What can science tell us about the assassination of President Kennedy assassination — and the investigations that followed?
NOVA, the PBS science show, will take a stab at answering that question with JFK Cold Case,a documentary scheduled to premier next November 13 in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination.
One common misconception about the JFK assassination story is that suspicions of conspiracy originated with authors who dreamed up sensational theories. In fact, the controversy over JFK’s death emerged from the circumstances of the crime before any conspiracy theories had been published.
Case in point: On December 1,1963, Richard Dudman, a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who was in Dallas, wrote an unusual article about JFK’s assassination. He did not assume the truth of public statements by law enforcement agencies. Rather, he compared those statements to what he had observed, and he asked “Did Assailant Have an Accomplice?”
Dudman was no conspiracy theorist. He went on to a long career in Washington journalism in which his independent reporting later would land him on President Nixon’s so-called “enemies list.”
The first newspaper accounts of JFK’s autopsy, published on December 18, 1963, gave a consistent account of the gunfire that was widely believed at the time (and became the basis for the postcard from Dallas reproduced here). But these accounts, published in the Washington Post and New York Times, vary dramatically from what pathologists later said. This version of the gunfire that struck JFK would be abandoned and forgotten by the two newspapers and defenders of the official story, all of whom later settled on a very different ballistic theory.
One possibility for this major discrepancy is that the Post and the Times stories were based on the original autopsy report that was later rewritten surreptitiously.
The Times story came from the Associated Press and was attributed to “a reliable source familiar with the autopsy findings.” The Post story was based on “the unofficial report of pathologists,” The stories were consistent with each other, both asserting that: …