Lehrer on JFK: ‘there may have been a conspiracy’

Jim Lehrer
Jim Lehrer

Former PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer appeared on the Diane Rehm’s NPR radio program yesterday and talked about his suspicions of conspiracy in the assassination of President Kennedy.

His careful comments broke from the orthodoxies of American journalism.

In 1963 Lehrer was a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald, the city’s afternoon paper, assigned to cover the arrival of the Kennedys at Love Field on the morning of November 22, and their scheduled departure that afternoon. He is also the author of new novel about JFK’s assassination entitled “Top Down.”

The conversation went like this:

REHM: “Jim, you know far better than I that there are still many people who believe that President Kennedy’s assassination was the result of a conspiracy, that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. That Jack Ruby was placed in there to kill Lee Harvey Oswald so he couldn’t talk. What was your conclusion after all of your own investigation?

LEHRER: “It’s complicated. I spent, as I say, six months or even longer believing all of that what you just said, it had to be — it just seems so obvious that one guy couldn’t have done that. And it had to be a conspiracy. You know, one crazy guy just could not get away with killing the president of the United States. ….

“And so it was — disbelief was there for everybody, particularly among reporters. And our job is to test everything or whatever. So what — I went at my reporting or the idea that there had to be a conspiracy. The only issue was, what kind of conspiracy? So I checked out every one of them, as did everybody else. And it was all said and done, I came away with a conclusion after several years, after a few years that there may have been a conspiracy.”

“And — but it’s not provable and that the lone gunman stands alone as the probability at this point. However, I always personally believe that one day, you know, when they still had the old wire machines with the bells ringing and all that sort of stuff, that one day I was going to hear the bells ring and there was — there’s going to be a bulletin, somebody on a death bed or whatever who said, okay, I’m going to tell my story.”

Lehrer’s comments, appropriately careful given the contradictory evidence, show a refreshing willingness to describe the evidence, as opposed to pronounce on theories. Along with the new book, “The Kennedy Half Century,” by veteran pundit Larry Sabato, Lehrer’s comments signal a new willingness among some mainstream journalists to speak candidly about the causes of JFK’s assassination.

You can listen to the whole conversation here. 

14 thoughts on “Lehrer on JFK: ‘there may have been a conspiracy’”

  1. Lance B. Payette

    It is, of course, the simplest thing in the world to find a conspiracy in the assassination of JFK: a President despised by multiple, disparate, powerful individuals, organizations and agencies; an assassination during the noon hour in a public square with dozens of possible shooter locations and hundreds of potential suspects; a mad scramble of an aftermath in which some of those individuals, organizations and agencies attempted to make themselves appear less inept than they were; and a veritable army of subsequent hoaxers, confessors and fast-buck authors.

    With these ingredients, I or anyone else could weave a dozen superficially plausible conspiracy theories. How many such mutually exclusive theories have come and gone – 50, perhaps? Certainly at least 25.

    There are people who actually believe the scenarios postulated in Best Evidence and Harvey & Lee – scenarios you couldn’t peddle to the most whacked-out, shape-shifting-aliens lunatic fringe of UFO True Believers.

    The truth of the JFK assassination is to be found, IMHO, in the life and psychology of one Lee Harvey Oswald. This is why the conspiracy theories are always forced to portray a cartoonish, cardboard cut-out LHO who can be inserted into the theory but bears no resemblance to the actual man.

    That’s right: the truth is superficially unlikely, improbable, emotionally unsatisfying and difficult to accept, as the truth often is. But it’s the best fit with the actual evidence.

  2. What does Mr. Lehrer find hard to believe? Has he read the Warren Commission Report? Has he read Gerald Posner’s book “Case Closed”?
    Does he know anything about Oswald’s life? If you look at the footage of the motorcade that day..anyone could have killed Kennedy.
    He was sitting in an open car traveling at speeds at times less than 10 miles an hour. And remember, Oswald did not get away with it. I wonder about his thought processes…if he can get this wrong, how many other things has he gotten wrong. A reporter’s job is to present facts, not judge. Does he forget that Jack Ruby was at the western union station wiring money the day Oswald was killed. And Oswald was due to be transfered from that jail an hour earlier. It was in all the papers and on news reports. Why was Ruby an hour late and just strolled into that area just in time to shoot Oswald? In fact Oswald was delayed by a postal inspector who wanted to ask him about him ordering gun and rifle thru the mail. That was the hour delay. He also asked for a change in his jacket. If it wasnt for those 2 delays, Ruby would have missed Oswald, yet no one tells those facts. Just sinister forces, etc and etc and that Ruby was waiting for Oswald.

    1. If the dark sinister forces had conspired to kill JFK, would they have used two idiots like LHO and Ruby to do the dirty work?

      1. Mutaman, your comment intrigued me. I remembered reading a similar comment recently. I searched diligently and finally found it. It appears in an article by Paul Bleau called “Oswald’s Last Letter” on the “Kennedys and King” website.
        Mr. Bleau states that the DRE was set up in 1960 by CIA man William Kent, working under David Phillips. By 1963 Phillips had been reassigned to Mexico City and Kent became George Joannides’ supervisor. Kent’s daughter was interviewed by Gaeton Fonzi of the HSCA. She told him her father only mentioned LHO once, over dinner.
        Kent called him “a useful idiot.”

  3. CBS reporter Bob Huffaker called Oswald “Lee Harold Oswald,”
    with yet another middle name Huffaker had acquired from DPD Capt. Glen King.

  4. Lehrer was much more dismissive, even denigrating, when it came to suggestions of conspiracy when he appeared with Robin MacNeil at the Newseum in May. MacNeil, on the other hand, acknowledged he initially ran up the grassy knoll because he was following the police.
    Interestingly, in light of Bill Simpich’s first chapter, Lehrer said he initially heard the accused assassin’s name as “Lee Henry Oswald.”

  5. This seems to imply that while he couldn’t believe that JFK COULDN’T be killed by just one man, there has been nothing to confirm otherwise. Perhaps a better witness would have been someone who was on the scene, who actually saw Oswald in the TSBD, who reported the death of JFK for NBC, who believes that Oswald shot JFK- Jim’s former partner for decades, Robert MacNeil

    1. Photon…. Funny, but LBJ, Nixon, Barry Goldwater, Sen Russel, RFK and the KGB didn’t believe one man did it either. But you and Robert MacNeil do. I’m sure the two of you have seen more classified documents on the assassination then they did.

    2. Photon,

      It’s interesting that you bring up Robert MacNeil. Here’s what he said about that day, in an essay about Kennedy’s Texas trip in Fort Worth and then Dallas (MacNeil was in the motorcade on the press bus):

      “We turned into Dealey Plaza. I looked at my watch and thought, “Well, I’ll have about half an hour before I have to do a radio piece for the news on the hour.”
      And while I was just figuring that, there was a bang.
      We all said, “What was that? Was that a shot? Was that a backfire?” I don’t know. You know a few of these things back and forth. And then there was bang, bang. Two very close together.”

      You can read more here:

    3. Photon, here’s what MacNeil said in a filmed interview 20 years ago: “We’ve seen revealed one conspiracy after another. Anybody would have to be a fool nowadays to dismiss conspiracies. Perhaps we lived in a fool’s paradise before the Kennedy assassination.”

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