Tulsi Gabbard Keeps Good Company on JFK

[This story first appeared in AlterNet on Feb 20, 2019 under the headline, How the Question of Who Killed JFK Emerged in an Unexpected Way on the Campaign Trail.]

Tulsi Gabbard
Tulsi Gabbard, presidential candidate

On February 17 in Fairfax Virginia, Donald Jeffries, author and talk radio host, asked Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard about a book she had been seen carrying, “JFK and the Unspeakable.” Published in 2008, the book is a Catholic philosopher’s meditation, driven by ethics and facts, about the assassination of a liberal president John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963, one of the great historical crimes of American politics,

Gabbard replied she had not finished the book She added:

Tulsi Gabbard answers a JFK question, Feb. 17, 2019 (Credit: Donald Jeffries)

“from what I have read, it uncovers a lot things that speak to what happened [on November 22] in a way that I haven’t seen anywhere else.”.

It was a cautious statement but custodians of the conventional wisdom pounced, nonetheless. Before Jeffries posted the video on Facebook, Olivia Nuzzi, Washington correspondent for New York Magazine tweeted about Gabbard’s comment. University of Virginia historian and pundit Larry Sabato responded dismissively.

This lazy tweet is not only unfair to Gabbard, it scants “JFK and the Unspeakable,” among the best books on JFK’s assassination published in the last twenty years. Author James Douglass not only recounts the latest research about the national security power struggles that wracked Kennedy’s administration up to the day of his death. Douglass also grapples with why we, as a society, have such a difficult time talking about the meaning of JFK’s murder. To confront JFK’s death, he concludes, is to confront an act of evil that we find unspeakable.

Sabato’s sniping overlooks the fact that Gabbard’s doubts are hardly unknown in the American political elite. If the former Hawaii Congresswoman has a “conspiratorial mind,” then so do former Democratic presidential nominees John Kerry and Al Gore, and maybe even Bill Clinton.

In 2013 Kerry said he thought Kennedy had been killed by a conspiracy, possibly emanating from Cuba, but declined to elaborate. At a joint campaign appearance in 1992, Clinton and Gore were asked if they thought JFK had been killed by a conspiracy. Oliver Stone’s “JFK” was a box office sensation at the time with its all-too-believable depiction of the assassination as a coup by the CIA and Pentagon. The ever-slippery Clinton deflected the question to Gore, who said yes, he thought there was a conspiracy. Clinton then agreed with Gore.

Once in office, Clinton changed his mind and said there was no conspiracy. He also appointed a civilian panel in 1994, the Assassination Records Review Board, that began declassifying millions of pages of long-secret JFK files, a process that is still not yet complete.

‘Felled by Domestic Opponents’

Now you could counter that candidates on the stump (or a retired Secretary of State) will say anything to please a crowd or attract attention. In 2016 Donald Trump smeared rival Ted Cruz with an unfounded claim that his father was involved in JFK”s assassination. But Trump’s mendacity should not obscure the record.

Robert F Kennedy on his brother’s death.

Numerous power players of the 1960s also had “conspiratorial minds.” JFK’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, his brother Robert Kennedy, and his widow Jackie Kennedy all privately spurned the Warren Commission’s conclusion that JFK had been killed by a man with no discernible motive. None actually shared Sabato’s blithe belief that the Warren Commission’s account of Kennedy’s assassination is irrefutable.

According to historians Tim Naftali and Aleksander Fursenko, Robert and Jackie Kennedy told their painter friend William Walton just a week after the ambush in Dallas that they suspected JFK had been “felled by domestic opponents.” As recounted in David Talbot’s “Brothers,” RFK discretely investigated the possible involvement of CIA-funded Cubans and organized crime bosses in his brother’s death for the rest of his life.

Jackie Kennedy, in a 1964 conversation with William Manchester, demurred on the Warren Commission’s controversial theory that a single bullet had wounded both her husband and Texas governor John Connally. (The so-called “single bullet theory” is the forensic keystone on which the lone assassin theory depends.) Biographer Barabara Leaming wrote, “That’s certainly not how Jackie remembered it.”

Publicly, Lyndon Johnson endorsed the Warren Commission’s lone gunman conclusion. Privately, he scoffed at it, first to a CBS camera crew and then to Leo Janos, a writer for the Atlantic. 

Other senior U.S. officials had the same reaction. Winston Scott, the chief of the CIA’s Mexico City station, suspected a conspiracy and wrote as much in an unpublished memoir. Former cabinet Secretary Joseph Califano wrote in his memoir that he thought JFK was the victim of a Cuba-related plot. Col. Fletcher Prouty, chief of Pentagon Special Operations in 1963 and later an adviser to Oliver Stone, was sure there was a plot. “The reason for the assassination,” he wrote, “was to control the power of the presidency.”

‘Law of Silence’

JFK and Jackie Kennedy arrive in Dallas,
Jackie Kennedy doubted the official story of her husband’s murder.

Foreign leaders too, concluded there had been a conspiracy.

French president Charles DeGaulle, canny conservative and survivor of a right-wing assassination attempt in 1962, said Kennedy’s enemies had gotten away with the crime. He predicted a “law of silence” would quash those who disagreed.

Fidel Castro, canny communist and survivor dozens of CIA assassination conspiracies, concluded Kennedy had been killed by reactionary foes at home. “There were people in the American government who thought Kennedy was a traitor because he didn’t invade Cuba when he had the chance, when they were asking him,” the Cuban leader told Atlantic editor Jeffrey Goldberg in 2013. “He was never forgiven for that.”

“So that’s what you think might have happened? Goldberg asked.

“No doubt about it,” Castro answered.

On the question of who killed JFK, some of us find LBJ, RFK, Jackie, and Castro more credible than J. Edgar HooverGerald FordRichard Helms, and Chris Matthews. Given the lies and the cover-ups of Hoover, Ford, and Helms, ours is not an irrational choice.

Last of the JFK Files

Not only is Tulsi Gabbard in good company when she doubts the official JFK story, she is also talking about an issue that will confront the next president.

In October 2017, President Trump broke a campaign promise to release all the JFK files. He quietly issued a White House order saying he had “no choice” but to permit the CIA and FBI to keep secret thousands of JFK documents until at least 2021. According to the latest figures from the National Archives, 15,834 JFK files remain wholly or partially classified. In other words, it would be a crime to disclose their contents or talk about these JFK files publicly in 2020.

And why, you might ask, are the government’s JFK assassination secrets still unspeakable in 2020? That’s a vexing question. Tulsi Gabbard offends conventional wisdom by seeking the answer.


  1. GREGORY KLEIN says:

    Tulsi,has definitely drank her tea. She has my vote . Good job.

  2. ed connor says:

    Since this site, “JFK Facts,” reports not only on President Kennedy’s death but also upon his life, I would like to observe that JFK would probably have taken a keen interest in Rep. Gabbard.

    • Stephen Chunn says:

      I agree that JFK would be pursuing her relentlessly but not as a political interest in her. The more I learn about JFK the less I am impressed with him.

  3. A bit of a Lazy Post here Jefferson Morely, as I Live in the Second Hawaii Congressional District, and Tulsi Gabbard is Still the Congress Person serving this District in the United States Congress. Tulsi is Running for President, and is Well qualified for the position with Military service to the Rank of Lieutenant Cornel in the National Guard, she is not running for re election in 2020, instead focusing on her Presidential Campaign. If she loses, she is likely to run for Governor of Hawaii in 2020. She is Currently Suieng former Senator Hillary Clinton for $50 Million for Slander and Defimation, for accusing her of being a Russian Spy. The suit will go to trial and historical precedent is on Congressman Gabbard’s Side, doubtful she gets $50 Million, but Former Senator Clinton comments were clearly Slander and Defimation, it was not protected speech and was not intended as a humorous comment. That said she is a great Congress Person representative and if Still Running for President When Hawaii makes its chose in the Democratic Contest, she will get my Vote. The comment by Larry Sabato and others were disgraceful, and came from someone whose every Tweer, comment, book or published piece likely has to be reviewed for Pre publication review due to Classified compensated Service with a Top Secret Clearance, for research or civil service, due to restrictions in executive order 12333 signed by President Reagan and every President since has added to the idiocracy of that Executive Order stealing publication rights of all Military Veterrans and others with Compensated Service after March 1981. My Air Force Service ended in 1979 with TDRL retirement that was Stolen during the Carter to Regan Transition on 12-30-1980, objects were filed, at the hearing and the back pay, for a Broken Kneck, is the reason I will not accept any Federal Job requiring a non disclosure, or Top Secret Clearance as I would lose my life story rights, Senator Wyden handles issues between myself and the Federal Government in these matters, since 1981, when the issue came to his attention at a atowm hall meeting. A veteran with a claim older than mine is between the Supreme Court and D.C. appellate Court, with the Supreme Court sending it back to the appellate court, for clarification. After that case is concluded may Temporary Retirement case is Next. It will settle issues for all Veterans in this complicated issue.

    J Marcus Campbell

    Willy Bova

  4. Joe Stonecipher says:

    Why has no one spoke about the recording of Oswald’s answer to the question from a reporter: “Why did you shoot the President?” with voice stress analysis? He answered “I didn’t shoot anyone!” with NO STRESS in his voice! He was telling the truth!

    Oswald was a patsy, set up to take the blame for this crime of the century.

  5. Fletcher says:

    I recall seeing Tulsi at a Town Hall meeting where a supporter gave her a copy of Douglass’ book, “JFK and the Unspeakable” and she said she would read it. I find it ironic that she scuttled her campaign and so did Bernie on the heels of the poorly explained Kennedy family “Canoe deaths.” I really want to see more investigation into a mother and son going canoeing after a soccer ball in 30 MPH gusting winds. It is unsettling to see a “combat soldier” in Gabbard being pushed to a point where she flips 180º and offers support to the erratic-at-best and schizzo-at-worst hawkish DNC coprolite. Most of us have emotional “circuit breakers” which “pop” and cause us to disconnect when something crosses the line of maximum tolerability. The nastiness behind the curtain on the stage of politics is beyond what many of us can, or will, handle. Tulsi means well but SOMETHING scared her to flop; I am sure.

  6. M. Brantley says:

    I believe that JFK was the victim of a conspiracy. Having said that, we must admit that Castro had reason to accuse JFK’s “domestic enemies.” If he played some role, it deflected attention.

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