By Jeffrey LordRoger knows.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination on a bright sunny noon day in Dallas, Texas – the question of “Who Killed JFK” emerges yet again.
The answer? Lyndon B. Johnson.
So says Roger Stone and investigative reporter Mike Colapietro in a startling new book of bombshells bearing the provocative title: The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ
Drawing on Stone’s decades of high-level involvement in presidential politics and his close association with President Richard Nixon, this book is filled with one blockbuster story after another.The cast of characters in this book are as vivid as they are numerous. Nixon, Nixon’s attorney general and campaign manager John Mitchell, an LBJ mistress, Lee Harvey Oswald’s killer Jack Ruby, J. Edgar Hoover, Arlen Specter, Texas oil zillionaire H.L.Hunt, Genovese Mafia family member Anthony “Fat Tony” Salerno, Joe McCarthy’s famous lieutenant and later super lawyer Roy Cohn – and more.
Mitchell, learning from Stone that Stone wanted to someday write a book about the eternal controversy that is JFK’s assassination advised: “Wait until the fiftieth anniversary.” Stone agreed.
Fifty years is a long time. Those who live through a massively national traumatic event – any given war, the Great Depression, 9/11 and certainly the assassination of a president – never forget it. They recall every last detail of where they were when they heard the news of Pearl Harbor or 9/11 or, in this case, that the President of the United States had been shot dead in the streets of Dallas, Texas on a Friday in 1963.
Without question, what follows after the initial shock of those five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance – are endless questions. Always including “how did this happen?” and “who is responsible?”.
Conspiracies accompany these events always. There were charges in the day that FDR knew in advance about Pearl Harbor. Today’s world is filled with the conspiracy-minded who are certain George W. Bush and that sinister Dick Cheney ordered 9/11.In Lincoln’s day there was immediate realization of a very real and provable conspiracy to kill the president. Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward was attacked at the same time Lincoln was killed by John Wilkes Booth, Vice President Andrew Johnson escaping unharmed only because his designated killer got last minute cold feet. There was in fact a plot to decapitate the US government, and the conspirators were either killed outright (Booth) or hung.
In the case of the Kennedy assassination – perhaps particularly because JFK was a vigorous, handsome 46-year old with a beautiful wife and children – the questions of “how did this happen” and “who is responsible” have reverberated down through the decades with no satisfactory answer.
The notion that responsibility for killing JFK goes solely to the pro-Communist, pro-Cuban Lee Harvey Oswald has been under challenge almost from the moment of Oswald’s capture in a Dallas movie theater that Friday afternoon.
The ensuing Warren Report, which had a future president (Michigan Congressman Gerald Ford) as a member and a future US Senator (staff lawyer Arlen Specter) playing key roles, became the official starting point for furious arguments of conspiracy.In particular Specter’s “single bullet theory” – that a single shot passed through JFK and wounded Texas Governor John Connally – has been the source of repeated challenge. Specter staunchly defended the theory to the end of his life.
Which is to say, the sense of loss with JFK’s brutal murder was so terrible, so deep, so magnified by television – a first-time national communing as the tube was still relatively very young – that those who lived through the event simply never got over it. So the questions, to put it in colloquial terms , of who did it and why, have after all these years and volumes of official reports, congressional investigations, books, movies, TV shows and newsprint never been answered in a way that summons common agreement.
Many – and I count myself among them – have given up and moved on. Was it Lee Harvey Oswald? The mob? Fidel? The CIA? One might as well just sit in the corner and ponder the origin of the universe with more hope of getting an answer.
Not Roger Stone.
The world knows Roger Stone, to take from the blurbs on the back of his book, as, variously:· A seasoned practitioner of hard-edged politics” – The New York Times
· “The most dangerous person in America day” – The Village Voice
· “Notorious” – Vanity Fair
· “Skilled in the Dark Arts of Politics” – The Atlantic
Or, in the words of The Washington Post, as someone who “doesn’t mince words.”As, indeed, he does not in this book.
At this point I suppose one of those “full-disclosure” moments is at hand. Yours truly knows Roger Stone as a former colleague from the Reagan years. The 1984 campaign, to be precise, when Roger’s task as the Northeast Regional Director of the Reagan-Bush campaign was spectacularly carried out.
Reagan carried every single state in Roger’s supposedly impossible-for-a-conservative-
Roger proved himself in that campaign to be one of the smartest operatives of the day. A northeasterner himself, he would patiently explain to others the concept of what is called today the “Reagan Democrat” – the urban, ethnic, frequently Catholic voter who once upon a time had voted enthusiastically for John F. Kennedy – and was ripe for the Reagan campaign to approach as the modern, post-JFK Democratic Party swerved to the hard left.
In the years since Roger has gained attention for his work with an eclectic mix of others from the late Pennsylvania Senator – and Warren Commission counsel – Arlen Specter to Donald Trump.
He has also frequently been noted for his fashion sense, or, as one publication phrased it using an old term, being a “dandy.” I recall that after listening to Roger effortlessly strategize on some detailed and complex campaign matter he would balefully study my shoes, shaking his head in dismay that they were unpolished.
While this was the occasional lament of my own father, in the way of parental criticisms, they sometimes don’t stick as well as a pointed remark from a peer. My shoes have been polished ever since Roger’s 1984 admonishments.
So what is Roger saying in this book that John Mitchell advised him to hold back until the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination?
It helps to know that Roger Stone was close to Richard Nixon. Indeed, inside the Reagan headquarters of 1984, replete with the usual lot of smiling pictures of Ronald Reagan, to enter Roger’s office was to enter a veritable Nixon headquarters. He had met the then-former vice president as a teenager, getting a more personal introduction from his mentor, the Connecticut ex-governor, congressman and later Nixon Ambassador to Argentina John Davis Lodge.
Eventually, while a George Washington University night student, young Roger was spending his days toiling in the Nixon White House press office. By 1972 he was “the youngest member of the senior staff of the Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP).”
The tale of Nixon’s Watergate-related downfall is well known. In the aftermath, the Nixon post-presidential years, Roger spent considerable time with the resigned president. The Washington Post began calling him “Nixon’s man in Washington”, the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd referring to him as “the keeper of the Nixon flame.”
The aging ex-president, once JFK’s friend when both were young House members and famously Kennedy’s opponent in the legendary 1960 presidential election, would spend hours talking one-on-one with his young former White House and campaign aide.
“Generally speaking, when we talked about his peers and the circumstances surrounding the Kennedy assassination, he would grow taciturn, blunt, and sometimes cryptic. When I asked him point blank about the conclusions of the Warren Commission into the assassination of President Kennedy, he said ‘Bullshit’ with a growl, but refused to elaborate.”
Spending volumes of time with Nixon and other former Nixon aides over the years has produced startling details that Roger records in his book. In Nixon’s case, Roger reveals the shocking news that “Nixon indicated Johnson was a conspirator” in JFK’s assassination.
That once taking office as president himself in 1969 Nixon “ordered the CIA to deliver all records pertaining to the Kennedy assassination to the White House after his inauguration in 1969 in order to confirm his belief.” Roger adds that “this request would play a role in Nixon’s downfall in Watergate.”
Then there is shocking revelation.
As Nixon watched television on Sunday, November 24, 1963 – watching along with millions as accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was being transferred to another prison in front of a shoving crowd of media – Jack Ruby darted from the crowd, gun in hand, and shot Oswald point blank. Assassinating the assassin.
Stone quotes former Nixon aide Nick Ruwe (later Nixon’s Ambassador to Iceland) who was with Nixon that day:
“The Old Man (Nixon) was white as a ghost. I asked him if everything was all right. ‘I know that guy,’ Nixon muttered. Ruwe said that Nixon didn’t elaborate. He knew better than to ask questions.
Incredibly, a US Justice Department document provided by the FBI regarding Jack Ruby’s connection to Richard Nixon in the late 1940’s proved Nixon’s recollection was correct.”
Said Nixon to Stone much later:
“It’s a hell of a thing. I actually knew this Jack Ruby fella. Murray Chotiner (Nixon’s Senate campaign manager in 1950) brought him in back in ’47. Went by the name of Rubenstein. An informant. Murray said he was one of Lyndon Johnson’s boys…we put him on the payroll.”
Catch that? There is former President Nixon telling Roger Stone that Jack Ruby, assassin of Lee Harvey Oswald, was in fact “one of Lyndon Johnson’s boys.”
“Nixon never flatly said who was responsible for Kennedy’s death, but he would say both he and Johnson wanted to be president; the only difference, Nixon said was he refused to kill for the job.”
Thus begins to unfold the central premise of The Man Who Killed Kennedy.
The flat out charge by Stone that “Lyndon Johnson was behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.”
Stone reminds of a fact that has been refreshed in the LBJ multi-volume biography by Robert Caro.
Long forgotten now, the fact was that as JFK and LBJ arrived in Dallas that Friday morning of November 22nd, another drama was quietly unfolding back in Washington. For the first time, in a closed hearing of the Senate Rules Committee, one of LBJ’s private financial transactions was about to be discussed.
A witness, one Don Reynolds, was about to unburden himself of the news that in return for getting LBJ to purchase a $100,000 insurance policy, Reynolds would in return be required to buy $2500 worth of advertising on LBJ’s television station in Austin, KTBC. This was in fact all related to already blossoming scandal swirling around LBJ’s Senate aide Bobby Baker.
Both a prominent GOP Senator – John Williams of Delaware – and worse, Life magazine were on the trail. And the Baker scandal wasn’t the only scandal swirling within hailing distance of LBJ. Another one, involving “Texas wheeler-dealer Billie Sol Estes – not mentioned in the Caro books – was closing in as well.
Stone notes that the paranoid Johnson, never in favor with the Kennedys – particularly JFK’s brother Bobby, then attorney general – feared not simply that he would be dumped from the Kennedy ticket but that he was eventually headed into not just political exile but jail as well.
It is important to note here that Stone takes the time to paint a particularly detailed portrait of LBJ the man. It isn’t a pretty picture. “Johnson was a man of great ambitions and enormous personal greed, both of which, in 1963, would threaten to destroy him.” This certainly is not unknown, but Stone spares do detail in describing the kind of man he says was not only responsible for killing JFK but had been behind other murders as well.
Doubtless readers will find this as fantastical. But there is no doubt that Lyndon Johnson was one ruthless guy. Robert Kennedy, no LBJ admirer, had called his brother’s vice president “savage” and an “animal.” The two were oil and water.
Stone details fascinating accounts that include a much more graphic version of the LBJ selection as vice president. Long on public record are what can easily be viewed as cleaned-up stories about the hours in Los Angeles between the time of JFK’s nomination victory and the public announcement of the Kennedy-Johnson ticket.
Stone brings a new story forward: that LBJ and his ally House Speaker and Texan Sam Rayburn blackmailed LBJ’s way onto the ticket by using
“information on JFK’s sexcapades from the secret files of the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover” – and that in fact “JFK had already offered the Vice Presidency to Sen. Stuart Symington and had to retract the offer. RFK was furious.”
The assassination was financed, says Stone, by LBJ’s Texas rich oil allies – angry over the threat of losing the oil depletion allowance. LBJ’s control over the Dallas Police Department was “total” – and, of course, it would be in the hands of the Dallas police that Lee Harvey Oswald was murdered by Jack Ruby, described to Stone by Nixon as “one of Lyndon Johnson’s boys.”
Not left out is the story of LBJ mistress Madeleine Brown, who quotes her alleged vice-presidential as saying on the night of November 21st that: “After tomorrow those goddamn Kennedys will never embarrass me again-that’s no threat-that’s a promise.”
On the morning of Nov 22nd, Brown says LBJ told her, speaking of his Texas intra-party enemy Senator Ralph Yarborough – whom LBJ thought he had arranged to put in Kennedy’s open limousine with the president – that: “That son-of-a-bitch crazy Yarborough and that goddamn f***ing Irish mafia bastard, Kennedy, will never embarrass me again!”
One bombshell after another like these are virtually littered throughout this book, making it a fascinating addition to the virtual libraries of books on the Kennedy assassination.
· The insistence of Texas Governor John Connally that LBJ’s people have the say on the route of the presidential motorcade – instead of JFK’s advance team.
· A shouting match between JFK and LKBJ, witnessed by Jackie Kennedy. Kennedy insisted on having Connally the LBJ ally and governor in his limousine – while LBJ wanted his arch-enemy Senator Yarborough. As history records, JFK carried the day – and John Connally was shot along with him, although he survived. Yarborough, riding with an unhappy LBJ, was never touched.
· That then Johnson vice presidential aide Bill Moyers, now the longtime PBS commentator, was responsible for insisting to the Secret Service that the bubbletop of JFK’s presidential limousine be removed “because the president wants it.”
· On the famous Nixon White House tapes, the-then President Nixon is heard referring to the Warren Commission report as “greatest hoax ever perpetrated.” Stone notes that the Government has “redacted key portions of the Nixon tapes that discuss the CIA, Bay of Pigs and the Kennedy assassination.”
· Stone says that Nixon “maneuvered furiously to obtain CIA records that would prove the CIA-Mob connections to the JFK assassination”. Why? The president wanted them as an “insurance policy” to prevent his impeachment in the Watergate scandal. Stone makes connections here between JFK’s botched Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba, the assassination – and Watergate. Recall here that four of the five original Watergate burglars were either Cubans involved in the Bay of Pigs, were refugees from Castro or had been involved in anti-Castro activities.
· The CIA is charged by Stone as infiltrating the Watergate burglars to sabotage the burlary deliberately – precisely because there was fear at the CIA over Nixon’s push for documents on the assassination.
· The whereabouts of Texan George H.W.Bush that day are raised as a question. Stone saying that now-declassified FBI files say the future CIA director was in 1963 already working for the CIA – and that Bush says he can’t recall where he was the day JFK was killed. A year later, Bush would be the Republican nominee for the US Senate – running against LBJ’s enemy Ralph Yarborough.
There’s more here. Much more. Gerald Ford altering JFK’s autopsy report at the instruction of J. Edgar Hoover. Arlen Specter threatening witnesses who said they heard more than three shots that day. Even Fox’s Bill O’Reilly makes an appearance, with Stone disputing O’Reilly’s facts in the latter’s bestselling Killing Kennedy.
Since the 1964 publication of the Warren Commission report, the official investigation of the assassination, and the 1967 publication of William Manchester’s legendary The Death of the President – a book filled with the first unflattering account of LBJ in Dallas that Jackie Kennedy and Bobby Kennedy went to court to stop (unsuccessfully) – book after book and so much more has poured forth.
As mentioned, there is a virtual library of books on the JFK assassination, the national wound that never really healed for those alive in the day. Fifty years later, the nation is once again about to awash in stories of that gruesome day in Dallas, Texas when a young president was shot to death in the crime of the century.
Now comes Roger Stone’s addition to that library. His commitment to wait until the fiftieth anniversary fulfilled, using a lifetime’s worth of serious political experience, relationships and a long friendship with Richard Nixon, he has finally put out his story.
Will this end the “who shot JFK?” story?
After fifty years, one suspects definitely not. This question is surely one of those destined to last as long as America itself.
But without doubt, Roger Stone – “Nixon’s man” – has added a new twist to the tale. And a riveting twist of the tale at that.
In a book of bombshells that is both fascinating and truly startling, Roger Stone lays the responsibility for John F. Kennedy’s death – and more – at the doorstep of a man who is without doubt going to be a subject of eternal controversy himself.
JFK’s own vice president: Lyndon Johnson.
Did LBJ kill JFK?
Roger Stone says yes.
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House Political Director and author. He writes from Pennsylvania at email@example.com