HistoryCast 5000: JFK

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HistoryCast 5000: JFK

In this mega-episode we take Oliver Stone’s 1991 film JFK and run it through our HistoryCast 5000 machine for an in-depth analysis of its historical accuracy. We chose this film based on its notorious reputation for historical inaccuracy. Will it break the HistoryCast 5000? Listen and find out.

We have a bonus half hour of content at the end where we attempt to demystify the assassination of John F. Kennedy with a breakdown of the life and times of Lee Harvey Oswald.

Show Summary

Intro

  • Recapping the concept of HistoryCast 5000
  • What we learned, what were our JFK misconceptions

JFK Overview

  • Many Oscar nominations, two wins
  • All star cast
  • The premise: a New Orleans DA suspects assassination conspirators live in his town

Jim Garrison

  • A real person, but clearly portrayed as much more trustworthy
  • Does have an encounter with Senator Russel Long in real life
  • He does interview Jack Martin but he is not reputable
  • Martin is pistol whipped by Banister, but not much else is true
  • Garrison is pointed towards Ferrie by Martin
  • He does bring charges with Clay Shaw but the film fabricates most of the case against him
  • He does subpoena and play the Zapruder film
  • His drugging of Perry Russo is left out
  • Perry Russo, and others, are reimagined as Willie O’Keefe
  • The film’s post credits omit Garrison continued targeting Shaw with perjury charges after the fact

David Ferrie

  • He is suspicious in real life, to say the least
  • He does have alopecia, was “memorable”
  • Did have ties to a paramilitary anti-Castro Cuban rebel army
  • Probably worthy of investigation
  • Does not, however, confess anything to Garrison as depicted
  • Did work with an also very suspicious man, Guy Banister
  • Does die of natural causes and does leave two notes, but murder is probably film fiction

Clay Shaw

  • Was real, helped found International Trade Mart in New Orleans after military service
  • Shaw was a powerful business man, well traveled, and gay
  • Had no relationship with the imaginary key witness
  • Probably did not volunteer his “Clay Betrand” alias as depicted
  • Post credit text claims he worked for the CIA, was only part of a program that debriefed international travelers who were not CIA employees

Jack Ruby

  • Was engaged in criminal activity and did have improper contact with the Dallas P.D.
  • No clear Mafia connections
  • His coordinating with the Dallas P.D. on killing Oswald is probably movie fiction

Dean Andrews Jr.

  • Was a real associate of Garrison, was shifty
  • Was strong-armed by Garrison, but the real life context was very different

Bill Broussard aka Bill Boxley

  • Made up character in the film, loosely based on disgraced CIA agent William C. Hood
  • Just a plot device to fabricate a reason for the case to fall apart

Lee Harvey Oswald

  • Painted as meticulously framed by an anti-Castro cabal, no hard evidence for any of this
  • Had previously defected to the U.S.S.R. as claimed, but he was not the only one as claimed

X

  • Garrison’s meeting with X did not take place
  • X is supposed to be Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty and a mouthpiece for his views on the CIA and the “war machine”
  • Was not in charge of presidential security, the Secret Service protocols he mentioned were not in place at the time
  • Was deployed to the South Pole but the importance of this is probably exaggerated

The Trial

  • Garrison does hinge his case on multiple gunmen
  • Does try to use bullet trajectory arguments
  • Does make arguments about the bullet but its planting is movie imagination
  • Did try to introduce booking documents with the “Bertrand” alias but the movie leaves out the judge’s accusation it was fabricated
  • Leaves out unbelievable witnesses

Flashbacks

  • Photo alteration flashback disproved by photo expert examinations
  • The autopsy was a confusing situation
  • The stretcher bullet was not planted but improperly introduced into evidence

Closing Credit Claims

  • Shaw not having an autopsy is not suspicious
  • A Congressional investigation did conclude “probable conspiracy” but this was based only on an audio recording that was proved to not be authentic
  • CIA claims the film’s impact on records release is overstated

2017 Document Dump

  • In 2017 documents pertaining to the JFK assassination were released, still with some withheld
  • We learn the KGB initially suspected an “ultra-right” coup d’├ętate with LBJ benefitting
  • They disavow Oswald and worked to express their lack of involvement
  • The documents confirm CIA knew Oswald went to Mexico City to try secure passage to Cuba
  • More details of the CIA’s plans to kill Castro revealed
  • LBJ immediately suspected a Vietnamese plot

Demystifying Lee Harvey Oswald

  • A trigger-happy Holden Caulfield
  • A young man without a father, obsessed with Marxism and Russia
  • His brother gets him into the military but he is troubled and erratic
  • Two out of three courts-martial involve him being irresponsible with guns
  • He is nicknamed “Oswaldskovich” for ongoing obsession with Soviet Union, learning Russian
  • Receives an honorable discharge early under the guise of caring for his sick mother
  • He immediately defects to the U.S.S.R.
  • Attempts suicide to get them to take him, he is placed in Minsk
  • Grows disillusioned with life in the Soviet Union, returns with his wife and daughter
  • Must be known to the CIA at this time, and probably the FBI too
  • Military retroactively changes his discharge status to “undesirable”
  • Is often described as arrogant and rude
  • Returns to Dallas area, and does go to New Orleans to try to start a pro-Castro movement
  • We speculate on how this ties into David Ferrie
  • Oswald probably is unravelling, unable to find steady work which he blamed on his new discharge status
  • Some evidence he is plotting to kill people on his “enemies list,” maybe his trip to Mexico City was to plan a flight to Cuba and then the U.S.S.R.
  • CIA and FBI notice him in Mexico City
  • Secret Service agent says he found his “kill list” which later vanished
  • One name on the list is Major General Edwin Walker, outspoken anti-communist and ultra-right segregationist whom there is suspicion Oswald attempted to assassinate
  • Another name is and FBI agent who questioned his wife, whom he tried to confront in Dallas
  • The third alleged name is Texas Governor John Connally, whom Oswald wrote over trying to get his honorable discharge status reinstated
  • This paints a plausible picture Oswald’s primary target may have been Connally and not Kennedy, perhaps making Kennedy collateral damage
  • Plausible explanation for the CIA and FBI wanting to not look bad for apparently failing to stop Oswald and therefore classifying or even destroying evidence

Final Verdict

  • Unable to compromise we average out to a 30% accurate determination

But Wait There’s More

Due to the lengthy discussion we could not even fit in every historical criticism of the film. Here are some that were left out.

  • The use of fundraising from the public to keep investigations going is portrayed as positive in the film, but was in actuality a vehicle for corruption, a practice later ruled unconstitutional. In fact Garrison at one point suggests a donor in the Shaw case who wants to pull out had better hope he doesn’t become a target of investigation.
  • The IRS audit of the office and Garrison’s dismissal from the National Guard do not happen in real life.
  • Garrison is not sympathetic to RFK as shown, and in fact felt he stood in the way of a fair investigation over his own brother’s death
  • There’s no evidence Garrison’s family was threatened during his case

Links

Clay Shaw did an interview in Penthouse Magazine were he makes a case for his innocence.

The CIA has an official response to the case against Clay Shaw.

Were David Ferrie’s notes actually suicide notes?

Edward Jay Epstein makes a case against Jim Garrison.

The Guardian calls Stone’s JFK a “basket case for conspiracy.”

In 2017 the world received a declassified document dump related to the JFK assassination investigations.

The diary of Lee Harvey Oswald contains first hand insights into his mind and life.

Did Lee Harvey Oswald have a “kill list”? A Secret Service agent on the scene says yes.

Garrison’s firestorm gave him cover from FBI investigations.

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