Friday, 16 January 2004 10:42

Gerald Posner: Did He Get Anything Right?

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Jim DiEugenio writes about Gerald Posner's irresponsibility in representing the evidence concerning the JFK assassination.

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Prior to the 30th anniversary of President Kennedy's assassination, relatively few people had heard of or purchased the books by attorney Gerald Posner. Then in 1993, a tsunami of publicity announced the coming of the volume that would finally silence all of the doubts about and critiques of the Warren Commission. Entitled, rather pretentiously, Case Closed, it was published by major publisher Random House, and it was accompanied by a publicity machine that started with a featured spot on an ABC newsmagazine where-- Posner was served up softballs by Lynn Scherr; and a cover story in U.S. News and World Report, which, somehow, could not find one major fault in the book (as we shall see that is an amazing negative accomplishment.)

Posner's was clearly meant as an unmitigated, no holds barred, almost venomous prosecution brief against Lee Harvey Oswald. No doubt was expressed, no slack was cut, no ambiguity fit in to Posner's work. How could it considering the title? This was doubly confounding to skeptics since at the time his book was published, the Assassination Records Review Board had not begun its work yet. There were literally millions of pages of documents no one had seen so how could Posner be so sure he was correct? As we shall see, he wasn't sure and he had to be corrected. But that has not altered his opinion of anything. When major evidence changes, yet the prosecution insists it was correct, then clearly an agenda is in place, and justice is not part of it. This is why we have judges to overrule overly zealous prosecutors.

One of the notable things about Posner's book is how much of a personal attack it is upon Oswald. Who does he rely upon for much of this personal vitriol? None other than Priscilla Johnson... Another source is Ruth Paine. Another is John Lattimer. As the reader can see from other profiles, these are not the most unbiased or credible sources. Posner just used them indiscriminately. He also used Hugh Aynesworth. In the profile on this site of Aynesworth, we mention the "attempt' by Oswald to do away with Richard Nixon. We showed how this was probably foisted on Marina Oswald by Aynesworth sometime in 1964. We also showed why not even the Warren Commission could accept it. Guess what? Posner did. In the paperback edition of his book (p. 119) he treats this episode straightforwardly, without reservations. The tell-tale sign that he got it from Aynesworth is that he uses the same newspaper heading that Aynesworth gave to his friend Homes Alexander for his 1964 article. Alexander noted in 1964 that an article in the Dallas Morning News featured a story that was headed "Nixon Calls for Decision to Force Reds out of Cuba". This is precisely the story that Posner uses. He then adds that Nixon was not in Dallas "the day" Marina said he was, implying that Marina was off by a day or two when she was actually off by nearly seven months. He also discounts the fact that there was never any announcement of Nixon arriving around this time by saying that there was an announcement that Johnson was and Oswald confused the two. Finally he argues that Marina was strong enough to keep Oswald barricaded in the bathroom by bracing herself against the opposite wall. This is ludicrous to anyone who has ever met Marina. She is positively petite, actually dainty, being a little over five feet tall and, at the time of the assassination and probably about 120 pounds. Posner never notes the Alexander/Aynesworth column, the then association between Aynesworth and Marina, Aynesworth's mercenary and clearly ideological aims, or Marina's plight and later recantation of much of what she said when she was under the influence of Aynesworth and Priscilla Johnson. He could have done all of this. He mentioned none of it.

Posner is just as bad and irresponsible on the medical evidence as he is about Oswald. In the chapter entitled "He Has a Death Look" he uses people like Michael Baden to discredit the doctors in Dallas who say they saw a large hole in the rear of Kennedy's head. Posner is intent on getting rid of that hole because it would give strong evidence of there being a shot from the front of Kennedy's car. In fact, he admits this himself about the hole in the back of the head: "If true, this not only contradicted the findings of the autopsy team but was evidence that the President was probably shot from the front…. (ibid. p. 307) He then spends pages trying to discredit the doctors and attendants at Parkland Hospital who say they saw this hole. The agenda being that if he does so, there will be no evidence for it left.

But the problem for Posner was that he spoke too soon. When the ARRB declassified the House Select Committee on Assassinations medical files, we found out something Posner did not know and had not bothered to query about. (Understandable, considering what he was trying to do.) The doctors who examined the body in Bethesda, and who had it most of the night, agreed with the doctors in Dallas about the wound in the rear of the head. In fact, nearly as many witnesses at Bethesda agreed with the witnesses at Parkland. Gary Aguilar tallied them all up and it now comes to over 40 witnesses, fairly equally distributed between the two locations. So Posner's thesis, which he spends over six pages developing, is undermined by the new files. So much for his title.

Then there was the pronouncement in his book about there being no evidence that connected Ferrie with Oswald (p. 426) This was simply wrong as we show elsewhere. But when Posner was confronted with a photo of the two together, he had a hard time swallowing it and so he tried to weasel out of it by saying that it probably came from Jim Garrison's office and that the DA had been shown to have doctored two other photos. This is in keeping with his penchant in smearing personages when the evidence turns against him. The problem here is that 1.) Garrison never had the photograph in question, and 2.) There is no evidence of him altering photographs.

Finally to show how indiscriminate and undiscerning, how cynical Posner is about what his audience knows, toward the end of his book he quotes Robert Blakey, Chief Counsel of the HSCA, about what was in the classified files that he helped lock up for over 50 years: "I know everything in those files, and there is no smoking gun in there. People who expect major revelations will be disappointed. Everything of importance got into our report." (ibid p. 469) This is an amazing quote for Posner to use on several counts:

  1. Just five pages earlier, Posner spent a long section on his book discrediting Blakey and his conclusions about a Mafia conspiracy. Now he trots out the man he just discredited as an authority on what he did not reveal.
  2. Blakey has just told him that he "knew everything in those files". Posner does not challenge the statement. Yet, even at the time Posner's book was written the National Archives had estimated that there were about two million pages of classified files they had to work on declassifying. The actual number turned out to be even higher. Yet Posner does not question the astounding claim that Blakey read all this stuff and still-15 year later-- "knew everything" in it.
  3. It was Blakey's report that covered up the point above about the Bethesda doctors agreeing with the Parkland doctors on the wound in the rear of Kennedy's head. A tenet that their own (hidden) documents and interviews contravened. The two major authors of the Final Report were Blakey and Richard Billings.
  4. It was Posner himself who wrote, as we have seen, that this wound placement would constitute evidence that Kennedy was hit from the front. Meaning the fatal shot came from there and Oswald could not have fired it.

Without exaggeration, today, almost every page of Case Closed abounds with quotes, comments, or deductions as flatulent as this one. To go through the entire book and correct them all, as I have here, would literally take a volume longer than Posner's original work. Yet as we show here, in our links, the critiques of his indefensible book abound on the Internet. Yet, Jennings and Obenhaus either never bothered to look them up, or they were never interested. Which is worse according to a journalist's credo?

Last modified on Sunday, 09 October 2016 19:56
James DiEugenio

One of the most respected researchers and writers on the political assassinations of the 1960s, Jim DiEugenio is the author of two books, Destiny Betrayed (1992/2012) and The JFK Assassination: The Evidence Today (2018), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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