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The Media’s Role in the JFK Assassination’ Coverage

It is claimed that 50 years after the JFK assassination, nearly all the known facts have been propagated by the mainstream media. Nearly each idea known to the public has been either evoked or driven by individuals who restricted activities of the mainstream media (Gormlie 1). Thus, just like the previous misleading leads that were communicated 50 years after the assassination, much of this information remains highly suspect, depicting media conspiracy and/or cover up in the murder. Nevertheless, with regard to JFK assassination, several individuals among the accused parties were involved in the murder in different ways. On this note, media’s roles as tools for conspiracy and/or cover up have been evaluated over a long period. The purpose of this essay is to assess roles of the media in the alleged assassination conspiracy and/or cover up using some specific examples.

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According to Frank Gormlie of San Diego Free Press, it has been 50 years of the Big Lie, and this Big Lie is that a single assassin shot JFK and subsequently killed an officer and then the lone killer eliminated himself, which marked the end of the case (Gormlie 1). Gormlie further asserts that the Big Lie itself is the Warren Commission Report, including its supporters and apologists (Gormlie 1).

The cover up was an elaborate plan, which concealed the failure of the government to investigate the assassination of the US president sufficiently and justly. The conspiracy included “dismissal, suppression of evidence, misinterpretation of facts and omission” (Gormlie 1). It extended to witness manipulation, intimidation and dismissal. Finally, the cover up included elimination of identified witnesses. All these acts involved media in different ways.

The cover up details the plot specifically planned and executed to eliminate the president and then to cover it up. The conspiracy has been promoted for the past half a century, reflecting a carefully planned deception fed to the American people and the world. It is believed that the conspiracy involved the government’s policies on getting the US soldiers out of the Vietnam War, controlling activities of the war, terminating the nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union and stopping the reproach on Cuba (Salandria 1). The conspiracy is an embodied, complex betrayal.

The conspiracy is also extremely personal, Gormlie notes. As the Americans generation of the 1960s observed, they were all emotionally affected by the assassination of JFK and the following questionable act of Jack Ruby’s killing of Oswald. These outrageous acts at Dallas deeply affected Americans. Given the annual commemoration of the assassination, many different generations of Americans down the line have been affected by the murder.

After half a century, still opinion polls have always demonstrated that many Americas have expressed that they do not believe the conclusion made in the Warrant Report. Moreover, they do not believe that the killer acted alone. That is, the report was meant to make all those involved come clean.

For the big media houses such as CNN, The New York Times, the National Geographic, CBS News, the Washington Post and the History Channel alongside other publications, including several articles and books, it appeared as if the Select Committee report was never there and they have all advocated for the end of the case (Klotz 54). Clearly, these gaps have provided opportunities for further studies for researchers. As a result, researchers have conducted many studies and arrived at various conclusions.

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For example, Oswald was a part of the US intelligence services for the US government and at the same time, available evidence has suggested that he was framed in the murder. It is also concluded that it was impossible for Oswald to fire and hit a moving target from an old rifle within few seconds while aiming across tree leaves, climb down four floors of stairs, get in the lunchroom, get back to his boarding house and shot Tippet. It was also documented that an unidentified person had been impersonating the alleged killer for several months before the day of the shooting. In addition, conclusions have shown that it was not possible for Oswald to act alone. During the course of these studies, researchers have concluded that the conspiracy and/or cover-ups existed because of the careful framing of the alleged killer.

Moreover, attempts to suppress available evidence and eliminate witnesses have proved conspiracy and/or cover up. It was also established that many senior officials in the government were engaged or were aware of the conspiracy. The then Vice President, Johnson and the FBI Director, Hoover were highly influential, powerful figures. In addition, they were close friends and perhaps shared a similar fate in their careers.

That is, JFK would have replaced the Vice President and fired Hoover because of his involvement in several scandals. This implies that they had a motive to assassinate the President. It is also imperative to note that Hoover had veto power to influence appointment of members of the Warren Commission (Thomas 1). The FBI played a significant role in the investigation and was the only body involved, which could manipulate evidence that the commission received. Researchers have derived these conclusions based on their studies of available evidence of the assassination. In these conclusions, deaths of key witnesses and the media’s role are vital.

Deaths of “key witnesses associated with the JFK assassination could be intriguing (Marrs and Schuster 1). The obviously unusual mysterious deaths of significantly high numbers of witnesses within a short period, for instance, have raised fundamental questions to support the conspiracy theory. Authors and assassination researchers Jim Marrs and Ralph Schuster noted that:

“In the three-year period which followed the murder of President Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald, 18 material witnesses died six by gunfire, three in motor accidents, two by suicide, one from a cut throat, one from a karate chop to the neck, three from heart attacks and two from natural causes” (Marrs and Schuster 1).

Marrs and Schuster classified these deaths as cover up or mysterious ones because of the subjects’ intimate knowledge of the assassination of JFK. These cover up deaths did not stop even in the mid 1960s. They continued and were sudden and strange later the 1980s. Consequently, witnesses were even afraid to testify in subsequent inquiries. In these mysterious deaths, Marrs and Schuster further observed that:

“Because so many of these deaths involve persons either working with or connected with the CIA or other domestic intelligence services, the Agency has gone to some lengths to discredit the idea of mysterious deaths plaguing assassination witnesses” (Marrs and Schuster 1).

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Later deaths occurred between 1970s and 1990s. All these deaths remained suspicious and mysterious, particularly in the 1970s when the Warren Commission launched its investigation.

One may wonder about the relationship or the role of the media in the conspiracy and/or cover up in these deaths. At one time, a story appeared in the New York News regarding the deeply entrenched fear of roaming squads of assassins targeting witnesses. In fact, the news covered the story of Sam Giancana who was murdered a day before he could testify despite the fact that he was under protection. Another case of news media reported deaths that took place when the House Committee was preparing to start investigations regarding the JFK assassination.

In short, the media were used to instill fear among potential witnesses who had vital information about JFK and assassination and could have appeared before the Committee and the Commission.

The Backyard Photo of the alleged lone assassin, Lee Oswald appeared in the cover page of Life magazine (see the photo below). This photo, supposedly taken by Marina Oswald, is critical for the alleged cover up in the assassination of JFK (Salandria 1). It is shown that Oswald was holding the gun he used to kill the President. On the other hand, while in custody, the alleged lone killer had claimed that the photo was fabricated and that his face was pasted on a body of another person. Now, from a critical observation of this photo, one can conclude that Oswald was right about the photo.

From readers’ perspectives, the public believed that Oswald was the real assassin after the Life magazine published the photo. As a result, the magazine reinforced the idea that Oswald was indeed the real culprit in the murder of JFK and the officer. This magazine was a part of an elaborate plan to cover up the assassination and ensure that the real suspects remained clean.

Lee Oswald with the weapons he used to kill President Kennedy and Officer Tippet.
Figure 1: Lee Oswald with the weapons he used to kill President Kennedy and Officer Tippet (Source: Life magazine)

However, a critical look at the photo reveals some remarkable details and variations. First, there are “noticeable variations in the direction of the shadows on the face, specifically beneath the nose and eyes” (Gormlie 1). These shadows show that the sun is straight overhead. Conversely, the shadows of the body, the rifle and other objects depict a different scenario (Gormlie 1). These shadows are lengthened to show that the sun was not directly overhead, but instead it was late in the afternoon or evening. Second, the difference is also “notable in the area of the chin” (Gormlie 1). In the above photo, the chin is square and one can make almost a straight line. There is no visible cleft.


The figure below shows that Oswald, however, had more of “a straight chin with a cleft” (Gormlie 1).


Differences in the chin and shadows are clear indicators that the photo was pasted. Thus, Oswald was caught in this conspiracy. It reflects how the media were used to promote conspiracy in the JFK assassination.

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The role of the mass media remains a critical point of focus in the conspiracy. The media, therefore, became the most dominant factor in the cover up before the public. The front cover of the magazine clearly depicts the cover up role of the media. The magazine proceeded to publish the photo despite the conflict evidence. Moreover, Gormlie also noted that Life magazine had purchased the right to the Zapruder film, but it did not release the images that showed the frontal shot that drove the President’s back head off. Clearly, this was not in the best interest of the public or the Warren Commission and it was never included in the report’s conclusion (Salandria 1). One may wonder if the publisher was aware of the notable contradictions in the photo. These are issues, which remained concealed until 50 years later.

According to Marrs, a scholar on the role of the media for many years:

“From the moment the Kennedy assassination occurred, coverage of the tragedy involved government manipulation of a news media that appeared only too willing to be manipulated” (Marrs 26).

It is necessary to recognize that many media advocated for and praised the Warren Report when it was published in 1964. In addition, they have continued with the conspiracy theories to obfuscate the public and create the confusion about the assassination. Klotz observed that:

For three decades, the major organs of the American media have been as one voice in their support for the report of the Warren commission and its conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone, unassisted assassin of President John F. Kennedy” (Klotz 54).

In addition, it was noticed that the CBS, the television network continued to support the Warren Report because of Dan Rather who worked at the station as “a reporter during the period of the assassination and subsequent investigation until 1967” (Klotz 54). It is believed that Rather had a rare opportunity to watch the Zapruder film shortly after the assassination but failed to report accurately about the deadly head shot.

After the Warren Report was released to the public in 1964, it received a wide praise from the media as previously noted. The New York Times published the most read edition and the introduction was clear. The introduction, for instance, emphasized that no important issue now remained unresolved in the assassination. The editor, Salisbury further asserted that individuals who were spreading irresponsible rumors regarding the assassination only aimed to fuel distrust and confusion or were portraying the violent nature of Americans to foreign powers.

One must recognize that during the JFK period, independent investigation did not exist because the Warren Commission consisted of appointed members by influential individuals. The Commission obviously left serious gaps in its final report to conceal the truth (Cook 285-291). The media, however, failed to investigation these gaps, but chose to go after critics of the Warren Report as Salisbury had depicted. It is also believed that any individual reporters who determined any discrepancies with the Warren Report were not allowed to pursue any lead, but were rather warned to leave issues as they were. In this case, the media houses observed that if there were any discrepancies in the report because of powerful political figures, they could only shy away from the scandal because the perpetrators were determined to stop any independent inquiries into the matter.

One may argue that senior officials feared possible wars with Cuba or Russia, but Gaeton Fonzi considered these arguments as international conspiracy (Fonzi 28-29). They did not want a state of anxiety among the public or any pressure to start a third World War. The media got the message and as a result, they would not allow any opposing views about the Warren Report.

The alleged conspiracy and/or cover up led to public skepticism and several questions about the government involvement (DiEugenio 16-25). As new evidence continues to emerge, Americans have continued to question the report as well as the government. The media had failed to do this completely. It is imperative to note that Oswald was the first one to oppose the lone gunman theory. He argued that he was the easy victim in the assassination. After the death of Oswald, Mark Lane emerged as a fierce critic and opted to represent Oswald during the investigation. Mark Lane published a critique of the report referred to as Rush to Judgment in which he criticized the report and the theory of a lone gunman. Lane was among those murdered because of his stand on the investigation.

In the year 1967, the CBS News continued to defend the report by providing a detailed four-part series. In this defense, CBS News dismissed the critics of the report as defenders of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Despite the conspiracy and/or cover up, the public grew more skeptical and continued to oppose the report. This led to further frustration of the powerful political elites and media elites. The public could no longer trust the media to do their work independently. As a result, when the film, “JFK” was released, it offered an account of the assassination, conspiracy and the subsequent cover up. In this regard, new emerging evidence had suggested conspiracy and/or cover up in the assassination, and the media were at the center of it all (Hughes 59). New evidence depicts the Warren Report as a complete cover up with a conclusion of ‘Case Closed’.

In a similar cover up scheme, the media had barely recognized the contribution of Carl Bernstein of the Watergate. In 20 October 1977, covered in the Rolling Stone, Bernstein had demonstrated how “the CIA had tendencies to use big media houses to offer information and take part in some cover-ups of a wide range of espionage” (Klotz 54). In addition, shortly before the release of the ‘JFK’, a displeased critic passed “a copy of the film script to a Washing Post reporter, George Lardner who covered the events of the JFK’s killing” (Klotz 54).

Lardner found an opportunity to attack the Stone. He claimed that Stone had no rights to produce a film that memorized the District Attorney Jim Garrison in attempt to solve the myth about the conspiracy and subsequent cover up. By the time the film was released, the media had already done the damages.

Further, CBS News, Newsweek and the Washington Post had continued to defend the lone gunman theory contained in the report. Moreover, they continued to downplay the eminent cover up in the Warren Report.

Over time, however, some media organizations such as the Newsweek and the Washington Post started to distance themselves from the Warren Commission Report. These media organizations unwillingly admitted flaws in the report and conceded to support claims made by critics for several decades. That is, the investigation of the Warren Commission was not honest inquiry into the truth but rather a well-calculated plot to provide a perfect official report for the assassination. Consequently, the report produced was a cover up in both its design and content to conceal the government misconduct.

Given the role of the media in these processes, any reports, conclusions or solutions that they offer must be viewed suspiciously. The media, at this point, would find it hard to acknowledge their roles in the cover up. Moreover, they cannot start questioning the legitimacy of the government and its report. However, they lost the public trust as credible newsgathering institutions. Americans have always regarded the media as institutions that would act in the public good. Several attempts to return to the JFK assassination and continue with the widespread cover up did not serve that purpose. This happened because new evidence continued to emerge and question the role of the mass media, the government and the Warren Commission.

Some media organizations had realized that a blind support for the cover up report would undermine their authority, reputation and negatively affect Americans’ understanding of the JFK assassination. The conspiracy and/or cover up have continued to open new possibilities for investigation and studies and thus the case will never close as concluded in the report, ‘Case Closed’. The Warren Report did not serve its purpose of free inquiry. Hence, new governments and reformed media have opportunities to conduct free inquiry, not influenced by powerful cartels. The media can once again redeem their image by telling the truth from such emerging opportunities and evidence. In the end, the conspiracy and/or cover up have become part of American history for the last 50 years.

As many scholars evaluate facts of the assassination, obviously the lies will end, the public will understand the myth behind the assassination and the media, this time, are not expected to cover up facts of new discoveries. The essay, therefore, has demonstrated how powerful cartels used the media to cover up their roles in the assassination. As a result, they created a national scandal that has lasted for half a century. Understanding the truth now lies with the new generations.

Works Cited

Cook, Fred J. History Will Not Absolve Us. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1996. Print.

DiEugenio, Jim. Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2012. Print.

Fonzi, Gaeton. The Last Investigation. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1994. Print.

Gormlie, Frank. “50 Years of the Big Lie – the Cover-Up of the JFK Assassination – Part 2.” San Diego Free Press. 2013. Web.

Hughes, Bill. The Secret Terrorists. Eustis, FL: Truth Triumphant Ministries, 2005. Print.

Klotz, John. Why the Media Want the Inquiries to End. 1993. Web.

Marrs, Jim and Ralph Schuster. A Look at the Deaths of Those Involved. 2002. Web.

Marrs, Jim. Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy. New York: Basic Books, 1993. Print.

Salandria, Vincent J. The JFK Assassination: A False Mystery Concealing State Crimes. 1998. Web.

Thomas, Michael. JFK Assassination and Cover up: New Evidence and Testimony Emerges. 2013. Web.

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