Gladwell’s folly: Did a Secret Service man shoot JFK?

What me worry about JFK?

No, he did not.

The “Secret Service Man Did It” theory is comic in its macabre ludicrousness. It would not be worthy of discussion, except that Bill James and Malcolm Gladwell, and now the Huffington Post, have taken it seriously.

JFK Second Shooter? New Documentary Makes Radical Claim,” the liberal site reported. The article quotes a couple of cable TV documentarians from the Reelz Channel insinuating, without evidence, that a Secret Service agent killed Kennedy. There is no comment from any historian or journalist who actually knows the record of JFK’s assassination. To date, more than 3,000 people have “liked” the HP story. I have submitted a correction without hope that it will ever be acknowledged.

I could blame Gladwell for this sorry display of public ignorance, but let’s stick to the facts:

It would have been more precise for Huffington Post to say “New Documentary Recycles Libelous Claim.”

Perhaps we could expect no more from the Reelz Channel, which will broadcast the film on November 3. The Reelz Channel is found In the warm and frothy depths of the cable universe, where the eye candy of bawdy reality shows and the mind candy of baroque conspiracy theories constantly tempt the sensorium of a bored America.

The film follows veteran police detective Colin McLaren in his four-year investigation of the assassination.

Origins of the error

In a post for JFK Facts, I expressed hope for McLaren’s work, a misguided musing for which I now slavishly beg pardon. All this ace detective has managed to do is swipe the premise of a book called “Mortal Error” published in 1993 by St. Martin’s Press. His investigation revives the debunked claim that George Hickey, a Secret Service agent riding in the car behind Kennedy, accidentally shot the president on Nov. 22, 1963.

In legal terms, “Mortal Error” was libelous. Hickey was a bystander to the president’s murder, nothing more. In retirement he scarcely deserved such allegations.

Washington attorney Jim Lesar (who ably represented me in the Morley v. CIA lawsuit), and national security defense attorney Mark Zaid, took up Hickey’s case after “Mortal Error” was published. They sued the author (who will not be named here), St. Martin’s Press, and Simon and Schuster, which published an audio version of the book.

And they won. As Mark Zaid just told me by email, “Settlements were reached in each case and the publisher apologized.”

HuffPo’s ignorance

The editors of the Huffington Post, it seems, are innocent of the legal history of this preposterous conspiracy theory. So, alas, is Gladwell.

In an online chat published in Grantland last year, Gladwell said that Bill James’s book on “Popular Crime; Reflections on the Celebration of Violence” had endorsed this theory of “Mortal Error.” In an email, Gladwell wrote, “James describes in brilliant detail just how convincing this particular explanation is.”

Taken at face value, this is a foolish statement. This theory has convinced no serious scholar of the JFK story. In fact, James didn’t actually bless the “Secret Service Did It” theory in his book. He merely argued that it was just a credible as some other stupid JFK theories. When I knew Gladwell a long time ago, we were both young journalists in Washington and he had an merry and facetious sense of humor, which I think he may be expressing here.

I don’t disparage his work. When I first met him he was writing for the right-wing Washington Times, specializing in stories that confounded conventional thinking. When I wrote an article for The New Republic called “The Tipping Point” about a liberal social engineering scheme to protect the racial composition of a New York housing project, we had a long conversation about how an urban neighborhood could change color within a few years. He went on to write a book about such rapid transformations called “The Tipping Point,” which was smarter and more entertaining than my article and became a best-seller.

Gladwell’s folly

So I can only wonder why would such an original writer would subscribe to the lame “Secret Service Did It” theory?


The JFK story does not fit well with Malcolm’s brand. It’s no knock on Gladwell to say he has become a household name by telling interesting tales that make people feel glad and well. The JFK story offers no such consolations. The story of how the liberal president died in a hail of gunfire and no one was ever charged with the crime (or even lost their job) can only make American citizens feel unglad and unwell.

Famous for popularizing sthe 10,000 hour rule.  he certainly hasn’t spent 10,000 hours on JFK’s assassination, which is probably wise on his part. I have and I often regret it. But such sustained study enables me to say, with complete confidence, that this Reelz documentary is not worth viewing.

A Secret Service agent did not kill President Kennedy, accidentally or otherwise. The fact that this fact needs repeating 50 years later is testament to how American news organizations have succeeded in dumbing down the JFK assassination story and distorting a key moment in American history. The folly of Malcolm Gladwell is a symptom of journalistic failure.


More defunct JFK conspiracy theories:

“Didn’t do it: More the role of George H.W. Bush in the events of 1963”  (JFK Facts, November 30, 2012)

“About that lame Bush conspiracy theory” (JFK Facts, March 29, 2013)

“Did the Fed kill JFK?”  (JFK Facts, January. 25, 2013)

“Fact check: Did a Pepsi-Cola executive kill JFK?” (JFK Facts, June 15, 2013)

118 thoughts on “Gladwell’s folly: Did a Secret Service man shoot JFK?”

  1. I think the The-Secret-Service-Did-It theory is probably CIA disinformation put out to make the people it likes to call “conspiracy theorists” look bad.

    But it has to be said that at least one person who has spent thousands of hours on the assassination seems to take the theory seriously: Douglas Horne. Or at least he took it seriously when the wrote the fifth volume of Inside the Assassination Records Review Board.

  2. Denny Sangiovanni

    You fail to prove wrong the story about George Hickey. I think this was a serious investigation about the JFK assassination. This investigation should be follow to an investigation on why the Secret Service disappeared evidence. obstructed the Texas’s mandatory autopsy and even collected and disappeared written accounts from FBI agents present at the last autopsy, why several witnesses who saw George Hickey shooting the AR-15 were not called by the Warren Commission. It was perfectly clear the bullet was an explosive one no coming from Oswald’s weapon, and the only persons present with explosive bullets were Secret Service agents.

    1. No one at the scene of the crime–and there were hundreds of them, said that the gunfire came from a Secret Service man. This is a theory with zero witness evidence and zero forensic evidence. It is, in a word, a hoax.

    2. Hi Denny. I am not so sure what you mean be an “explosive bullet”? as I understand, these are filled with an explosive and are quite rare – or would be in 1963. Don’t you mean a soft-nosed bullet? They “musroom” on impact, causing more damage than a full metal jacket-bullet.
      Pardon me for saying this – but if the President was hit with a soft-nosed/hollow-point projectile, or with an explosive one, it would probably have blown his head clean off. The damage we see in the Zapruder movie could have been caused by a full-metal jacket bullet, according to several experts. Donahue is simply wrong. There are no witnesses either, who ever saw Hickey or any other SS-agent fire a gun? And the ammunition for Hickeys AR-15 was most probably military rounds, in other words, 5.56 mm rounds with a thin jacket? I think Donahue was an honest investigator, and the book is well written. It is a good example of a classic: If you start out with a false premise, you will get a false conclusion.

  3. Unfortunately the SS refused to cooperate with attempts by the commission to assess the AR15, in yet another successful example of possibly pivotal evidence being hidden from closer scrutiny.
    The SS blatantly denied scrutiny of various evidence. Chains of evidence were forever compromised and lost at the expense of independent investigation.

  4. I hope everyone who beleives the Gladwell backed theory is disturbed enough to read into the assassination story. You might find James Files’ story alluring and credible, you might read about and watch film indicating Jackie shot JFK, and be utterly convinced.
    Two things come out of reading. You spot false leads quicker, the more you read. You become extremely circumspect about taking reports from the mainstream media at face value. The CIA have released documents showing, and media people have admitted,the links between the two. The link is established, so it doesn’t take a genius to be circumspect about a poorly evidenced theory. James Files’ story and the Jackie shot JFK theories are equally as strong as this one.

  5. I’d like to hear from your ballistics specialist so you can tell us how you can disprove that hickey didn’t accidentally discharge. I say this because there was nothing in the warren commission report about the AR15 being checked to see if it had even been discharged. I’m just saying ” would you want to admit that a member of the presidents secret service detail accidentally shoot the president in the head while someone else is actually shooting at him? ” yeah I wouldn’t either but you can’t deny the fact that there was an assault rifle present in the motorcade and that in the report hickey which by the way is almost always assigned to the motor pool lied and said that he didn’t draw the the weapon until they reached the overpass and finally that the entrance hole was consistent with the diameter of the ammunition used in the AR and not the weapon that was claimed to be used by Oswald. So yeah it does make sense that accidents do occur.

  6. Hickey was in the back seat of the follow up car. The follow up car windshield was between Hickey and JFK’s head. The top of JFK’s head was determined to be only 48 inches above the pavement, as the Lincoln limo sat quite low to the ground; much lower than the Cadillac follow up car.

    Any of you “scientists” see a slight problem here?

  7. All you have to do is look at the facts! Kellerman totally contradicted Hickey, the AR-15, was loaded and “she’s ready to go”, and Hickey said he was going entering the tunnel when he brought the weapon! The picture shows otherwise!!!

    That is all that needs to be said!

  8. You will notice people that don’t like the idea of the secret service firing the head shot, are either worried about the politics of the Huffington Post or they’re set on their “facts” of the case. However, if you have always kept an open mind about the Kennedy assassination you will see that the two gun theory makes total sense. LHO used full metal jacket rounds to shoot Kennedy in the neck. This type of round would not make the president’s head explode like it did on the 3rd shot. A lead .223 round would. Who were the only people identified by witnesses with rifles in Dallas that day? Lee Harvey Oswald and George Hinkey of the secret service. That’s it. Not to mention ballistics is a science. The man who came up with this theory used science to form his conclusion from no pre-conceived ideas, in the book mortal error. However,you have people here attacking the Reelz channel and the production company. They merely stole the original author’s idea.

  9. I’m 60 and have been following the JFK assassination since it happened. “JFK The Smoking Gun” still seems plausible to me. Why doesn’t anyone mention how the FIRST thing the secret service did, WHILE they were carrying the injured Gov Connelly from the limo, was to wash down the car? Is that the first thing that needs to be done to a crime scene in SS training, wash away evidence?

  10. Those who use the terms such as “bogus” and “debunked” in reference to this theory I believe are being irresponsible. They claim to seek the truth, yet try to kill off any mention of the theory that brings to light factors such as the AR-15; gunpowder smelt at ground level (close to and behind the JFK vehicle); behavior by the SS to cover up; eye witness accounts; SS agents’ accounts; and the ballistic evidence. These factors are worthy of further investigation, as unpalatable as it is for many to consider.

  11. The fact is as follows.: The wound channel of the non-fatal upper torso shot is grossly different from the fatal head shot. Trajectory/wound channel of the of the non-fatal upper torso shot is consistence with a weapon shot from above by a full metal jacketed bullet. Trajectory/wound channel of the of the fatal head shot is consistence with a weapon shot from street level my a fragmenting bullet.

    What is obvious is had JFK where it by the same shooter who nailed him in the torso, the projectile would have exited in the area of his left eye and would have been a minimal deforming exit wound.

    The grassy knoll is a myth. JFK’s head wound is not consistent with a shot from the front. Most people freak behind JFK’s head snapping back. The energy that propelled him backward was a combination of the exit energy and the resistance of JFK’s heavy duty back brace preventing forward movement (had he not had the brace on that day, he probably would have lived). These are the facts.

    I realize the JFK’s brain is ‘missing’. All considered…JFK’s brain was more than likely disposed of. Such evidence of a chief executive’s assassination just isn’t ‘misplaced’ or ‘lost’. I believe it is because it would provide definite trajectory confirmation. Ask yourself who had the where with all to access and ‘lose’ JFK’s brain and what was their motive and you come up with the United States Government.

    In my eyes, someone shot and hit JFK in the upper posterior torso from up above. The someone with an assault weapon in the JFK motorcade accidently shot JFK in the head. For myself, this is fact and I am very comfortable with this.

    Anyone looking for a kind of official confirmation that this is how it happened, realize no matter how much evidence is compiled that points to this being the case, the U.S. government will NEVER admit to it. It simply will not happen – EVER.

  12. mike anderson

    Why would anyone take this denial as anything more than more cover-up? Official propaganda piece

  13. Mariano Divincenzo

    JFK’s head wound with clean entry through the back of the head and an exploded exit near the right upper side of the head was a wound that could only be caused by a frangible bullet (not the mid-low velocity rifle LHO used with full metal jacket bullet). The SS’s AR-15 which also wasn’t a very powerful rifle and most likely had a silencer , would likely have held frangible bullet/s – so as to have lethal force and designed not to go through a target rather to break into many fragments shortly after entry into a target. Why was the SS so reticent to admit the existence of this weapon in the hands of agent Hickey whilst his hung-over colleagues took other positions?
    This was a SS embarrassed with their inadequate state of preparation for the protection of the president, and possibly, the decision to hand Hickey responsibility of the firearm that according to other agents was “cocked and ready to go” at the time of the shooting -denied by Hickey in testimony- proved fatal. The immediate actions of SS agents pose a lot of questions that have since remained unanswered.

  14. Mariano Divincenzo

    The idea that JFK might have been killed by a SS agent seems to be a step too far for some. JFK’s death was not adequately investigated, and to this day any pursuit of the truth or at addressing the burning questions that remain, are being hampered by apathy, and a SS, and Government, and press that lack the fortitude to demand the free-up of information, and genuine attempt to seek the whole truth.

  15. Mariano Divincenzo

    It appears that many are willing to attack the communicators and style rather than the contentions put. The documentary poses many interesting points worthy of closer examination, to mention a few:
    considerable witness claims of smelling gunpowder at ground level; factors that the Commission omitted to examine; hindrance by SS and military representatives to various chains of evidence; the failure of the Commission to draw a relevant difference between the full metal jacket and frangible bullet and ramifications of such a conclusion; the immediate disappearance of the M15 from SS after that fateful day; the inconsistencies of testimonies between Hickey and colleagues re the moments leading up to and beyond the shooting; the lack of proper autopsies at both hospitals … On the contrary, this documentary poses many interesting questions that deserve some intelligent scrutiny, rather than flippant dismissal.

  16. This is the obvious reason no one should be taking the accidental Hickey shot seriously:

    There is ample evidence of a shot from the TSBD, so you are required to believe that of all places for the President’s security to accidentally shoot their weapon in response, they hit the President square in the back of the head!

    Does anyone believe that? This agent didn’t just accidentally fire a round, it didn’t just accidentally hit near the man he was protecting, it didn’t just accidentally hit the President, it didn’t just accidentally mortally wound the President, it didn’t just accidentally kill the President with a sure head shot, it accidentally killed the President with a kill shot perfectly placed in the center of the President’s head!

    Come on, do some critical thinking here. This is the only interpretation of the data sillier than the most politically powerful man in the Universe being killed for no political purpose.

    1. Yes, because it must be a grand conspiracy and not a botched assassination and an accident. What’s more plausible, an accident that the secret service tried to cover up or a multi-national conspiracy with many players, of which none have come forward with definitive proof? A folly of errors by some sleep deprived, hung over SS agents doesn’t seem plausible? Just look at recent news, the SS are not infallible but they sure will look out for their own.

  17. The amount of support that the “Moral Error” theory has gotten among these comments illustrates something important.

    There is the standard conspiracy culture, which blames the usual suspects: CIA, FBI, Anti-Castro Cubans, Mafia.

    And there is the standard lone assassin culture which blames Oswald.

    But there are a lot of people who will happily believe in a conspiracy, but who aren’t part of either of those cultures.

    When people in the standard conspiracy culture tout the number of American who believe in a conspiracy, they should not take too much comfort in that. A large proportion of that majority consists of people who believe things like the “Hickey did it” theory.

    1. I’d point out that polls of the uneducated public are not relevant to the causes, effects or circumstances of an historical event. But, could you tell me why you think that “a large proportion of that majority consists of people who believe things like Hickey did it”?

      Do you have any data on that? Or is it a hunch?

    2. This has absolultely nothing to do with CIA, FBI, Anti-Castro Cubans, Mafia.

      It is simply about the stupidity, and arrogance of the secret service!! It continues to this day!! Whether jumping the White House fence….landind a gyro-copter on the lawn, after violating Washington DC airspace, party’ing down in Columbia, getting name it..they do it!!

      They just happen to cover this one up really good!! But the truth still came out!!

  18. The deep state brings out the big guns…Among other things , Malcolm Gladwell is an influential corporate writer and “third party” media asset:

    “An internal Phillip-Morris document released as part of the tobacco settlement listed Gladwell as a “third party” media asset—someone who could be counted on to rally public support for tobacco industry causes. In journalistic terms, “third-party advocate” simply means fraud…”third party” refers to a PR technique in which a corporation’s marketing message is delivered to the public through seemingly independent journalists, academics, think tanks, medical authorities, political leaders, academics, fire and police officials, environmentalists, regulators.”

    Over the years the National Journalism Center has produced hundreds of “third party” media assets:

    Yasha Levine wrote the book, The Corruption of Malcolm Gladwell:

    1. His finding were based on the book mortal error written by a ballistics expert. Malcolm Gladwell has nothing to do with the theory.

  19. The Donahue/McClaren theory is certainly valid based on the ballistics evidence. On a balance of probabilities, Donahue and McClaren are correct.

    Oswald took 2 shots. He missed on the 1st and made contact on the 2nd. Oswald discharged full-metal-jacket bullets fired from his Carcano rifle while he was perched on the 6th floor of the Book Depository. The evidence overwhelmingly supports this and so does the Donahue/McClaren theory.

    It can be reasonably deduced that Shot 3 came from a rifle with the firepower and frangible bullet characteristics associated with the AR-15 and that Shot 3 did NOT come from Oswald’s Carcano. The evidence is abundantly clear that Hickey had the means and opportunity to have accidentally discharged shot 3 since he possessed the rifle in or around the time shot 3 was fired and he had a clear shot from less than 20 feet from behind JFK. This makes the ‘friendly-fire’ theory by Donahue and McClaren valid.

    Hickey’s out of court settlement with the publishers of “Mortal Error” should not be misconstrued. The settlement was not based on the weight of evidence, it was a settlement designed to avoid the high cost of litigation. To suggest otherwise misleads the reader into believing that the ‘friendly-fire’ theory was invalidated at trial. It was not.

  20. Think it was a well presented theory and Oswald delivering the kill head shot is almost nil. If evidence presented that the head shot was not done with the type amo that Oswald was using then someone else had to fire the shot that hit Kennedy’s head. Along with smell of gun powder at street level and its pretty much a sure thing Oswald did not shoot the president in the head, then who did? Funny the author of this article does nothing to disprove the theory, just condemn the notion.

  21. People don’t like the Secrete service theory because its not a government conspiracy involving the CIA, FBI, assassins, Mafia, lizard aliens etc. and its not the nice and neat lone gunman nut job theory. All parties that subscribe to either the previously mentioned theories can’t believe it might have been an accident by someone employed to protect the president. A mistake by an inexperienced secrete service agent whose intentions were good, doesn’t have the same appeal as a CIA hit squad for example. The evidence and the actions by the Secrete service following the shooting make sense. It is the most plausible theory to date and scientifically speaking this is the most correct version of events until you can prove otherwise WITH FACTS. Courts ruling it is a Libelous Claim would do so based on the Warren Commission and other governmental inquiry findings, which is not at all exhaustive and is perfect case for “How not to” conduct an investigation.

    1. “People don’t like the Secrete service theory because its not a government conspiracy involving the CIA, FBI, assassins, Mafia, lizard aliens etc.”~Craigous

      I don’t know why other people don’t like the “Secrete service theory”, but I don’t buy it because there is no actual evidence but conjecture and supposition to support it. It does not stand up to ballistic analysis and scrutiny.

  22. I would like to hear one of those people who has spent 10,000 hours on Kennedy assassination respond to the accident theory. Certainly it sounds plausible — when you take just that shot in isolation…

    But it isn’t really in isolation is it. There was Oswald who I believe was set up, there was officer Tippit supposedly killed by Oswald, then Jack Ruby killing Oswald, there was the many more bullets found at the time not admitted by the Warren commission, the entrance wounds coming from the front, the reports of bullets coming from behind the fence, etc etc, you know in fact the amount of material unearthed over the years is staggering and the accident theory is a bit like trying to explain what the building looks like sitting in the restroom.

    So having read a few books, I believe that the accident theory is more unlikely than the theory that he was killed by the right wing. The later is I believe — GIVEN ALL THE DATA — highly plausible. Where a freak accident — in fact an assassination attempt AND a freak accident both on the same day, with a whole bunch of random data points surrounding it which don’t fit, and instead point to something else — is the more unlikely scenario. Why automatically assume the reverse?? People who want to shut their ears completely to a conspiracy should read more on what was actually going on and the surrounding events.

    People don’t want to be “extreme”, they are much “too smart for that”, but really it’s because the basic tendency in people is to prefer the accepted middle of the road. Add to that the fact that people are basically honest themselves and the outcome is that people are susceptible to cover ups, and worse, (as Hitler said) are more willing to believe a big lie than a small one.

    This is a very deep case thanks to the strength of the cover up (the best that the American elite could buy), I don’t think this theory has managed to penetrate it much, though I suspect that it will become very popular, as it fits a few easily understood facts & few people will delve deeper. The real benefit though is that it allows people to get closure and gives them access again to the conspiracy without having to be labelled a conspiracy theorist.

    1. If Oswald was the shooter, would he leave his gun in the bldg and the spent shells next to the window? That would mean the guy is a complete idiot. Unlikely. More likely he was told to wait downstairs by his FBI handlers. The sixth floor shooter was probably not Oswald but a CIA or FBI sharpshooter. First shot is directed at the pavement to signal everyone that the operation has started. The next shot (neck shot) is low hoping not to hit Connelly, but gets him by mistake. Pandemonium, screaming diverts attention from the SS car behind the President where agent Hickey is carrying an AR=15 loaded with .223 Rem shells. These shells fragment after penetration, cause extensive damage, and will not exit a skull shot thereby eliminating the possibility of collateral damage. Riding 20 feet behind and with the limo conveniently free of the SS riders who normally ride behind the President and with the limo slowed to a crawl, he puts a bullet in JFK’s head. Hickey’s was the easiest shot and the least likely to cause collateral damage. Meanwhile, there are shooters (CIA) on the grassy knoll who are waiting to shoot, but seeing the headshot make its mark, they hold off. Oswald, watching the cops rush upstairs, then realizes that everything has gone wrong, he has been double crossed, and he makes a break for it. Tippet is shot by Oswald? This is tough one. Oswald, running scared and confused, heads to the theater, but he is being followed the entire time by his handlers who tip off the cops and they rush in and arrest him. Ruby, who worked for Nixon in 1947, is ordered to take out Oswald before he talks. Ruby is later killed via injection (heart attack) in prison.

      Did the Secret Service remove JFK’s brain which has evidence of an .223 Rem frangible bullet, before the autopsy? Whatever the case, the brain disappears and along with it, definitive evidence that Oswald’s rifle did not fire the headshot. Hickey attempts to sue the author of “Mortal Error”, the book that explains that the shot came from Hickey’s gun, but waits too long. Hickey lives in obscurity, never granting an interview, until 2011

      It is hard to believe that none of the other riders in the car saw Hickey take the shot or are willing to admit he took the shot. However, in the hectic seconds after the first shots were fired, with people screaming and sirens (I don’t know it that’s true.) with the reverberation of the shots from the 6th flr echoing off the buildings in the Plaza, it is conceivable that Hickey could take a shot. The gun might have, and probably was, fitted with a silencer that Hickey could have easily removed after the shot was taken. All the evidence, the Secret Service redirecting the route down Elm street at the last minute, the agents getting off the back of the limo, the limo slowing after the first shots (against all training procedures), and the disappearance of JFK’s brain while under Secret Service custody, points to the Secret Service at every step. If Hickey didn’t take the shot, then somebody in his vicinity did. The Secret Service had recently been issued .223 Rem rounds for their AR-15 rifles, and this was the perfect round for the job, as it wouldn’t emerge through the skull and possible strike Connelly or another SS agent as the FMJ round from the Carcano could have.

      1. Andrew, good of you to point out the issue of the spent shells. The exact number of those spent shells on the window on 11-22-63 is a huge issue in the conspiracy question. On that particular date, there may well be evidence that there were only 2. Therefore, there had to have been another shooter on the 6th floor of the TSBD. I think Mac Wallace, a previous hitman for LBJ, looks good for the “other shooter”.

    2. It is likely that Powers and O’Donnell saw and/or heard Hickey fire his rifle. However, the FBI would surely approach these men and anyone else who saw it and explain that this was an accident (even though it wasn’t), the Kennedy would have died anyway (which he probably won’t) and that if it goes public that the Secret Service shot the President, the US would be disgraced and lose trust with its citizenry and the world (which it did anyway). Powers and O’Donnell or anyone else who insisted on revealing the SS shot would have the careers ruined, and possibly die a mysterious death. So no wonder that no one admitted seeing Hickey take the shot.

    3. The following was written by R. Grant and posted in Amazon Books discussion area for Mortal Error. It was in response to a poster who claims that the Donahue theory doesn’t hold up because, for one, Dave Powers, a Kennedy aide, was riding in the car with Hickey, and he surely would have reported agent Hickey firing a shot:

      “As far as Dave Powers goes, it’s interesting to note, in William Manchester’s book The Death Of A President, how little curiosity Kennedy’s family and aides had about the circumstances of the death or the identity of the assassin. It is entirely conceivable that, had the Secret Service gone to the family and explained what happened, that JFK’s aides would have cooperated in a cover-up. There was, after all, nothing to be gained by identifying Hickey when Oswald had already been arrested, and the suggestion that JFK had died as the result of a bodyguard’s mistake would have been an insult to his legacy. “Compassionate coverups” happen all the time.

      Numerous witnesses said they thought a shot originated from the area of the motorcade itself. More important, several knowledgeable onlookers noticed the smell of gun powder as the cars went by. There’s no way that smell could have come from Oswald’s rifle, but it could have come from the AR-15.

      Howard Donahue points out that neither of those fragments (found in the limo) contained tissue, blood, or any other evidence that they’d gone through JFK. In other words, they were the result of Oswald’s first, missed, shot hitting and fragmenting on Elm Street behind the limousine. One cylindrical piece of that bullet ended up on JFK’s scalp, prompting him to exclaim, ” My God, I am hit,” which Roy Kellerman in the front passenger seat heard him say just prior to the arrival of Oswald’s second bullet which traversed his throat and destroyed his ability to speak. The two pieces in the car are from the rear of the bullet, the nose section of which ricocheted and hit Mr. Tague further down Elm Street.

      It’s not clear that Oswald fired three shots. Three spent shells were found in the 6th floor sniper’s nest, and one of the spent shells was dented and showed a significant amount of wear. Most rifle owners keep a spent shell in the chamber so the firing pin isn’t damaged by dry firing. Oswald would probably have been instructed to do this by his Marine Corps instructors. As William Manchester speculated, Oswald may have only fired twice, particularly considering the difficulty involved in working the Carcano’s bolt-action in the time required. As the book suggests, the front seat fragments were a result of a ricochet off the pavement of Elm Street-and several witnesses thought they saw a shot hit the pavement behind SS100X.

      Roy Kellerman says he heard JFK speak after the first shot (“My God, I am hit!”), and he was used to hearing JFK speak in his inimitable accent. It is of course possible that he was wrong, but it’s also not unreasonable to assume that the two women were more affected by the shock than Kellerman was. Jackie said she had no memory at all of the limo ride to Parkland.

      As for George Hickey’s statement, it is contradicted by the statement of Agent Glen Bennett, who was right next to him on the back seat of Halfback. Bennett says he saw the shot hit JFK on the head and immediately reached for the AR-15, and found that Hickey was already holding it.

      Additionally, Hickey’s statement that he cocked and loaded the AR-15 is contradicted by Roy Kellerman, who testified before the Warren Commission that the AR-15 was “ready to go”, which is to say, it was already cocked and loaded and would only have required Hickey to turn the safety off to be in semiautomatic mode…..
      Numerous witnesses said they thought a shot originated from the area of the motorcade itself. More important, several knowledgable onlookers noticed the smell of gun powder as the cars went by. There’s no way that smell could have come from Oswald’s rifle, but it could have come from the AR-15.

      While a few of the other agents are glancing back at the sound of the first shot, George Hickey has already turned completely around. All he had to do next for Donahue’s theory to be correct was grab the AR-15 and have it go off just after he flipped the safety up. The agents on either side of him-BIll McIntyre on the running board and Glen Bennett next to him in the car-both say he was holding the AR-15 just after the head shot hit.”

      Winston Lawson, the Secret Service agent driving the lead car, testified to the WC that he just after hearing the 3rd shot he observed Hickey holding the rifle and “…thought he had fired at someone.”

      Donahue’s theory answers so many questions. And what answers even more questions is to factor in that Hickey’s shot was intentional. This would explain all the lack of Secret Service security, the lack of riders on the back of the limo, the fact that the parade route was changed to Elm Street, the slowing of the limo after the first shots, the unlikelihood of a trained Secret Service agent firing an errant shot through Kennedy’s head, and the disappearance of Kennedy’s brain…

  23. I’ve tried to find footage looking from the front, to see if there is any indication that a shot may have come from the second car. I can’t find any.

    Andwrew, I too have wondered about the gunfire sound. Someone in a post above suggested that the sound may have been muffled (silencer?). That could explain why the shot (if there was one!) could not be heard. About the windscreen; I do recall seeing somewhere something about a broken screen, but can’t remember the exact details. I suppose it’s possible Hickey could have fired from above the screen as he was (I believe) standing at the time.

    Something else that confuses me is that it’s the front part of JFK’s head that seems to be blown away, but the autopsy pics, I believe show it as the rear. If it was an explosive bullet from Hickey’s rifle, the result would have been exactly what is seen in all the videos

    I really don’t know the answer, but it certainly has me thinking.

  24. I thought his head went ‘Back and to the left’. Now I’m watching the show about being shot from the SS behind him??

    I’m more confused than ever now. After watching the latest documentary I also think that if a rifle went off in the car at street level there would be so many people who would have heard it. You can’t just fire a gun behind the president who everyone is watching, even if by accident and then expect no one to notice. Even Jakie would have heard a rifle going off from behind. What does she have to say about this theory I wonder?

    I found the show very interesting but still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Smell of gunpowder maybe but what about the sound? So many people on the street watching, I doubt they would all stay silent about it even if the SS wanted them to. Plus the bullet would have smashed the windscreen of the SS car. Unless he stood up and held the gun above it aiming down at the presidents head, very noticeable to everyone watching. I’m lost.

    1. Andrew, if it is true that JFK was shot by the SS agent, that shot was not the one that forced JFK “back and to the left”. The “back-left” shot came from a different weapon.

    2. You’re not lost.

      Back and to the left equates to a shot from the front, not from Hickey or the TSBD.

      Smell of gunpowder apparently is from a GK firearm.

      The Nix film doesn’t corroborate the SSA-did-it scenario.

  25. I’ve never been one for conspiracies, but having watched the programme being discussed, I do – for the first time ever – wonder if there is some truth in the ‘accidental shot’ theory.
    There do indeed seem to be a lot of loose ends to the tale. I just wonder if anything of relevance has yet to be released?

    I also wonder why nobody else heard the shot from the agents’ car. And surely someone would have caught something on video/

  26. If Hickey fired the accidental shot that killed JFK why didn’t Dave Powers hear it? The AR-15 would have gone off near his ear – hard to believe he didn’t hear it and wouldn’t have made a comment to someone – he wasn’t Secret Service after all.

      1. Watched it once then again the next night actually. The agent who said he thought he had fired the AR-15 was Agent Lawson who was driving the Presidential limo. Can’t find a statement from any of the agents from Hickey’s car who said he had fired. Or from the two Kennedy staff who were in the car. Was the AR-15 suppressed?

        1. Sorry – my bad – Agent Lawson was in the Lead Car – ahead of the JFK limo. Probably explains why he could look back as he was sitting in the right side front seat.

          I should perhaps add that I know very little about the JFK shooting – I was advised by a friend to watch the Smoking Gun documentary and found it fascinating. I have been looking at commentary on the internet about this theory as it seemed so plausible after watching the show. I just wanted some balance to the story as they told it. And I live in Australia too which is why I post my comments at unusual hours.

    1. Consider this: FBI interview Powers and O’Donnell and tell them that they can not allow the public to know that JFK was shot in the head accidentally by an agent. This would destroy the trust of citizenry in the government. So they have to keep quiet, and if they don’t their careers will be ruined and the will be branded conspiracy nuts. they played along.

    2. Powers and O’Donnell(JFK’s aides)were having a conversation just before shots were fired. They obviously heard shots, but they don’t say where from.

  27. It answers a lot of questions for me.

    The world has been so convinced it was an assassination (either by lone gunman or by conspiracy), that it never occurred to most – including myself – that it could have been a basic cock-up by the Secret Service who were then in the best position because of their incredible authority to shield their blundering colleague from blame.

    This is one occasion when an assassination was a better outcome for the authorities than a tragic accident, especially as there was an actual wannabe assassin taking potshots at the President. In the context of the Cold War, admitting the President’s bodyguard accidentally blew his head off while trying to protect him would have had Moscow rolling in the aisles laughing itself to death.

    1. Exactly, imagine the embarrassment. The Russians would have had a field day, the Cubans too. The CIA would have been a laughing stock. And it wouldn’t have been just about Hickey, the whole organisation would have been held accountable.

  28. It sounds possible that agent could have done it but if he was riding in the car standing up wouldn’t the shot have gone up in the air ,if it was accidental?or even shot himself in the foot. We are told people smelt gunpowder , you couldn’t smell it down below from the 3rd floor of the building , So if this is true , the agent did it on purpose. perfect shot for an accident and Oswald was a pawn,because he was killed off right away and couldn’t tell anything if he acted alone or not. There are so many deceitful people in this world and we will never know the truth.

  29. I find the George Hickey theory to be quite plausible. At this point, it’s a theory and each element should be evaluated. Maybe Hickey didn’t pull the trigger, but other elements could be valid. We should have a reasoned discussion. I’m disappointed that the discussion opens with “No, he did not.” The immediate dismissals by Mark Zaid and others are counterproductive as it contributes to the conspiracy theory rather than leading to the truth.

    1. This is dead on “I find the George Hickey theory to be quite plausible”. I actually like the Smoking Gun show; I thought they did a great job of showing the various testimonies and showing links to the smelling of gun powder and how the secret service changed it gun policy after the fact.

    1. When I said Huffington Post was “liberal” I wasn’t attacking it. I was describing its politics accurately. I am a liberal too so I was proud to blog for them. Would do it again.

  30. Your argument is full of conclusions and personal attacks (whether they are explicit or sarcastic, they are still personal attacks), but lacks any actual counterarguments to the secret service theory.

  31. So how many rounds and of what caliber has this “journalist” fired that gives him any idea at all of how bullet trajectory / ballistics works? Probably zero. He calls the Hickey theory lame and yet he presents no real evidence to support dismissing it. The only thing I find “lame” is this article.

  32. Accidental shooting by Hickey is possible although a stretch. I find it difficult to believe that an agent (especially a newbie whose responsibility was to wash, wax and gas up limos instead of actually protect the president) could hear a shot, assess it, reach down to the floor board (which was a foot or so below his feet) grab the AR-15, sit back up, flick off the safety and get his finger on the trigger all in just three seconds. Possible, but without practice or prior knowledge, I think more time is needed. Now, if Hickey’s weapon did discharge, say after 5 or 6 seconds, I do think it is entirely possible that the Secret Service THOUGHT they had just shot the president and responded with a cover-up.

    More importantly, the Hickey theory does not explain Oswald’s denial/patsy remark or Ruby’s actions for that matter. If Oswald was a lone nut looking for recognition why didn’t he admit to killing the president especially with such a spectacular shot? At the very least I would expect him to say nothing instead of denying it. As for Ruby murdering Oswald, in custody was a man who supposedly just shot the President, he should be the most guarded man in the world so that interrogations can continue and the crime fully investigated, however, Ruby, a man known to the Dallas Police Dept to have mob connections is allowed to waltz into the county jail, armed no less, and walk right up to Oswald and shoot him. Sorry, that action is not addressed by the Hickey theory and for me, is the single biggest reason that I will never believe that Oswald acted alone.

    1. “Spectacular shot?” Hardly. Similar shots have been replicated and some marksmen have scored 3 direct hits into targets moving at the approximate speed of the President’s car.

      1. JWD, it took several attempts from top marksmen to eventually get the 3 shots off and accurate, you take a clunky gun, the nerves of an idiot nutter in LHO and the dodgy gun site and there is no chance LHO got the third shot in. Then there is a the exploding bullet, the Ballistics seem to be missed by many in their support of the lone gun theory, he could’t of had two types of shells in his gun in that time frame. the last bullet exploded, the Zapruder Film shows that.

    2. Morley Upright

      To say that Oswald would have been guarded more closely is forgetting that it was 1963, not 2014.

  33. Jeff Morley obviously thinks so little of the documentary that it is sufficient to simply state that “No, the agent didn’t do it”. He does not address any of the evidence and therefore the article at the top of this trail should be thrown out as trash.

  34. I just viewed the follow up to last night’s documentary, the one hour special with Bill Kurtis. Unfortunately, this show was more like an infomercial than any other documentary on this topic. If this theory had any credibility, it has been hurt by both The Smoking Gun documentary & the 1 hour follow up. Tonight’s show had about 6 minutes of fact review & discussion amongst the panel, and the rest was a fluffer/filler combination of 1. Review of the previous night’s documentary, 2. Timeline of the overall events, 3. Discussion of the 60’s & the impact of the assassination on the culture of the US, & 4. excerpts of the judge from the AARB.

    If they wanted to raise awareness of this theory they have done a horrible job of delivering their message. Both the documentary & evidence follow up were poorly delivered. I am very disappointed.

  35. It is VERY plausible that a scrub secret serviceman made the biggest mistake of his life and then got it covered. More than Hickey himself would have had to answer for this screw up. Heck if you don’t think that’s plausible…. your blind and self indulgent to a supreme fault. Between Trajectory and fragments… and quite frankly the SOUND of the third shot is a distinct AR- sound. not a bolt action rifle. Dude screwed up… what should have been a FAILED assassination turned into a seemingly lucky, execution of JFK. Sad, but not mysterious as a MOB hit or CIA conspiracy… nowhere near as sexy. Sad but not sexy you conspiracy nutters out there.

  36. I just watched the REELZ special “The Smoking Gun”. Before I comment on the documentary, I will state the following: I have read more than a dozen books on the JFK assassination, did both my high school & college thesis on it. In college, I was 100% convinced of a conspiracy. As Ive grown older, hopefully a little wiser, read more on the topic, and seen every documentary produced, Im 100% convinced LHO acted alone, and no conspiracy has ever existed. Now commenting on “The Smoking Gun”, I will say that the documentary itself seemed less like a documentary and more like an Oliver Stone production, which is disappointing. As McClaren is a ballistic experts, and cold case expert, who put this together as a follow up to Mortal Error, I was expecting 2 hours of tests, facts being presented in a methodical manner, science to help validate their point etc. Instead, what we got was a narrowly presented show that played like a poorly acted episode of X-files. This is very disappointing because Ive been looking forward to this show, hoping McLaren was building on the original book, but all he did was turn the book into a cable show. The shame here is this: If this theory had any credibility, it was just severely reduced in my opinion. Is this theory plausible? It is more plausible than the grassy knoll, or the umbrella man, or any other multi-impossible conspiracy theory…. but it wasnt enough for me. There are questions that history will never know the answer to, but for me, this documentary hasnt changed my opinion.

    1. You should read the book “Mortal Error” and not base your opinions on documentaries made for cable TV. The book is very thorough. Also, you may want to consider the possibility the Hickey shot JFK intentionally. This would explain the absence of agents riding the back of the limo, explain why the driver slowed down after the first shots, explain why security was so lax…and explains why the brain disappeared. The accident story is the perfect cover for a planned assassination.

      1. Morley Upright

        None of what you suggest is true. JFK specifically ordered (as the limo left love field) that no agents ride on the limo, the driver slowed down as he turned around to see what was happening in the back seat (his foot raised up slightly as you can imagine), and Bobby Kennedy took possession of the brain.

        1. No, a SSA did not shoot JFK. This is disinformation. No, JFK did not order Agents off the bumper. Look at the film on you tube yourself. Leaving Love Field the agent was waved off by his boss, another SSA. JMO, mortal error is a mortal error, by design I don’t know (for sure). In contrast Vincent Palamara’s “Survivors Guilt” is quite convincing with documented end notes for every chapter that at the very least some agents turned their head to what was happening instead of protecting the President.

      2. I am inclined to agree with Andrew. The accidental discharge of Hickey’s AR-15 is not plausible, considering the level of training anyone who is expected to be able to operate a firearm as part of their job would have to complete successfully. I am curious about the weapons training standards for Treasury Department personnel in the early 1960’s. The film suggests the AR-15 was taken out of service for similar operations after the incident in Dallas. Hickey’s deposition contradicts the notion that the rifle was charged and on safe when he stated he cocked the weapon by pulling the charging handle back as he was preparing to take a firing position in his vehicle. Had he done so, a round should have been ejected and accounted for in his vehicle. The 5.56 mm round from the AR-15 is consistent with JFK’s head wound. The disappearance of the brain is consistent with a conspiracy orchestrated by the men charged with JFK’s safety. My eyes are wide open.

        1. Mark, I have been a poluce officer for almost 2 decades. I have personally seen several “accidental fire” events by other seasonedand very well trained officers on the range. I also ppersonally know 2 offices who were accidentally shot in training, one a 30 year veteran command officer woth 20 years swat training, who accidently shot himself. In fact accidental shootings are far more common then non law enforcement individuals would believe. I have watched the documentary and reasearched the premis. I believe the theory is certainly possible and back by a great deal of circumstantial evidence and some forensic and hard evidence. It never attempts to answer the questions pertaining to Oswalds involvemnet or issues. It simply looked at the ballistic evidence which is known. The willingness of this author to out right dismiss the book and film without offering any thought out rebutle of any facts or issues raised by the theroy is complete B.S. journalism.

          1. I never understood the term “friendly fire” until I was a Marine. I was nearly taken out, along with about a dozen other guys, by a trained rifleman who lost control of his M-249 SAW, which is a very common and manageable “machine gun”. I can’t even begin to list the number of accidental discharges and near-misses with the M-16, which is nearly identical to the AR-15.

            Personally, I never could believe that a cover up would last this long (nor do any of the theories seem fully plausible), but the evidence demands a second weapon/shooter. This is the only scenario I’ve seen with a legitimate look at ballistics, but more importantly this is the only second shooter theory I’ve seen that provides a believable cover up. Shoot, I’d probably keep my own mouth shut had I been there.

      3. Why has no one checked into Hickey’s background? Ties to CIA, LBJ, etc ? Every detail about 11/22/63 was planned down to the second. The TSBD was owned by LBJ’s friend, D.H. Byrd, and the theatre where Oswald was arrested was owned by Howard Hughes (Republican, hated Kennedy b/c of what he was doing to the oil industry) and used as a CIA front. Oswald’s girlfriend says the reason Oswald kept sitting next to different people in the theatre is that he was trying to find his next contact. He also had gone to his house first and changed his shirt before going to the theatre, so he clearly did not feel any sense of danger… There were similarities to the RFK murder too. Witnesses said the shot seemed to come from the SS behind RFK, that Sirhan Sirhan’s shot was too far away to have hit him in the head…

        1. Good points, Lisa. In addition to owning the TSBD, D.H. Byrd was also co-founder of the Civil Air Patrol.

          Is it another coincidence that in 1955-56, LHO was employed with Gerard. F. Tujague Inc.? Gerard Tujague was listed as Vice President of the Friends for Democratic Cuba (founded on 1/6/61 and tied to the Bolton Ford Dealership incident of 1/20/61, when the real LHO was in Russia) along with Guy Banister on the Board of Directors.

        2. Interesting to note on the RFK case, Thomas Noguchi was Chief Medical Examiner-Coroner for Los Angeles in 1968. His autopsy of RFK is significant for its conclusion that the fatal shot was fired into the back of Kennedy’s head, behind the right ear, from an upward angle, and from a distance of no more than one-and-a-half to three inches away. Sirhan Sirhan, in a position to fire such a shot and witnesses placed him several feet in front of Kennedy. Noguchi himself points out, in his memoir Coroner, that he has never officially ruled that Sirhan fired the fatal shot. He wrote, “Until more is precisely known…the existence of a second gunman remains a possibility. Thus, I have never said that Sirhan Sirhan killed Robert Kennedy.”

          I suggest reading this article pertaining to destruction of key evidence by the LAPD:

  37. I agree with uriah heep. warren commission was a joke and this theory is completely plausible. your article above contains no fact or evidence of this theory being debunked. I get the feeling you can’t stand the idea that a sectret service agent screwed up.

    1. Morley Upright

      So you’ve read the WC report?

      The joke is that people dump on the report based on what the conspiracy-mongers like Oliver Stone(d) claim, and are too lazy to dig any deeper.

      1. Nobody normal has the time to read the report and dig deeper. Rather, we watch, read, and absorb the theories put forth by the handful of people who DO have some sort of motivation for studying the issue. We base our conclusions on the veracity and completeness of the evidence provided by each camp, accounting also for how the researcher’s motivation may color his investigation, and we live our lives. It’s your job to present a complete argument, not ours to read 50 year old, voluminous works of fiction.

        1. An excellent response to this very common ploy where the ployster insists you need to read volumes of God knows what, before you are even allowed to question his assertions

      2. The joke is that the WC was ordered to claim LHO did it. Thank John Edgar Hoover for that.

  38. Just watched the Colin McLaren documentary. It seems entirely plausible to me that an accidental shooting took place by Hickey, and was subsequently covered up. The original article above contains no information or evidence that rebuts that case, except to say “Don’t be silly – I say Hickey didn’t do it and I am right because I’ve spent ages on this case”. (The 10000 hours argument is also extremely childish). Unfortunately, the cockup theory is probably the most pertinent when it comes to JFK’s assassination.

  39. I would like to hear exactly why the George Hickey-shot-JFK theory is not plausible. The accounts of the lawsuit settlement I can find on the web, do not settle that question.

    From the Baltimore Sun – Feb. 3, 1998:

    The decision to settle the case was made because “lawyers are expensive and we have no quarrel with Mr. Hickey,” Kaye said.

    John Sargent, chief executive officer of St. Martin’s Press, recently sent a letter to Hickey saying the book “was in no way meant as a criticism of you. We know of no information that denigrates your dedication to the Secret Service, President John F. Kennedy or this country.”

    St. Martin’s fended off the litigation in September, when a U.S. District Court judge dismissed the suit, ruling that Hickey had waited too long to sue. The book was published in February 1992, and Hickey sued April 21, 1995, exceeding Maryland’s one-year statute of limitations for defamation claims.

    Zaid appealed the case, intending to argue that other book sellers have republished Menninger’s allegations in reference works and encyclopedias. Zaid argued that the original publisher should be held liable for republication.

    The settlement was reached before paperwork was filed with the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

  40. It’s fine to rubbish any alternative theory into the assassination, even fashionable. Not to mention that it is very easy to do so without adding anything to the debate, as we have here. If it is so preposterous, then why is it so? Is the ballistic evidence also nonsense? Where did the smell of gunpowder at street level emanate from? Why is so much evidence missing, forgotten about or ignored? Why has so much testimony been dismissed? I am as convinced of there being more to what is widely known about the assassination as I am that it will never ever be known completely the full extent of what happened. So with that in mind, view the JFK assassination in the context of what American history and culture is all about. Mixed in with all that greatness is a deep seated cynicism, paranoia, corruptability and insatiable thirst for power.

    1. Morley Upright

      People can, apparently, mistake the smell of gunpowder from a certain mixture of gasoline, especially from motorcycles. And abruptly floorboarding the gas pedal on that heavy JFK limo will also produce a smell resembling gunpowder, according to car/gun nuts online. And, there was a strong 18-25mph wind that might have carried Oswald’s gunpowder smell down towards the kill zone.

      You might be able to glean something useful from the following:
      Alphabetical list of witnesses and testimony

  41. Why do you crackpots all find it so easy to dismiss that a horrible accident could not have been the root to one of history’s most tragic incidents.
    The evidence is compelling enough, why did the SS try so hard to obliterate so much procedure, evidence and witness tesitmony?
    Why did Hickey wait years after the initial claims were made before he responded with legal action, which was settled out of court?
    I’m sorry, the stench of cover up to such a dumb mistake is possibly more embarrassing to many than the simple possibility a very tragic mistake occurred

    1. I know, right. My sentiments exactly. Granted the shot that went through the back and exited out of his throat, might have killed him but the final shot, by Hickey, definitely finished him off. I really believe that it was a tragic accident by Hickey, who was only trying to protect the President, upon hearing shots fired by Oswald.
      The cover-up came after. The SS had been drinking the night before, not the behaviour one expects from such a professional organisation, especially when you’re protecting such an important public figure. To save the embarrassment and jobs, and possibly even the closure of the CIA, they covered it up. The George Hickey theory is the most plausible in my opinion.

    2. I agree! My question… Can we get a look at hickeys personnel file? This could shed light on how he was treated after the incident.

    3. Crackpots? And your pushing probably the biggest crackpot laughable non theory about the slaughter of JFK ever put out? Look in the mirror. The pot can’t call the kettle black. This is disinformation meant to distract from any real search for the truth. In addition the the ridiculousness of this non theory cast aspersions on the wealth of of relevant information discovered since the time it was first published. I find it interesting that most who post in support of this do not post on other subjects on the site.

  42. I’m sure Mr. Morley would tell the world of his dazzling intellect and uncanny ability to tear others down.

    Just wondering how one so brilliant could possibly conflate a settlement in a liability suit with a plausible story. There have been thousands of lawsuits settled on behalf of people lying through their teeth and covering things up.

    Also, the brilliant reporter Mr. Morley unsuccessfully shoots down the theory without offering a single alternative.

    In summary, Mr. Morley has stated in his essay “I’m right. These people are wrong. And that’s all I have to say about that because I’m smart and they’re not.”

  43. What is your obsession with liberals…Huffington Post is not remotely a liberal site and no liberals think it is.

    1. I fail to see how the O.P. can dismiss out of hand the idea that an SS agent made the kill shot. On what basis can you make that case? Simply that a SS agent would never do something like that? There’s no such thing as something a person “would not do”. Given the fact that the documentary validates the “single bullet”, which has always been considered one of the biggest problems, but points out a problem with the entry and exit holes on the head shot.

      Unlike your somewhat emotional response, the documentary presents ballistic evidence and testimony to support the theory. Just because something sounds conspiratorial or challenges the official story doesn’t mean it is untrue.

      1. Note to anybody seriously interested in the JFK Assassination. This is junk. Disinformation. A distraction. Spend your time reading about the 7 Most Wanted.
        A SSA did NOT accidentally ill the President.

        1. I have to agree with Ronnie. This theory was soundly debunked 20 years ago when it came out. If you are a true student on the case you would not take it seriously, just like all of the people who have done any real reading and research on the case don’t.
          It is generally lumped in with illuminati rubbish, ‘Jackie did it’ JFK is still alive on an island with Elvis or the driver shoot him theories. Best leave it there.

  44. Read the book, the agent fired off a shot while picking up the rifle which was on the back seat (out of view). His butt was on the trunk of the car, his feet were on the backseat; if he was 1) leaning over to pick up the rifle, 2) lifting his butt off the trunk (which means only his feet were on a surface (soft car seat) AND the car began to accelerate (which it did) then it is totally plausible that he could have lost his balance backwards as he picked up the rifle and accidentally fired off one round. This seems such as easy thing to illustrate. Put yourself in that position; there’s no way you don’t fall back if you lift your butt off the trunk and the car speeds up. 100% reasonable. Plus Dallas police were never allowed to examine the rifle after the shooting to see if it had been discharged.

    The theory answers a lot of unanswered ?’s. The smell of gun powder at ground level in the Plaza that many witnesses stated. The bullets trajectory on entry and exit. The car the agent was in had it’s windshield destroyed before it could be examined for a bullet hole. The SS denied a rifle was in the 2nd car but a picture taken after the car went under the bridge clearly shows the rifle present. The agents rifle matches bullet type and resulting entry and exit wounds. Why cover it up? I can totally understand that and partially agree with covering it up. What nation (especially the US at the time) would want to get on the TV and announce OOPS we shot the leader of our country by mistake today now over to Jim for the weather forecast. Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for those “in the circle” who knew what happened. They had a patsy (Oswald) so why make matters worse?

    1. The theory does NOT answer serious questions, such as the Dallas doctors at Parkland seeing a small entrance wound in the Kennedy’s right temple and a gaping hole in the BACK of his head, nor does it answer the witnesses who saw and heard at least one shot coming from behind the fence as well as smoke from a gun coming from behind the fence. It doesn’t line up with the acoustical evidence either. This is a sloppy, completely unrealistic theory that Gladwell is proposing. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

      1. This is in direct contradiction to the evidence presented in the documentary. Is the evidence simply untrue? That particular piece of evidence was laboured over and is key to the theory. According to the documentary, the clean hole was in the back of the head. It is the reason why this documentary can rule out grassy knoll rubbish theories.

        1. Apparently one man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure Paul, I think the theory you are promoting is rubbish.

          I frankly accept rifle fire from the Grassy Knoll, however I think that sniper missed. From that trajectory the bullet would have passed from right temple to Kennedy’s left temple. I think that the head shot came from directly in front – from the farther end of the knoll, near the Triple Underpass. One shot entering the right temple at an angle and passing through the right side of the head, exiting from the right occipital. I think the mass of brain tissue was instantly turned to a partial liquid, jelly like state, and the supersonic speed of the bullet caused instant cavitation – an implosion/explosion that fragmented the skull, and the pressure blew through the occipital-parietal (top-rear).
          Both the head shot and the shot to the throat came from this same spot.

    2. A rifle shot fired from the following car at street level only feet away from spectators would have sounded like a cannon going off. This fact alone would have come out immediately after the assassination from FBI interviews with the witnesses. The accidental shooting by Secret Service agent is ludicrous.

  45. Kenneth Breden

    I was 16 at the time and I don’t know anymore now than I did then. For all I know Captain Kangaroo was responsible. Was their a conspiracy? Probably.

  46. Stuff like this gives conspiracy theorists a bad name.Perhaps it is done intentionally to discredit sincere researchers.

    1. What is the difference between this theory and other way-out theories such as Corsican hit squads or a New Orleans gay thrill -kill group? This guy will make money pushing this crap-as have many conspiracy authors over the last 50’s a living.

      1. Wait a minute—are you telling me that Bill O’Reilly, Bugliosi, Posner and others are giving their pro-Lone Nutter books away for free?

        1. Bugliosi’s Reclaiming History was one of the most expensive JFK books. Yet, it is the conspiracy writers who are criticized.

          1. I agree with John. Allen Dulles was once asked upon the publication of the 26 volumes of the Warren Commission Report if it was even necessary to publish all of the volumes, instead of just a condensed version. His reply was “Nobody reads in this country.” Fortunately some people did read, people like Mark Lane, who found the cobbled hodge-podge of loosely and sloppily assembled data in the WC Report to have major flaws that were not properly addressed. He began to apply critical thinking to the report, and interviewed people, many of whose testimony completely contrasted with the official story, more than what you would find in a mean deviation.

            I would argue that most people DON’T read; they get their news in soundbytes or in computer snippets. If more people did read, they would have to confront the evidence which doesn’t jibe with the Warren Commission, among other things told to them in our country: about Iraq, about global warming, about many inconvenient facts. I’d be okay with that to a point, but what bothers me is that the news reporters don’t read, and don’t ask the critical questions often enough. If THEY don’t do their job, it makes it easier for dumb ideas to take root: ideas like Gladwell’s JFK assassination stuff, which is absolute baloney.

  47. George Simmons

    This story to me illustrates the failure of the media when it comes to pursuing the truth regarding the JFK assassination.

    No one can say for sure what really happened, but it is clear that the CIA still holds records which could bring us a clearer understanding of what happened. The media should be demanding the release of these records, they should be smashing the door down of the CIA, but instead we get either silence, or projects like this.

    For me, it is a kind of disinformation. There will be new generations of people interested in the JFK story who will be searching the internet etc and looking for information. This kind of thing just muddys the waters for them and, I should think, puts them off. In that sense, these sort of absurd documentaries etc do a real dis-service to the search for truth.

  48. The Secret Service agents that were tailgating JFK on Elm Street when he was ambushed & killed had a situation & a story similar to the tragic end of Randy California, my favorite young adult years guitarist from the jazz-rock band Spirit. Randy drowned saving his son from an undertow. Had Randy not drowned but lost his son instead he’d have had a similar situation as JFK’s guards. The guards that consumed booze the night & morning before, the gun smoke Ralph Yarborough smelled on Elm Street & JFK’s driver looking at him when he was shot in the head & killed have aggravated the finger pointing over the decades. Unless we were in a similar situation there’s no way to know how we’d have responded.

    There are those who feel the guards failed JFK by not disciplining themselves to remain in an alert, sober status the entire Texas trip & there are those who feel the guards relaxed JFK’s security for a more sinister purpose.

    They, like all humans, are not restricted to not ‘coming clean’ anytime, any place, anywhere. Until something like that were to happen, I can’t help but feel sorrow & pity for them for losing their boss in the most heinous, sickening manner imaginable.

  49. What’s next? Jackie with Walther PPK in Pill Box hat? The fact that
    certain elements of the the lefty media(Huff Post/Yahoo) would publish such ludicrous speculation,is testimony to the insidious nature of the discredit campaign.Focus on the truth:LBJ!

    1. Morley Upright


      You’ve gotten the right NUMBER of initials.. but the right INITIALS are LHO

      1. LHO was joined in the TSBD 6th Floor by MEW, LF, and RM(Malcolm E. “Mac” Wallace, Loy Factor, and Ruth-Ann Martinez. I’ll grant you LHO may have fired a shot, but it wasn’t the one that killed JFK.

  50. Jim Passarelli

    Bravo Jeff! Does Malcolm Gladwell really need to cash in on the 50th anniversary with a such a silly and unimaginative piece of slop? Evidently personal embarrassment was not a deterrent. Shame on the Huffington Post as well! Jeff, many thanks for all your great work over the years.

  51. I was given a copy of “The Tipping Point” when Gladwell was the speaker at a business conference I attended years ago. I read it on the train home and was astounded that anyone would take it seriously. A bunch of anecdotes that were dressed up as research. Entertaining if you don’t think through it.

  52. Jeff — thanks for that reasoned perspective. How many, I wonder, will be required in the coming months? A friend, knowing of my long-held interest in this story, wrote to ask my opinion about the plausibility of Gladwell’s loosely screwed theory, and I responded, more viscerally and less informatively than you, as follows:

    I think we are now in the beginning stages of a four-month descent into the JFK rabbit hole, in which we will experience a wonderland of visions that are orders of magnitude stranger than anything ever served up by the White Rabbit, the March Hare and the Mad Hatter. Never before and, let us pray, never again will we be presented with a groaning table loaded with such a cornucopia of B.S., all of it provided courtesy of a million overnight experts, popping onto the scene magically, like tree frogs after a rain, all croaking unintelligibly.

    This theory makes no sense. I expect before this anniversary has passed we will have hundreds of ludicrous theories to contend with — none of them “unveiled” for the purpose of revealing the truth of what happened — most of them old and discredited, all of them trotted out with visions of sugar plums in the heads of authors/publishers/tv networks/docudrama divas/and those of the simply looney variety. If we spend a lot of time on these offerings, we’re just as nuts as they are.

    I would not be surprised if the real experts don’t hole up in their dens to wait out this upcoming typhoon of assassination pop culture revelations, and poke their heads out only after the wave of lunacy has subsided.

    In the future, how shall we refer to the coming onslaught of mis- and dis-information? In honor of the initial offender, I suggest a medical term: Gladwell’s Disorder.

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