“Bob Dylan Has a Lot on His Mind,” the New York Times reported on June 12. That’s for sure. In late March, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down America, the 79 year old singer-songwriter released “Murder Most Foul,” an epic, 17-minute song-poem about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Since “Who killed JFK?” is one of the central questions of American history, you might think that the Times interviewer, historian Douglas Brinkley would ask the Nobel laureate about how he came to compose his dark and brooding take on November 22, 1963. You might think Brinkley, a CNN commentator, would ask Dylan why he decided to release the song as the country and the world reeled from a plague.
Last month the New York Times published a letter that seriously misstated the JFK medical evidence. Harris Meyer, senior report for Modern Healthcare, called out the Times with a call for a correction. Meyer’s letter contains important information that Dennis Breo, the author of the letter (and the newspaper of record) chose to omit, perhaps because the information calls into question Breo’s reporting on the subject.
Here’s Breo’s letter, “Mysteries, Solved and Unsolved,” in which he claims that he and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) had definitely resolved questions about JFK’s autopsy in 1992
The disturbing shadow of John F. Kennedy’s assassination remains visible in American politics and journalism.
Witness the appearance of Roger Stone, adviser to Donald Trump, at a symposium on Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans, which drew the attention of the New York Times (and the pro-Clinton attack group Media Matters.)
“At a time when talk of having lost the country is very much in vogue, along with deep suspicions of a powerful and secretive elite, the symposium seemed remarkably of the moment,” writes reporter Campbell Robertson.
Of course, reporting on how fears of secret power are driving the discourse of the 2016 presidential election is an eminently timely and worthy subject. But reporting is what Robertson failed to do. Instead of learning the latest JFK facts, Times readers were served a birthday cake. Read more
“Conspiracy theories,” writes author Annie Jacobsen in a New York Times forum, are “the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of how we live.” A JFK conspiracy theory (or anti-conspiracy theory) is a story we tell ourselves in order to make sense of what happened on November 22, 1963.
“The C.I.A.’s growth was ‘likened to a malignancy’ which the ‘very high official was not sure even the White House could control … any longer.’ ‘If the United States ever experiences [a coup to overthrow the government] it will come from the C.I.A. and not the Pentagon.’ The agency ‘represents a tremendous power and total unaccountability to anyone.'”
With the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination barely three months away, the New York Times appears to have solved one lingering question: the provenance of a curious gravestone that appeared next to Lee Harvey Oswald’s final resting place in Ft. Worth’s Shannon Rose Hill Cemetery about 15 years ago.
This is an important development. An accomplished newspaper reporter is taking on a subject most accomplished journalists have shied away from for 50 years: the government’s compromised investigation of the assassination of JFK.
“Phillip Shenon, a former New York Times reporter and author of The Commission, an acclaimed and critical look at the 9/11 Commission Report, has promised us a new book that claims that “powerful” people had influenced the Warren Commission’s investigation and final conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing John F. Kennedy.”
In short, Shenon is doing individually what the Times never did institutionally: accountability reporting on JFK’s assassination.
Last month, in an empty movie theater in Washington, DC, I saw “Parkland,” the Tom Hanks-Peter Landesmann film about the assassination of President Kennedy. I was so underwhelmed I didn’t know what to say.
The fact that the movie tanked at the box office and puzzled critics indicated its presentation of JFK’s murder as a fairly ordinary homicide in Texas had no resonance, even with elite media organizations imbued with a cultural affinity for the lone gunman theory. So I decided I would write something after the 50th anniversary and I never got around to it.