As the 60th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination approaches, the onslaught of new(ish) conspiracy theories is as predictable as autumn leaves falling from the trees. Especially this year, with its nice round sixth decade number, the anniversary is already being saturated with revelations that purport to be new—but reveal absolutely nothing.
It’s part of the fall ritual—no surprise there. But what is most disconcerting to this writer is the fact that major, formerly dependable, media now seem to buy into easily disprovable “revelations” without hesitation or investigation. It seems that facts don’t matter even to our supposed last bastions of due diligence.
In the last few days, numerous news outlets reported the first revelations of Assassination Season 60, contained in a book to be published on October 10 entitled The Final Witness: A Kennedy Secret Service Agent Breaks His Silence After Sixty Years, by former Secret Service agent Paul Landis, who as a 28-year old agent accompanied the president and his wife to Dallas. The book is being ballyhooed as the now 88-year-old Landis “breaking his silence” after all these years—even though (checking notes) Landis actually broke his silence twice in the first days after the assassination, and again on the twentieth anniversary, then again on the fiftieth. (More on that to come.)
Among the media culprits were Vanity Fair, The New York Times, NBC Nightly News, Axios, The Hill, as well as The Guardian, The Independent, New York Post, etc.) Thanks to the breathless, albeit misleading, headlines advertising a major breakthrough in the story (NBC: “Landis is Opening Up For the First Time”; The New York Times: “JFK Assassination Witness Breaks His Silence and Raises New Questions”), the book is now an Amazon bestseller.
The two most detailed accounts appeared in Vanity Fair and The New York Times, once legendary for their fact-checking. Much like the Times, which claimed that Landis’s account “could change the understanding of what happened in Dallas in 1963,” VF informed its readers that, “[Landis’s] secret, coming to light only now, will certainly reorient how historians and laymen perceive that grave and harrowing event.” Not just that, the magazine also advised that, “His account also raises questions about whether there might have been a second gunman in Dallas that day.”
But just what are the “revelations” that supposedly point to a second gunman?
After Kennedy’s body was taken from his limousine at Parkland Hospital, Landis claims to have found a “pristine” bullet on the backseat, a bullet that he and his journalistic enablers believe fell out of JFK’s back. Why would this be significant? Since numerous investigations have concluded that the bullet that entered Kennedy’s back exited his neck, which also had a second bullet hole, this “new fact” demands that the two wounds weren’t connected, ergo the bullet causing the throat wound must have entered the front of the president’s throat, not exited. Thus a second shooter.
Holes in the Story
The experts have long concluded that Oswald’s second shot passed through JFK’s back and throat and then entered Texas Governor John Connally’s back, then broke his rib before exiting his chest and finally striking his wrist, fracturing a wrist bone, and emerged damaged. But Vanity Fair scribe James Robenalt and Times writer Peter Baker, the paper’s chief White House correspondent, are troubled by that. Instead, relying on long ago selective interpretations of the photographic evidence promoted in conspiracy circles arguing that the bullet appears to have emerged pristine, they say there had to have been a second shot, from a second shooter, in front of the president’s limo, that pierced Kennedy’s throat but was never found.
Landis avoids any conclusion about where the bullet came from. He just says he now remembers finding the bullet on the back seat and dropping it later on the stretcher next to Kennedy’s body. The writers merely recycle a decades-old, debunked conspiracy theory that a bullet struck Kennedy’s back, penetrating only an inch, and fell out—undamaged.