Monday, 15 June 1998 15:50

The Curious Case of Dan Moldea

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The methods and approaches of his are highly dubious, as Jim DiEugenio demonstrates in this review of Moldea's apologia for the LAPD.

From the May-June 1998 issue (Vol. 5 No. 4) of Probe

In 1995, Dan Moldea wrote his apologia for the LAPD (and especially DeWayne Wolfer) for their handling of the Robert F. Kennedy assassination. To put this act in perspective, one must go through the LAPD files in Sacramento. After undergoing that long, laborious, painful process one can pretty accurately make the following statement: what the LAPD did in the Robert Kennedy case is as bad, and probably worse, than what the Dallas Police did in regards to the John Kennedy murder. Probably worse because, unlike the JFK case, the LAPD had final disposition over the Robert Kennedy murder. So Moldea's attempt to get LAPD off the hook – and simultaneously make Sirhan the fall guy – is pretty galling. How does he try to do it?

In the opening pages of his book, Moldea makes the following claim:

As in all of my previous works, everything in this book has been extensively fact-checked....Nearly all of its major and minor characters and sources – including both Sirhan and Cesar – have been permitted to approve their quoted words as well as given the opportunity to amend and expand upon them.

This statement is dubious. Moldea had provided Sirhan B. Sirhan a chance to fact-check an eight-page report culled from his visits with the prisoner. Nowhere in those pages did Moldea show Sirhan the following dialogue attributed to him in the book:

Suddenly, in the midst of their conversation, Sirhan started to explain the moment when his eyes met Kennedy's just before he shot him. Shocked by what Sirhan had just admitted, McCowan asked, "Then why, Sirhan, didn't you shoot him between the eyes?" With no hesitation and no apparent remorse, Sirhan replied, "Because that son of a bitch turned his head at the last second."

Reading this, Sirhan sternly denied such an exchange. Yet Moldea claims he fact-checked all quotes for attribution. Moldea was never allowed to see Sirhan alone. He was always accompanied by at least Sirhan's brother Adel. Adel also denies that Moldea ever asked Sirhan about it. What makes it worse is that it now turns out that this comment was delivered to Moldea thirdhand, from Robert Blair Kaiser who got it from defense investigator Mike McCowan.

Lynn Mangan, Sirhan's chief researcher, had seen a pre-publication copy of the book. Since she had been with Moldea on one visit and knew Sirhan very well, she realized that the quote was hardly tenable. She called up Adel who reaffirmed her belief. When Mangan asked Moldea when and where this conversation took place, the author told her that he would mail her McCowan's affidavit testifying to these matters. Three years later, Moldea has yet to come through with the affidavit.

In a letter to Mangan dated 6/24/95, Sirhan wrote the following about the matter:

I flatly deny making the statement Moldea ascribes to me in his book via Kaiser via McCowan. This quote was never mentioned by Moldea during any of his visits with me....

Whenever he [McCowan] came with the others (he seldom came alone) I told him all I could remember of the shooting night – the same stuff that I told whoever asked me including the psychiatrists. McCowan was much more interested in my background than in the shooting scene.

....He always had that smooth chatty "I am your best friend attitude – an insincere chumminess, and he made statements that included the answer or inference that he wanted to establish. I remember when after Mrs. Naomi Weidner testified, against my wishes, about the atrocities in the M.E. [Middle East], McCowan came to me and whispered that my discussing the atrocities with Mrs. Weidner months before, was a clever tactic. After a hypnosis session with Dr. Diamond, McCowan tells me as though with knowing confidence that I got the doctors fooled, which was not the case.

McCowan has very, very seldom come to mind over the years because I realized when I was on Death Row that he did not give a damn about me from the outset, and that he was out for all the glory he could get at my expense like [attorneys] Parsons and Cooper were....

The above incident raises some questions about Moldea's methods and approach which go to the heart of his book. Moldea starts by giving the usual evidence of conspiracy as known in 1995. He mentions the evidence of extra bullets, the muzzle distance problem, the girl in the polka dot dress (which, incredibly, he considered a "red herring") etc. He then says that throughout his inquiry, LAPD gave him a hard time. They scolded him about relying on the testimony of untrained eyewitnesses. They advised him to interview trained crime scene observers, such as the L.A. police. So Moldea does. But upon doing so, the cops end up saying pretty much what the eyewitnesses did, i.e. there were too many bullets, there were additional suspects, there was a cover-up. The logical conclusion is that, since both groups agree, they must both be right. Wrong. Incredibly, Moldea concludes that cops are simply no more reliable than ordinary people when it comes to observing details at a crime scene!

For a good overview of Moldea's methodology, consider his closing chapter entitled "What Really Happened". Here Moldea pretends to tie up all the loose ends that indicate a conspiracy. It makes for amusing reading for anyone familiar with the facts of the case.


An updated version of this article can be found in The Assassinations, edited by Jim DiEugenio and Lisa Pease.

Last modified on Sunday, 16 October 2016 16:04
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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