Thursday, June 21, 2007

How An Agnostic Became A Conspiracy Believer


Author Gaeton Fonzi (
The Last Investigation) tells readers in his article "Reply From a Conspiracy Believer," featured on the Vincent Bugliosi-bashing website “Reclaiming History? Or Re-Framing Oswald?”, that he was once an agnostic when it came to the Kennedy case, but became a conspiracy believer in 1966 after interviewing Arlen Specter, father of the single-bullet theory.

According to Fonzi, Specter had convinced him during the course of a two-session, four hour 1966 interview, that Specter had "no actual explanation" for the Commission’s claim that a single bullet went through Kennedy and Connally before emerging in what Fonzi decribed as "pristine condition" - other than to say, "It's possible." It was only then, Fonzi says, that he became a conspiracy believer.

And what exactly were the key points of Fonzi's single-bullet discussion that convinced him that something was amiss with the Warren Commission's evidence? Two old conspiracy arguments that have long since been disproven.

First, Specter's principal reason for favoring the theory was that there was no other way to explain what happened to the bullet which emerged from the President’s neck – unless it also hit Connally. Fonzi countered Specter's reasoning by writing: "Connally later testified that he disagreed because he heard the first shot but wasn’t hit until later."

Yet, Fonzi certainly must know by now that Connally's disagreement with the theory rested on his belief that Kennedy was hit by the first shot, an assumption based solely on his wife Nellie Connally's recollection. But we now know, and have known for some time, that Nellie Connally's recollection was wrong. She recalled that she turned and saw the President with his hands at his throat after the first shot and before her husband was hit by the second. However, the Zapruder film shows that Nellie Connally did not turn to look back at the President until after the second shot - the single-bullet that struck both Kennedy and Connally.

Second, Fonzi pointed out to Specter that there seemed to be a discrepancy between the location of the bullet hole in Kennedy's back and the bullet hole in the President's clothing. Fonzi noted that the bullet holes in the clothing were lower on the back than the bullet wound in the body itself as well as the wound in the throat. Specter explained that the clothing had ridden up during the course of the parade due to the President waving to the crowds. But Fonzi wasn't buying. Asked to explain in detail how this occurred and where precisely the backwound was located, Specter was left fumbling for words, until finally he conceded, "I don’t want to say because I don't really remember." That was enough for Fonzi, who writes: "I felt the implications of that were enormous. If the Single Bullet theory wasn’t built on unassailable evidence – and Specter himself dramatically illustrated that it wasn’t – the Warren Commission’s final conclusions were more than suspect."

But Fonzi should know by now, that an avalanche of photographs and films (including the most recent discovery - the George Jefferies' film - featured on the home page of The Sixth Floor Museum's website) taken during the course of the motorcade show exactly what Arlen Specter was having such a hard time explaining in 1966 - that the President's suit jacket had ridden up, and as such, the bullet hole in the clothing simply appears to be lower (when laid flat against the body) than the bullet wound in the back.

And we also know that the single-bullet theory was built on a mountain of "unassailable evidence" - an entrance wound in the President's back, tissue damage along a path between the back wound and a wound in the lower throat, the lack of a bullet in the body of the President that could account for the back wound, an angle of declination between the back wound and the throat wound at the time of the shooting conducive to striking the interior of the automobile or a second person seated in it, Governor Connally (who was seated directly in front of the President) was the only other person wounded in the car, the Zapruder film proves they were in alignment to be wounded by a single shot and seem to react at approximately the same time, and the condition of the bullet recovered (which was not "pristine") was consistent with the muzzle velocity of Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano and the physical forces it encountered along its trajectory. All of these points have been dealt with ad nauseum over the last four decades.

So where does that leave Mr. Fonzi, who based his turn from agnostic to conspiracy believer so long ago on two false premises? Does he still believe in conspiracy? It appears so, but for other reasons. It would be nice, however, if Mr. Fonzi and others who beat the drum of conspiracy wouldn't use old disproven notions to prop up their current beliefs.