kennedy’s time in office.

So on page 15 we read that Oswald was a “crack shot in the military,” an assertion contradicted by abundant evidence, even the Warren Commission, yet a key to O’Reilly’s conclusion. We never learn from these snippets how an alleged traitor to the United States, a defector who told the Soviets he would disclose state secrets, was given his passport back by the U.S. State Department or why the State Department lent him money so he could return to the United States.

O’Reilly skims lightly over details. We do learn that after going to Fort Worth, Texas, with his Russian wife Marina and their child, Oswald is befriended by a Russian named George de Mohrenschildt, a man who “may have CIA connections.” He neglects to inform us that de Mohrenschildt, whose father was an official in czarist Russia, urges Oswald to move to Dallas where he helps him get at a job at Jaggers-Chiles-Stovall, a graphic arts company that does classified work relating to Cuba and U-2 spy flights for the U.S. Army Map Service. Thus we don’t learn that “defector” Oswald, with a little help from a serendipitously found new friend — who admitted his close collaboration with the CIA — has defied basic government security barriers (JFK And The Unspeakable, James W. Douglass, pp. 46-49).

O’Reilly fails to mention that Oswald, allegedly a sociopathic loner, had a crypto security clearance (higher than top secret) in the Marines. He had served at Atsugi Air Force Base in Japan, the CIA’s main operational base in the Far East for top-secret U-2 spy flights over the Soviet Union. But since O’Reilly’s main source is the Warren Commission that suppressed the fact of Oswald’s crypto clearance, he wouldn’t, presumedly, know that (Breach of Trust, Gerald D. McKnight, p. 300).

We do learn that by 1963 Oswald is getting angrier, and is having fights with his wife, and decides on April 10, 1963 that “it’s time to kill someone.” We learn once again that he “can shoot extremely well,” but that when he allegedly attempts to assassinate extreme right-wing Major General Edwin Walker he misses completely. O’Reilly tells us that Oswald “wanted to be a hero in the eyes of the Communist Party,” but now he feels like a failure and his wife is mad at him. We keep learning that he’s getting angrier by the day, that he feels like a failed man, and that he’s quite nifty with a rifle.

The combustible nature of these revelations is surely foreboding. From another snippet we learn that the Oswalds move to New Orleans where Oswald quickly gets a job at the Reily Coffee Company. We are not told that the owner, William B. Reily, worked for the CIA and was a wealthy supporter of CIA anti-Castro efforts and that the Reily Coffee Company was located at the center of the U.S. intelligence community in New Orleans.

We do learn that Oswald’s rage is increasing — from his reading. We do learn, that despite his employment, he is a “true Communist” and of course “an avowed atheist.” We don’t learn that he associates with Guy Bannister, a former FBI agent, whose office is nearby and who works with the CIA in all sorts of anti-Castro activities.

O’Reilly informs us that Marina moves back to the Dallas area to the home of her friend, Ruth Paine, but he fails to mention why Mrs. Paine is so solicitous of the Oswalds. Nor does he mention the insignificant fact that Ruth Paine’s sister worked for the CIA; that Ruth Paine had just been visiting her sister in Virginia when she drove to New Orleans to drive Marina and her child back to her home; and that Paine’s mother was connected to Allen Dulles, the former CIA Director whom Kennedy fired after the Bay of Pigs and who would later become a key member of the Warren Commission (Douglass, pp. 168-173).

But we learn that “thanks to a kindly reference from Ruth Paine,” Lee lands a job at the Texas School Book Depository where he starts work on October 16, 1963, just in the nick of time. Lucky Lee has such good friends.

And on and on we learn and don’t learn from these snippets. And then we learn where all this is leading, as if we didn’t know: the angry Commie atheist Lee Harvey Oswald, because his wife is frustrated with him and won’t take him back, despite his begging, “will be left with no choice,” he will have to kill President Kennedy by shooting him from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.

This is O’Reilly’s idea of “history that is fun to read.”

O’Reilly would call me a “pinhead,” an academic who cares about facts and sources; such a person must be jealous of his popularity and money. So be it. He is a best-selling author. But how is it possible to be jealous of someone who doesn’t know his facts from his fictions?

How are we to explain the popularity of O’Reilly’s fiction? The great cultural anthropologist, Ernest Becker, in his Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece, The Denial of Death, explained it perfectly.

“People who are afraid of death and the loss of their cultural illusions that support their world views are particularly attracted to the supposed ‘unconflicted personality,’” the one who will tell them this is that — end of story, the one who shows no doubt. For those who fear the loss of their illusions when contemplating JFK’s death, O’Reilly is their man. As he told USA Today, “I know that Oswald killed Kennedy.”

There is a bit of an ocular problem with his conclusion, however. In an explanation of his sources, O’Reilly writes of the crucially famous Zapruder film, that “we watched it time after time to understand the sequence of events, and it never got less horrific — nor did the outcome ever change.” If this is true, then O’Reilly and his co-author Martin Dugard might consider visiting an ophthalmologist. For anyone with eyes to see who watches that film knows instantly that JFK was shot from the front and that he was jolted back and to the left. Jackie jumps on the trunk to retrieve part of his brain and skull that blew out the back of his head from a shot from the front right.

But O’Reilly misses this “time after time.” He prefers fictions.

Edward Curtin is a writer and researcher who teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Massachusetts.









18 thoughts on “Bill O’Reilly’s ‘fun’ JFK fictions”

  1. there are a few things about the assassination they i dont hear people talk about. where is the evidence that puts oswald at the window actually shooting the rifle.did oswald ever kill anybody before that day, am i supposed to believe that out of nowhere oswald becomes a professional cold calculating hit man. and he is not just killing some average guy here, he is killing the most powerful man on the planet at the time. you dont think he would have just a little buck fever do ya. i looked at some photos they took at the 6th floor window through a rifle scope at a car with people at the same point kennedy took the head shot. the angle does not work from that angle it would have blown the front of his face off

  2. If one goes to the window and looks out it is obvious that Oswald’s best shot opportunity was a straight head shot on the street before the turn to the left. The presidential limousine all but came to a complete stop. He has a much easier head shot and he does non have to lean awkwardly and take a shot while the vehicle is beginning to speed up. His rifle would not have been exposed and he would not have been visible. The only reason he would have waited or the shooter would have waited is if he/they were waiting for the crossfire opportunity and another shooter. Rarely is this mentioned and the explanations I have seen to dismiss this are all very lame. Keep reading , working ,investigating we cannot let this go unsolved .I think before President Obama leaves office we must insist he reopen all 3 assassinations because they all were conspiracies. Clinton asked for anything that was relevant that was possible left out (according to sources) and he was told Oswald did it , no ? about it). This could be President Obama’s greatest act as President.

    1. Ramon F Herrera

      [Charles Davis, Private Investigator:]

      “Oswald’s best shot opportunity was a straight head shot on the street before the turn to the left.”


      An explanation by the LNs has been proffered:

      Our esteemed participant “Photon” claims that Lee was afraid to look into those dreamy Kennedy eyes but had no such qualms about his neck.

  3. anyone involved with main stream media since its owned by the same people behind the JFK ass, has to agree with the WC. They all know the truth, all the new documents that came out. Almost every Truth seeking JFK author has stated publishing houses “”loved my book”” but would get fired if I published it. Why do you think think for the 50th anniversary there was Parkland and Killing Kennedy based off this mumbo jumbo then truth? Brainwash a new generation.

    2. If Oswald wanted to be Famous, why did he deny it EMPHATICALLY using his terms that day? wouldn’t he been proud?

    3. The Paines-Ruth sister is now documented CIA, Father received contract w/Cia company right after WC released, Sisters Husband Was CIA, and husband Michael’s(who’s stepdad OWNED BELL HELLICOPTER and he had security clearance) grandmother is a Cabot Forbes, the same Cabot and Forbes families in wealth and Mil Ind Complex. But we are supposed to believe that this little Good doo-er, nice quaker lady, took these poor people in and got Lee a job because she wamted to learn Russian and help people. Not that LEE was considered a Defector and wife was a communist, and this Security Clearance guy with Bell hellicopter, wealthy family, risked his job and security just to help this guy lee out. and Michaels mom’s best friend was having an affair with Allen Dulles. How much more involved can they be. And all the evidence after the fact came from her garage. The fake soviet embassy letter(Lee just happned to leave it behind), the General Walker note(Lee just happened to leave it behind) ,and so much more.

  4. Bill O. writes to serve whatever hand that feeds him at any given point in time, nothing more or less. It’s merely a game of talking heads. Check out YouTube for his breathless reportage in years past for “Inside Edition”, where he takes a pro-conspiracy tack, but only for the sake of the show’s tabloid shlock journalism. What does he really think? Only that, hopefully, he did not sell his soul for too little.

  5. I guess Bill O’Reilly boarded the same boat with Bugliosi, Posner and a bunch of others that don’t know anything on what happened that day on November 22, 1963.

    1. Your proof for this statement is what?

      David Mantik, M.D. has debunked the neuro-muscular theory of the head snap.

      I don’t believe there was a head snap. Not one witness to the assassination reported seeing a head snap. The extant Nix film shows a different head movement, different from the extant Zapruder film.

      I believe the head snap in Zapruder is the result of frame deletion intended to obviate indications of multiple hits on JFK from multiple directions. I’ve got company in the research community.

      1. “I believe the head snap in Zapruder is the result of frame deletion intended to obviate indications of multiple hits on JFK from multiple directions. I’ve got company in the research community.”~Jonathan

        Yes, you do have company in the “research community”, but these actors are part of the “New Wave” JFK researchers. It is a technically verifiable fact that it is impossible to fake a Kodachrome II daylight film, nor can a single frame be removed without detection of a physical splice. I am speaking to the specific film shot by Zapruder, that is in the National Archives and was examined by Rolland Zavata, the premier expert on film chemistry and movie making machinery in that era.

        I have found that to a man, those who promote this “alterationist” theory on the Z-film are in almost complete ignorance of physical film chemistry, special effects cinematography, or the physics and chemistry of the properties of light in photography.

        This new wave movement spearheaded by Douglas Horne has certainly come to the fore rapidly and is seemingly being financed with some substantial funds.

        Again, the question in most mysteries that is most pertinent is ‘Cui Bono?” – “Who benefits from erasing the Z-film as an authentic record of the assassination? The most obvious answer is the assassins themselves would benefit.

        Another relevant point in forensic investigation is to “follow the money”, that is why I am curious as to the funding of this new film “Coup in Camelot”, and who’s agenda it might really serve.

      2. To address another aspect of your comment Jonathan, you say:
        “I don’t believe there was a head snap. Not one witness to the assassination reported seeing a head snap.”

        There is no mystery in no one witnessing the headsnap as it is beyond human visual acuity to notice something that takes place at such speed. This movement is only detectable by analysis of motion pictures.

        Now quoting CSI Sherry Fiester;
        “When examining the Zapruder film frame by frame, it is readily apparent the President Kennedy’s head moves forward slightly for one frame before his head and shoulders move backward in response to the gunshot wound to the head.

        German wound ballistic researcher Bernd Karger, states initial transfer of energy causes the target to move minutely into the force and against the line of fire, prior to target movement with the force of the moving bullet. Karger found greater the transferred energy, the more pronounced the forward movement (Karger, 2008).

        Wound ballistic researcher Robin Coupland used high-speed photography to confirm and document the forward movement into the line of fire referenced by Karger (Coupland, 2011). Researchers Karger and Coupland noted the force in a moving bullet is energy of motion, or kinetic energy. Upon impact, the bullet pushes against the head, and initially, as the weight of the head is greater than the weight of the bullet, the head moves against the line of fire. As the projectile slows, more kinetic energy transfers to the target. A overcoming the weight of the head with a sufficient transfer of energy causes the target to move with the continued direction of force of the moving bullet.

        Application of contemporary wound ballistics research to the movement observed in the Zapruder film indicates a minute forward motion followed by more pronounced rearward movement—consistent with a single shot from the front.”

  6. The repugnant revisionist in this nation have indeed been trying to kill Kennedy ever since his death. O’Reilly’s character can be judged by his assessment of the President’s acceptance speech:

    “How can a man who earns a PHD possibly be equal with a man who drops out of high school?” scoffed O’Reilly…”But I don’t blame the president. I blame the ordinary man who actually thinks he could be equal to those above him.”

  7. If memory serves, Howard Brennan, aka “Four Eyes.” was working on the Republic National Bank building project. I’m not suggesting any particular connection but it might be prudent to research Republic in the context of Dallas power brokers.


  8. I thought it was interesting that on page 264 the authors are talking about how they know whether LHO likes to shoot from a prone position or standing up. They say LHO decided to shoot from a standing position, apparently not realizing he would have shot right through the window.

    1. The distance from the floor to the bottom of the open window on the 6th floor TSBD (east window) – so called “sniper’s window” was 26 inches. You can see this in measurements done by the investigators and it is in Barry Krush’s book.

      That is a little over 2 feet and the authors have Oswald standing and firing. And being seen by Howard Brennan who said Oswald was standing and firing. Hilarious.

  9. “Is O’Reilly ignorant of contemporary JFK scholarship? Or is he complicit in avoiding the weight of the new findings? Take your pick.”

    B.) Complicit.

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