Q. Was Lee Harvey Oswald just a bad shot? A. No

Unfortunately, Mother Jones and the L.A. Times have recycled another poorly documented JFK theory: James Reston Jr.’s claim that Lee Oswald was aiming at Govermor Connally and accidently hit JFK in the head.

Oswald in Custody

Oswald: “I’m a patsy”

The biggest attraction of this theory is that it extracts November 22 from political debate because it defines JFK’s death as an apolitical act unrelated to his policies. This is a comforting thought, especially to smart liberal reporters like Kevin Drum who feel the need to state an opinion on a major historical issue but really don’t want to get bogged down in the evidentiary and ideological morass that is the JFK assassination debate. (Can’t say as I blame him for that.)

The biggest problem with Drum & Reston’s theory is the facts. They don’t have many.

Reston’s sole Secret Service source isn’t particularly credible and, more importantly, his claims are not corroborated. Yes, pages may have been torn out of Oswald’s notebook but that doesn’t mean the missing pages concerned Connally.

Oswald didn’t hate Connally, nor did he hate JFK. (Oswald thought JFK was a typical politician, though he liked his civil rights policies) And the evidence that Oswald fired any shots, while circumstantially strong, would not have survived courtroom scrutiny from competent defense counsel. All of which is why no serious scholars of the JFK assassination have found merit in Reston’s theory. In JFK studies, it is an idiosyncratic outlier.

Finally, the odds that the fatal shot to Kennedy’s head was accidental are like the odds that a monkey tapping randomly on a typewriter could write a Shakespeare play. Sure, its theoretically possible. That doesn’t mean it has ever happened or ever will.

One definition of a conspiracy theorist is a person who is incapable of distinguishing what is possible from what is probable. In this sense, Kevin Drum is a conspiracy theorist.

Was Lee Harvey Oswald Just a Bad Shot? | Mother Jones


  1. John Rowell says:

    The Mother Jones Blog posting by Kevin Drum is a little misleading. Drum seems to suggest that the theory is relatively new, having first been proposed in James Reston Jr.’s 2013 book “The Accidental Victim.” It was actually first offered up by Reston in his 1989 book “The Great Expectations of John Connally.” Here is a 1988 excerpt from Time magazine:


    As for the theory itself, I have always been, and will continue to be, skeptical of evidence no one has ever seen.

  2. Cassandra says:


    Here is a link to an excellent article with some JFK facts. An argument about whether Oswald was aiming for Kennedy or Conally is completely irrelevant because all ballistic evidence proves that Oswald shot no one on that day. Please read Charles Crenshaw’s books that prove Kennedy was killed by a shot from the front and post some of that information here instead of obvious disinformation. We do not have to wait until the secret files are released to conclude that Kennedy was killed by elements of the CIA, the Mafia and the anti-Castro Cubans. Excellent researchers over the past 53 years document this conclusion: Mark Lane, Jim Garrison, David Talbot, Gerald McKnight, Jim DiEugenio, Peter Dale Scott, Gaeton Fonzi, James Douglass and Fabian Escalante, to name a few. Readers, watch on Amazon for the release in April, 2017, of Antonio Veciana’s book, ‘Trained to Kill: The Inside Story of CIA Plots against Castro, Kennedy, and Che; he was an eye witness to Oswald’s ties to the CIA.

  3. donna servidio says:

    we know the real story…..this lady is just guessing and doing so wrong…

  4. Pat Speer says:

    Reston’s sole source regarding the purported “kill list” in Oswald’s address book that was purportedly removed is former Secret Service agent Mike Howard. He should have done some digging. Howard is among the least credible witnesses who could say such a thing, as he was caught lying to the press and to the FBI during the Warren Commission’s investigation.

    This is discussed in detail in patspeer.com, chapter 4. To summarize, a reporter wrote an article claiming a secret service agent had told another man in his presence that there was a negro co-worker of Oswald’s who was gonna say he saw Oswald fire the shots. The FBI followed-up on this with the DPD and was told this witness was probably Charles Givens, and that Givens would lie for money. When Mark Lane started talking about this they followed up again, and discovered that the secret service agent was Mike Howard. When confronted, Howard denied discussing Givens with the reporter, but admitted talking to another man in the reporter’s presence. The FBI then followed up with Howard’s brother, the other man, and he told the FBI that he and his brother did in fact discuss Givens in front of a reporter, but only in the context of Givens’ failure to return to the book depository’s being an “amusing incident”.

    This strongly suggests that Mike Howard lied twice: first, when he told his brother and the reporter a tale about Givens’ seeing Oswald fire the shots, and second, when he told the FBI he never discussed Givens in front of the reporter. So, no, Mike Howard is not credible with his 40 years later claim Oswald had a “kill list” in his address book.

  5. Bogman says:

    The LA Times actually published an opinion piece this week by Reston:

    Geesh, talk about conspiracy mongering. Guess the only conspiracies allowed for discussion in MSM are ones completely removed from facts. And like Jeff says, the political environment of the early ’60s.

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