JFK conspiracies still going strong 50 years after president's assassination

Most Americans, including the secretary of state, dispute the 'lone gunman' theory

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 November, 2013, 5:30am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 November, 2013, 5:30am


Who killed JFK?

Fifty years after the slaying of America's 35th president, that's still a provocative question for many.

Conspiracy theories began swirling almost immediately after President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963, and have never really stopped.

A spate of new books re-examining that moment in anticipation of the 50th anniversary has revived some theories, tried to squelch others and found intriguing new details of botched investigations or deliberate concealment by authorities.

There's a ready audience: Sixty one per cent of the American people believe that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone in killing the president, according to the most recent Gallup poll. While the percentage of those who believe in a conspiracy is the lowest since the late 1960s, it confirms the public's ongoing doubts about the "lone gunman" theory.

The poll found that 13 per cent believe the mafia and 13 per cent think the federal government was involved; 7 per cent named the CIA; 5 per cent each believe Cuban leader Fidel Castro, "special interests" and political groups were responsible; the Ku Klux Klan, then-vice president Lyndon Johnson and the Soviet Union each drew 3 per cent.

The belief in a conspiracy hasn't diminished in nearly 50 years of polling.

It is a deep-seated belief - that no single man could commit what some consider the crime of the century - that's been part of the American psyche since the 1960s and that got a Hollywood boost from director Oliver Stone's conspiracy-fuelled 1991 re-creation, JFK.

But it's also one that no one speaks about too loudly, as US Secretary of State John Kerry discovered this month when he said publicly that he didn't think Oswald had acted alone, only to clam up within days. "I certainly have doubts that he was motivated by himself," he said.

Kerry touched on several of the theories that have swirled around the assassination: was more than one gunman involved? Beside Oswald's perch on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, did more shots come from the grassy knoll at Dealey Plaza? Did Cuba and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics - communist nations furious at being pressured to remove Soviet missiles from Cuba - figure in Oswald's action?

But Julian Read, the press aide to Texas governor John Connally - who was wounded in the car that was carrying the president and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy - disputes the notion of a conspiracy in his book, JFK's Final Hours in Texas: An Eyewitness Remembers the Tragedy and Its Aftermath.

"No one could keep a secret that long if there was a conspiracy," he quotes Connally as having said.