Dec 6 1963: Life magazine addresses JFK “rumors” with bad reporting

The national media, much less diverse and fragmented in 1963 than today, joined the campaign to assuage doubts and dispel “rumors” about JFK’s assassination. Pollsters were already finding that a majority of Americans suspected conspiracy. Life Magazine’s Dec. 6 issue was devoted primarily to photo coverage of the Kennedy funeral, but also included a piece by Paul Mandel entitled “End to Nagging Rumors: The Six Critical Seconds.”

Life Magazine

The article began with a quote from Dallas DA Henry Wade: “I would say without any doubt that he is the killer”, and referred to Oswald as “the assassin.”

Life Magazine had earlier purchased rights to Abraham Zapruder’s famous home movie of the murder in Dealey Plaza, and in a November 29 issue had shown frames from that film in black-and-white. Now the Mandel article tried to reconcile the film with Oswald’s guilt.

In a press conference in the aftermath of the assassination, Dallas Parkland Hospital’s Dr. Malcolm Perry had referred to “an entrance wound in the neck,” adding “It appeared to be coming at him.” Given that the Texas School Book Depository from which Oswald allegedly fired shots was behind Kennedy, not in front, Perry’s statement presented a dilemma.

Mandel’s article offered an answer: “…the 8mm film shows the President turning his body far around to the right as he waves to someone in the crowd. His throat is exposed – toward the sniper’s nest, just before he clutches it.”

The Warren Commission would later grapple with the fact that the Zapruder film shows no such thing.

See “JFK: How the Media Assassinated the Real Story” by Robert Hennelly and Jerry Policoff for more on Life Magazine and the assassination.

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