On Gerald Posner
by Harrison E. Livingstone
It is a tough thing being pitted against the likes of Gerald Posner, as I was on NBC’s “Today Show” the morning of September 30, 1998. America has come to a sad crossroads when the best that can be put into the lists for the government in the John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy controversy are two government flacks: Posner and Max Holland. Both parrot the Warren Commission line at the cost of truth and scholarship. Posner is proclaimed a scholar when all he has to show for it are lies, half truths and distortions.
It is Posner, the arch fraud in America today, although he is not alone, who is joined by so many others on this uneven playing field, (even some in the JFK assassination research community who greatly misinform), who now would hope to lead the defense for the government team. Random House, like Time and Newsweek, provide their tremendous power for these liars to proceed. My seventh chapter in Killing Kennedy (1995) exposes Posner, with the help of many critics’ thought and analysis, for all time as a fake.
Yet we must suffer mountains of bull manure and battle his lies. Posner’s personal vendetta against Robert Kennedy and the Kennedy family shows with nearly every utterance. Speaking of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB), he ignores the vastly important secret investigation conducted among the autopsy and photographic witnesses and writes: “Their most important contribution may be documents that shed light on the role of Bobby Kennedy after the assassination … RFK emerges as someone intent on protecting his brother’s reputation and hiding any possible connection to the operations against Castro. But Robert Kennedy’s defensiveness had enormous unintended consequences: he may have inadvertently been responsible for many key questions raised by conspiracy buffs over the decades.” (Newsweek, October 12, 1998) Posner begins the subtle process of melding assassination plots against Castro with operations against Castro’s regime. These are two different animals.
Here we have the spectacle of “conspiracy scholar” Gerald Posner working the ultimate con. We “buffs” are dismissed with a label, like mental patients, and the immense problems with the autopsy and its photographs and X-rays are blamed on Robert Kennedy. What he cannot explain and does not bother to address is why the wounds are not in the same place in the photos as they were described in the autopsy and by witnesses. Along with the doctors, he dismisses the FBI men as well. We are about to get the slickest pitch from the seediest of snake oil salesmen to ever work this country.
One of my four books on the case, High Treason, (just republished with a massive addendum on the ARRB’s secret investigation) has an extensive discussion of the assassination plots against Castro from pp 267 to 271. The Kennedys were deadly enemies of the Mob and the Mob was the primary instrument in the plots. Every effort was made to keep the ongoing plots from the Kennedys. Allen Dulles, who had been the Director of the CIA whom Kennedy had fired in no uncertain terms, and who unaccountably was one of the Warren Commissioners when Kennedy was assassinated, approved the plots, along with his Deputy Director, General Charles Cabell, the brother of the Mayor of Dallas (who greatly hated Kennedy), so how could anyone suppose for a moment that he did not tell his fellow commissioners about them?
Posner continues with his charade: “It started immediately. New records reveal the extent to which Bobby, Jacqueline and Kennedy aides pressed the autopsy doctors to speed their work. The autopsy itself was not thorough, leading to significant errors that were later seized upon by conspiracy enthusiasts. Moreover, the Kennedys were insistent that nothing be made public–even in death–of the doctors’ discovery that the president did indeed suffer from Addison’s disease, a rare chronic illness.” In fact, the Kennedys authorized a complete autopsy which took several hours to perform.
There is much wrong with this kind of twisted propaganda exercise. Everybody in the countIy, or at least in the medical community and most of the Washington press corps knew that JFK had Addison’s disease. By the time Posner gets done mentioning it, one would think of the problem as some sort of terrible social disease, or like AIDS perhaps, certainly not a condition which caused little or no trouble at all to the President. Since JFK died, the political warfare included the destruction of his image in the minds of the public for all that he gave us of his self and leadership, all that was wonderful about him and that golden time in our history, in spite of the nation’s problems. The name of the game is to destroy his reputation–to indulge in the worst kind of character assassination so that people will not care about what happened to him.
We are dealing with propaganda warfare here, the same sort of thing intelligence agencies prepare for attack in foreign nations, and which political parties do to each other. Only the way Posner plays it is to take no prisoners. He is the biggest liar and fraud in many years in this nation.
Who is paying Posner to say these things? What is at stake for him? He is a Random House “house” writer, meaning as long as they can count on him supporting the establishment line in this and the Martin Luther King case, he eats.
Now we come to his more direct attempt to absolutely distort the truth. “The review board located a new witness who suggested there might have been a second set of photos of JFK’s corpse, something conspiracists (Author’s note, this is not a word) have suggested might prove there was a second gunman. But the set the witness helped develop had “no blood or opening cavities” and the wounds were much smaller than those evident in the official photos. This suggests that the Kennedys merely wanted sanitized images for possible public release.”
There has been no wilder theory put forward since the Warren Report in this country. It is ridiculous to suppose that the Kennedys would have released any sanitized photos of the body, since they knew there was a conspiracy. And why would the Kennedy’s move the wounds, as has happened with the official pictures Saundra Spencer the Navy tech who processed and developed the autopsy photographs) does not recognize. Above all, how could the Kennedys possibly influence the United States Navy or the Secret Service (Posner does not explain who could have done this) to falsify photographs in a criminal investigation? They were certainly unable to prevent a complete autopsy from being performed. All agree that the autopsy was in fact nearly complete. The only thing that was not done was that the organs of the neck were not removed, because at the time there was no reason to. The doctors–at least officially–did not know until the next day (too late) that JFK had been shot in the throat.
One of Posner’s colossal lies is that the autopsy was incomplete and that it was limited by the Kennedys. A lot of us were suckered by this for a long time.
Now comes another major lie: “The Review Board obtained the first testimony proving that Kennedy’s military physician, Admiral George Burkley left Bethesda carrying the president’s brain in a bucket. He said he was going to ‘deliver it to Robert Kennedy.’ JFK’s brain has never been found, and was presumably later interred with the President at Arlington.” The House Assassinations Committee investigated this and found that the brain was never interred at Arlington (7 HSCA 32), and again, Posner seriously confuses the issue when he doesn’t tell us when Burkley removed the brain. The man does not do his homework.
It is true that there was a container which was listed as containing a brain which was kept at the National Archives in a trunk under the control of the President’s secretary, Eveyln Lincoln, for several years until returned to the Kennedy family. It’s also clear from the investigation conducted by the HSCA that the brain was not interred with the body in November, 1963 (7 HSCA 23-4) or later when the permanent grave was completed. “The pathologists retained various sections of organs as well as the entire brain after the autopsy for subsequent microscopic examination. . . the pathologists placed the brain in a formaldehyde solution in a stainless steel bucket and then deposited this in the closet of Admiral Galloway. . . Dr. Burkley supported this information by informing the committee that he directed the ‘fixation and retention of the brain for future study.’. . . In an affidavit and interview with Dr. Burkley, he informed the committee that shortly after this supplemental examination of the organs and brain, he directed the Bethesda Naval Hospital to transfer all the physical autopsy material in its possession to Bouck at the Executive Office Building. Dr. Burkley stated further that Captain Stover gave him the brain in a white granite or stainless steel bucket and that he personally transferred it to the White House where it was placed in a locked Secret Service file cabinet (7 HSCA 25).”
Therefore, the story that Gerald Posner tells is true insofar as Kennedy’s doctor carrying the bucket out of Bethesda to the White House, but it is the date that is important because the transfer happened after the supplemental examination of the brain described along with the autopsy report itself.
The real question is, was it really President Kennedy’s brain at that supplemental examination after the body was buried, or had the brain already been switched? The pathologists may have tried to alert us to this when they listed a brain weighing 1500 grams, considerably more than an average male brain, not taking into account that nearly one half of the brain was left on the street in Dallas and that the autopsy photographer, Thomas Stringer, told the Board that the brain in the autopsy pictures was not JFK’s brain (interview with John T. Stringer, ARRB, July 16, 1996, pp. 153, 216-218, 221). One of the FBI men at the autopsy, Francis X. O’Neill also stated that it was not Stringer’s brain (ARRB interview, September 12, 1997, pp 164-166). In fact, after the two experienced retired FBI criminal investigators finished mauling the alleged autopsy photographs in the National Archives, there was not much left of the government’s position.
My point is that Gerald Posner simply twists, distorts, makes up or lies when it comes to evidence.
“Indeed, family feeling, not official misconduct, seems to be a more plausible explanation for the questions that surround Dallas.” Posner then writes that just after the autopsy the Kennedys asked many of those present to promise not to talk about the procedure for 25 years. Did this, or indeed, could this have ever happened? “Conspiracy buffs pointed to that wall of silence as proof of a continuing cover-up, when in fact the doctors and staff were merely adhering to the wishes of the family.” A CBS memorandum written by Bob Richter of 10 January 1967 relates long discussions between the chief pathologist and Jim Snyder about the autopsy. Many people in Washington were aware of statements made by those at the autopsy about events there. It was the Navy that forbade them to talk about the autopsy, not the Kennedys. So much for Navy orders. Various versions of the autopsy pictures were all over Washington, in addition.
What we get here is the distinct possibility that Gerald Posner is an agent of the conspiracy that continues to cover up the JFK case.
“Beyond the autopsy, Bobby may have worried that the Warren Commission might stumble onto the government’s plots to kill Castro. One thing is clear: Bobby did not want the Warren Commission investigating Cuba.” Awfully familiar is this “Bobby” stuff, and shows once again the hand of a propagandist dehumanizing his target through lack of respect. Throughout Posner’s intense propaganda assault in this and other cases, he dehumanizes us, along with the Kennedys–whom he clearly hates.
One of his claims in the Newsweek article was to quote hearsay evidence from former CIA director Richard Helms. He quotes Henry Kissinger as saying in 1975 that “Helms said all these stories (about Cuba and the Kennedys) are just the tip of the iceberg. If they come out, blood will flow. For example, Robert Kennedy personally managed the operation on the assassination of Castro.”
This alleged discussion occurred during Gerald Ford’s brief tenure as President after Richard Nixon resigned. Extensive investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee in 1974-5 of the question of whether or not either Kennedy was involved in the assassination plots against Castro strongly showed that thy could nol have been, that they were not disposed in any way by reason of deep religious conviction and ethics to murder any foreign leader and in fact did all in their power to prevent the CIA or anyone else from engaging in death plots against Castro or any other leader (Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Foreign Assassination Plots p. 133; 108-124; 84, 132, 102-3). Richard Helms had adequate opportunity to tell this story to the Senate, but instead he never mentioned it. He did not dare. Gerald Ford was on the Warren Commission and helped cover up the assassination in that capacity. He, like other Republicans and his predecessor, Richard Nixon, who hated John Kennedy, were intent on destroying not only Kennedy but his memory and standing in the minds of the public. Helms, in addition, was a well known liar, as so many working for the CIA were required to lie as a matter of course.
The plain fact is that the assassination was political and a domestic conspiracy. One result is that the evidence and the position people often take on it is therefore politicized. After two hundred years, the nation has come full circle to where it began with the main political parties attempting to utterly destroy each other.
“What it (the Review Board) actually says that Bobby Kennedy was pushing the autopsy doctors to complete this work as fast as they could. They were petrified that the doctors would discover that President Kennedy had Addison’s disease, a potentially fatal disease, and they would make it public. They hid things up in the autopsy. . . We now understand better ever than why. The statement that the autopsy materials are false is absolutely false. He can say it all the way to Sunday and it’s not going to make it true.”
One might put aside for the moment the psychological aberrations revealed by his strange figures of speech and glib expressions such as in his statement on the same show that “The autopsy pictures have been tested every way to Sunday and they’re (not faked). The Board did not comment or draw conclusions on the question of authenticity of the evidence or lack of it. What they did do was to present the FBI men at the autopsy and others basically rejecting the offlcial evidence in the Archives and implying that it is clearly retouched or “doctored” In addition, a major amount of evidence was presented for the first time that there were in fact entirely different autopsy photos. Why?
“I do think that reasonable thinking people who want to approach this case and look at the credible evidence can realize what likely happened in Dallas 35 years ago: That one person for his own motivation killed the President.” In fact, the Board was investigating the case I presented for faked in evidence in four major books, two of them best sellers. I was corroborated by a mountain of evidence showing that those photographs in the National Archives cannot possibly be accurate and that they show that the wounds were moved in order to fool people. Who might they be? Start with Earl Warren, who was shown the fake pictures.
Posner’s attempt to shift the weight for the disparity in the pictures to Robert Kennedy and claim that the survivors tried to sanitize the pictures is a lie. At the same time he claims that they have been tested “Every way to Sunday” and are therefore authentic does not mean they can possibly be authentic when ever single witness to the wounds, including Jacqueline Kennedy, the best witness of all, stated clearly that the wounds are not in the right places.
President Kennedy directed as follows: “We cannot, as a free nation, compete with our adversaries in tactics of terror (and) assassination.” And in a cable to the U.S. consul, President Kennedy wrote that the “U.S. as a matter of policy cannot condone assassination.” It is impossible to suppose that his brother Robert then would have proceeded with such a death plot against Castro in violation of the President’s thinking, which in fact was the same as his own. The brothers were indeed joined at the hip.
As an apologist for the long discredited Warren Commission’s theory about the assassination, Posner remains a throwback on the junk heap of history, not withstanding his effectiveness as a master propagandist. On the NBC “Today Show” with me, he claimed that “I said Oswald did it alone. Livingstone said maybe that’s right. What people like Livingstone say is, guess what, that’s right.” I never agreed with this nor could I. Once again we have him both dehumanizing me and having me say things I did not say. He stakes out a position in the biggest lie there ever was, when the truth is most of the men on the Warren Commission either believed that there was a second gunman or that the “magic bullet theory” was impossible. Even Gerald Ford admitted to the Board last year that he changed the language of the Warren Report and moved the bullet entry into the President’s back some six inches up to the neck to make it work and also hit John Connally.
His punch line, as published at the end of his Newsweek article (12 October 1998) is that “The newly released documents highlight that the Kennedy’s interference over parts of the investigation might have served their own personal interests in the short term, but were a tremendous disservice to history in the long run. The files released by the review board prove there was indeed a cover-up, but not of the assassination.” Deja vu, as we went through this same litany with Posner and Newsweek when his abominable book came out several years ago. As we all know, the case was promptly re-opened by the Assassination Records Review Board, certainly not because of anything he wrote, but because of my presentation of the evidence, and the efforts of many others who came to question the authenticity of the autopsy materials.
I got a kick out of reading his line about a “tremendous disservice to history in the long run. . .” because he flubbed this line in quoting the entire statement on the “Today Show.” In other words, he must have a speech writer and must responses are prepared for him, along with a preplanned attack on the conspiracy “buffs” or “enthusiasts.” It is clear that the intent was to dehumanize us. Even the networks did it when they labeled Jim Lesar and myself as “theorists” and not the “scholar” that part time free lance journalist Max Holland and muck-raker Gerald Posner are.
Readers can get an extensive summary of the major investigation conducted by the Assassination Records Review Board among the medical and photographic witnesses at the end (p. 403) of the new, 1998 edition of my High Treason, published by Carroll Graf.
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Mr. Livingstone is the author of eight published books, four of them on the assassination of President Kennedy. Two were best sellers, and one of those, High Treason, was republished on September 26 with a new paper detailing the releases of the ARRB spoken of above. His most recent novel, Baltimore, appeared last summer.