PART I: THE ASSASSINATION
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Chapter 1: The Media CoupAnalysis of NBC Coverage of JFK AssassinationAlthough President Kennedy was removed violently from office, the real strength of the coup was its ability to cover up the crime afterwards. Anyone with money can hire assassins, but covering up the crime is more difficult. This required the full cooperation of key people within the American news media. One such participant was correspondent for NBC television, the late Martin Agronsky. It’s interesting that Agronsky, a Jew, began his journalism career in 1936 as a reporter for the Palestine Post, now theJerusalem Post.1
As it Happened, a four hour film showing NBC-TV’s live coverage of President Kennedy’s assassination on November 22, 1963, reveals that Agronsky aggressively promoted Lyndon Johnson as an able replacement for the slain Kennedy rather than merely report the tragic events. Agronksy’s behavior suggests that he and Johnson were both active participants in the coup d’état of 1963 and therefore had prior knowledge of Kennedy’s murder.
The raw NBC footage reveals how the media coup was executed. There were two types of news men: those "reporting" the news and those "interpreting" the news. Those reporting the news were almost exclusively gentiles. They included Frank McGee, Bill Ryan, Chet Huntley, David Brinkly, Robert McNeil, Charles Murphy (of WBAP-TV Fort Worth, Dallas), and Tom Whelan (also of WBAP). In stark contrast, the ones interpreting the news—or "correspondents" as they called themselves—were almost all Jewish. They included Martin Agronsky, Elie Abel, Irving R. Levine, Peter Hackes, Kenneth Bernstein, Lief Ede, and Gabe Pressman.
The Oswald cover story and supporting propaganda/disinformation was shaped and controlled by three factions: (1) the Jewish correspondents, (2) the Dallas Police, and (3) the Associated Press. The Jewish correspondents’ jobs were to promote Lyndon Johnson as Kennedy’s replacement, to prepare the public for shifts in foreign affairs, and to generally control the flow of information by putting a spin on things as needed. The Dallas Police department’s job, from a propagandistic viewpoint, was to leak the cover story to the AP wire and other media outlets that Lee Harvey Oswald had killed Dallas Police officer J. D. Tippet and had shot and killed President Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository. The AP’s function was to flood all levels of the news media with a cover story that vilified Oswald, portraying him as a lone gunner, a nut, an expatriate who moved to the Soviet Union and married a Russian woman, an unstable man who supported Communism and belonged to a pro-Castro group in New Orleans.
As previously stated, Agronsky’s role was mainly to promote the new president, Lyndon Johnson. On November 22, 1963, Agronsky gave four brief commentaries aggressively supporting the new president.
Transcripts of Martin Agronsky’s CommentariesDuring his first commentary, Agronsky mentioned that House Speaker John McCormack would be next in line to the presidency if something would happen to Johnson. That was a reasonably acceptable observation, although it indicated that Agronsky had thought things through in a moment of crisis; clear thinking indeed. Agronsky’s comment was made only twenty minutes after Kennedy’s death had been announced to the world. Here is the transcript:
The Capitol is now starting to react to what has happened in Dallas, and for a report on that, we go now to Martin Agronksy, NBC News in Washington.
… Senator Mansfield has made no statement, the Senate majority leader. Speaker McCormack, who is now in the position in relation to President Lyndon Johnson that Lyndon Johnson was in relation to President Kennedy, has made no statement. …
(As it Happened, NBC coverage of the Kennedy assassination)An hour later, Agronsky made a second commentary. In the midst of a national crisis, he told a light-hearted anecdote about Lyndon Johnson and then Texas Governor Connally, who had been shot and gravely wounded while riding in the Presidential limousine with Kennedy. Agronsky told how he had bet fifty dollars with Texas Governor John Connally, in 1960, that Lyndon Johnson would accept the number two spot on the Democratic presidential ticket if Kennedy offered it to him. According to Agronsky, Connally was certain that Johnson would turn down the number two position. As it turned out, Connally was wrong about his "close friend," Johnson. Possibly Agronsky was merely sharing an innocent, personal encounter with Connally as an attempt to lighten a stressful situation. On the other hand, Agronsky may have been insulating Johnson from charges that Johnson participated in a coup against Kennedy. After all, even if Johnson disliked Kennedy; how could he allow his "good friend" John Connally to be placed in harm’s way? Here is the transcript:
… I think back to a night of the convention in nineteen hundred and sixty when Vice-President Lyndon Johnson accepted the nomination. Governor John Connally was then the floor manager for Lyndon Johnson. He was the man who was always his closest assistant in all of his political campaigns. That is Governor Connally of Texas who now lies wounded in a hospital in Dallas.
About two o’clock in the morning, when there was much talk that Lyndon Johnson would be offered the vice-presidential nomination, John Connally told me that he was positive he would never accept it. I had talked earlier to the late speaker, to Sam Rayburn. He told me too that Lyndon Johnson would never accept the vice-presidency, would never give up the job of Senate majority leader to take it.
And I bet John Connally then, fifty dollars that Lyndon Johnson would take the vice-presidential nomination. And at two o’clock that morning, John Connally made that bet with me, clearly positive that his very close friend, Lyndon Johnson, would not accept it. This I suppose is the way that history is made. Had Lyndon Johnson not accepted it, he of course would not be president of the United States today.
No one could ever have believed or dreamed that a president so young would not conclude the term of office, that death would interrupt. There is very little else to report here in Washington, just the general reaction from – oh and a bulletin has just come in from Dallas: "A sniper, armed with a high powered rifle, murdered President Kennedy today," according to the Associated Press dispatch, "barely two hours after President Kennedy’s death, Lyndon Johnson has taken the oath of office as the thirty-seventh president of the United States."
So it is President Lyndon Baines Johnson, fifty-five years old, the new president of the United States. Now, back to New York.
(As it Happened, NBC coverage of the Kennedy assassination)About two hours after Kennedy’s death was announced, Agronsky delivered his third commentary. At that point, he stepped up the pro-Johnson rhetoric quite a bit. He immediately attempted to cut to film footage of three prominent Senators. Unfortunately there was a "mechanical failure" and the audience saw Senator Mansfield’s lips moving, but without sound. Agronsky apologized for the malfunction, and proceeded to tell what appeared be a bald-faced lie—that the senators were "rallying" around the new President Johnson. Later he showed the footage again, in working order, but none of the three even mentioned Johnson by name. In fact, all three senators—Mike Mansfield, Everett Dirksen, and Wayne Morse(Footnote 7)—praised the slain Kennedy and spoke only of the tragic loss. Morse did state, however, that Americans should "pray for the president, and pray for the country." I assume he meant to pray for President Johnson.
Agronsky had planted a seed of disinformation that three prominent senators had quickly rallied around the new President Johnson. Agronsky used this false premise to shower Johnson with praise, stating that Johnson was a "well-known intimate friend of all the members of the Senate of the United States." Agronsky also stated that Johnson had "a more vast governmental experience behind him than any president we have ever had." It looks very much like Agronsky faked the mechanical failure which showed Senator Mansfield’s lips moving without sound as a pretext for building the new president up in the eyes of the American public. This mysterious "malfunction" allowed Agronsky to make the transition to his obviously prepared text which praised President Johnson immensely. Here is the transcript:
The leaders of the Congress of the United States have united in bipartisan unity in this tragic moment. Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield of Montana, a man who now occupies the office last held by our new president, Lyndon B. Johnson, his Republican opposite Illinois’ Senator Everett Dirksen, the Republican minority leader in the Senate, and Oregon’s Democratic Wayne Morse speak now.
[Video of Senator Mike Mansfield is shown on the screen for eighteen seconds, but no sound is heard. Agronsky returns and explains the "mechanical failure."]
Senator Mansfield was just speaking. Unfortunately, a mechanical failure has cut off the sound from the picture. We’ll come back with the statements of Senator Mansfield, the majority leader; the minority leader, Senator Everett Dirksen; and Democratic Senator Wayne Morse of Oregon later.
The man around whom they are now rallying, Senator—President Lyndon Baines Johnson is a very, very close friend; a very, very, well-known intimate friend of all of the members of the Senate of the United States. Lyndon Baines Johnson, at the age of fifty-five, takes office as president of the United States with probably a more vast governmental experience behind him than any president we have ever had. He has been in the House of Representatives for, I think, four terms. He was elected twice to the Senate of the United States, served as the Senate majority leader where his record was as an extremely able legislative leader, a man who accomplished much in the office. His knowledge, his companionship with the members of the Senate of the United States must certainly serve him in good stead as they did his predecessor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
Additionally, throughout the Kennedy administration, then Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, now President Lyndon Johnson served the president of the United States in many capacities that gave him an intimate knowledge and insight into the duties of the office that he now assumes. He was on the National Security Council and the National Security Council Executive Committee. He served in every possible way, and had every possible experience that a man could have [known] intimately the workings of our government. He is eminently qualified certainly in terms of experience to assume the terrible duties that await him now.
And now we are informed that the mechanical obstruction to hearing the words of the Senate leaders has been removed, and we hear now first from Senator Mansfield of Montana, the majority leader, then from the Republican minority--[cut to video]
[film and voice of Senator Mike Mansfield]
The passing of John Fitzgerald Kennedy is not only a tragedy for a nation which he so ably represented, but is I think also a mark upon the respectability and the responsibility of some of our citizens. This good, this decent, this kindly man, this harassed man who had so much on his shoulders and received from some people, so little in the way of support in return; this man has now gone to his reward. And I will miss him as a personal friend, the nation will miss him as a great president, and the world will miss him as a great leader.
[film and voice of Senator Everett Dirksen, sitting beside Mansfield]
There are some things that are simply incredible, and leave one absolutely speechless. This is one of them.
[film and voice of Senator Wayne Morse]
In this dark, tragic hour, all I can say is what I said on the floor of the Senate. This is the time for every American to pray. Pray for the president, and pray for the country.
[back to Agronsky]
So the leaders of the Senate of the United States demonstrated in these words the traditional and the central unity that goes beyond party in this particular moment of national tragedy. There can be no doubt that the Congress of the United States will unite, and unite firmly, and will help in every possible way, their new president, Lyndon Baines Johnson. He is their close friend, as his predecessor was; and there is every certainty that the new president of the United States will receive every possible help that he possibly can, that can be afforded to him by the Congress of the United States, regardless of party.
The words you have just heard from Mr. Mansfield, the majority leader; from Senator Everett Dirksen, the minority leader; from Wayne Morse of Oregon, all indicate what is truly a feeling that permeates the entire Congress of the United States today, and demonstrates the kind of essential unity that exists now in the Congress as it rallies behind the new president.
And now, back to New York.
(As it Happened, NBC coverage of the Kennedy assassination)Agronsky’s fourth commentary was even more dramatic. At this point, the world had learned of Kennedy’s death slightly less than three hours earlier. Agronsky opened his fourth commentary by mentioning that Kennedy’s cabinet had been on a jet to Japan during the assassination, and had subsequently turned around to return home. Amazingly, Agronsky stated that it was traditional for cabinet members of a dead president to automatically submit their resignations to the new president. One has to ask, Where did Mr. Agronsky find such a piece of trivia? After all, presidents don’t die in office that frequently. I doubt that a standard protocol had been established. Agronsky was apparently using his power as an opinion leader to allow Johnson to fire some of Kennedy’s cabinet members without creating a public controversy. In reality, Johnson kept some of Kennedy’s cabinet members and other advisors, but Agronsky’s spin surely made it easier for a new government to be assembled.
Agronsky then proceeded to heap more praise onto President Johnson, stating that Kennedy’s cabinet members would surely rally around the highly qualified and respected Johnson. Here is the transcript:
The chief members of the cabinet of the United States, that is the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk; the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Macnamara; the Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Hodges; and the Secretary of the Interior, Mr. Udall; are all on the plane [to Japan], that Frank [McGee] has just mentioned, that has turned around and is trying to get back now to Washington. It is the custom, it is the tradition when a president dies that each member of the cabinet submits automatically his resignation. The incoming president then either accepts the resignation or instructs the cabinet officer to remain at his post. Automatically those resignations, we can assume, will be submitted at this time, and President Johnson will then have to make up his mind whom he wishes to keep and whom he wishes to have go. …
[Agronsky then describes the pending funeral plans for JFK.]
The members of the cabinet of course must rally around the new president, will, fully intend to, will offer all of the advice that they possibly can. This is a government that under John Fitzgerald Kennedy worked very closely together, not in the sense of holding frequent cabinet meetings, they didn’t; but everyone else always knew what the other was doing. And Vice-President Lyndon Johnson, or President Lyndon Johnson—fortunately—throughout the Kennedy term of office was included in all of the meetings with the cabinet, participated fully in many of the major decisions—the state decisions, was a contributing member of the National Security Council, the chief advisory council which dealt with all of the great problems of state, and sat at the President’s right hand throughout all the moments of crisis, such as the Cuban emergency. He is fully familiar with all of the duties that he is called upon to assume, and of course will get every kind of help that he possibly can get from the members of the cabinet.
It is much too soon to speculate. No one wishes to, no one is in the mood to speculate as to which members of the cabinet President Johnson will keep, which he will ask to go. This is a matter that will be decided much later I’m sure when the first shock of this terrible tragedy has warn off, and when President Johnson begins to function in his new office.
These are the primary developments that have occurred so far here in Washington. It’s a question now of waiting the arrival of President Lyndon Johnson who will make a statement to the nation when he arrives at the airport which will be in approximately fifty minutes or so from now if all goes according to schedule. We will hear then the reaction of the new president to the terrible tragedy and to the enormous responsibility that has fallen upon his shoulders. He has not been quoted yet as having said anything and apparently will be trying to compose his thoughts as he makes this tragic flight back from Dallas here to the Capitol of the United States and from where he will now assume the duties of the presidency as he has already been sworn in as the president of the United States.
And that’s the story as it has developed so far here in the Capitol. Now, back to you Frank [McGee] in New York.
(As it Happened, NBC coverage of the Kennedy assassination)
… One of the changes will take place in the area of foreign policy. How much? Reported now by NBC state department correspondent, Elie Abel, in Washington.
All we can be sure about at the moment is the great shock wave felt around the world, not only among friends and allies, and neutrals; but also, I suspect, in the Communist ruled countries. The controlled Soviet press has much of the time been sharply and automatically critical of US policy; but the person of John F. Kennedy was treated with respect.
Just a week ago, the Soviet people were told that [name unclear], arrested as a spy, was being released because of the President’s concern over the case. He had met Soviet Premier Khrushchev in Vienna in 1961, resisted Soviet encroachments on Berlin, played and won that deadly game of nuclear poker with Khrushchev over Cuba.
He was also the man who agreed to a limited test ban treaty and persuaded the US Senate to ratify that step. The guess here is that President Lyndon Johnson will carry on much the same policy. He was certainly very much directly involved in that policy. He showed the flag in many distant parts of the world as President Kennedy’s personal emissary.
But just as the Western allies may hesitate while pledging full support to the new president, the Soviets presumably are not sure at the moment what to expect out of Washington. They have tended to place a certain faith in John Kennedy personally as a man they disagreed with, but a man who wanted peace. He was trying to defuse some of the explosive situations around the world, who favored in the long run a policy based on mutual recognition that nuclear war is no rational option for mankind in this day and age.
The Russians know less about Lyndon Johnson, and they may well play a waiting game until they have a surer feel of his reactions and attitudes. Elie Abel, NBC News, reporting.
(As it Happened, NBC coverage of the Kennedy assassination)Elie Abel has an interesting background. Like Sam Bronfman and Louis Bloomfield, Abel was a Canadian born Jew. He was a graduate of McGill University and began his career in journalism at the Montreal Gazette in 1941.
Another NBC Jewish correspondent, Irving R. Levine, also had an interesting background. Levine covered the violence that marked independence of the Islamic nation of Algeria.2 As previously stated, Senator John F. Kennedy made a controversial speech in 1957 denouncing France for its occupation of Algeria. To put it bluntly, Kennedy’s Algerian speech was not only a criticism of French policy, it was also a slap in the face to Israel and an endorsement of the Islamic states.
Martin Agronsky’s conduct was by far the most aggressive of the Jewish correspondents at NBC, but it was merely the tip of the iceberg. As previously stated, immediately after Kennedy’s assassination, an Oswald cover story was put out by the Dallas Police—and propagated by the Associated Press wire service—to confuse the public about the true nature of the crime. The cover story portrayed Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin, that he was a known Communist, was pro-Castro, had lived in the Soviet Union, and was married to a Russian woman. NBC’s televised coverage of the assassination actually broadcast all of these details less than two hours after announcing Kennedy’s death. Within that timespan, they also mentioned that Oswald had applied for Soviet citizenship on November 1, 1959. That was quite impressive detective work indeed.
Transcript of Charles Murphy’s Coverage of OswaldCharles Murphy of WBAP-TV, Dallas/Fort Worth was the first reporter to mention Oswald by name during NBC’s live coverage of the assassination. Here is the transcript:
Late word just in from Dallas. Homocide detective Levelle told WBAP news man James Curr in Dallas a few minutes ago, they have little doubt that 24-year-old Lee Oswald of Dallas is the man who shot and killed Dallas Police Officer J. D. Tippit shortly after President Kennedy was shot to death this afternoon. Oswald was pulled screaming and shouting from a Texas theater by officers who had gone there on a tip that Oswald was there. He brandished a pistol which officers took away from him after a struggle. Oswald was quoted as saying, "It’s all over now."
A large crowd had congregated around the theater and police had to hold back the crowd because they were of the impression that the man was the president’s assassin.
Officer Tippit had been killed by a man answering the description of Oswald in the neighborhood a short time before. A coincidence in the case is that Oswald worked as a stock man at the Texas Book Depository, the building from which the sniper shot President Kennedy. Dallas police have declined to say whether they think Oswald is connected with the assassination.
This other late word in, a 24-year-old man who said two years ago he wanted Russian citizenship was questioned today to see whether he had any connection with the assassination of President Kennedy. He was identified as Lee Harvey Oswald of Fort Worth. He was pulled screaming and yelling from a Texas theater in the … section of Dallas shortly after a Dallas policeman was shot to death.
As more late film arrive, we will show them instantly, unedited, unscreened. This is Charles Murphy reporting from WBAP-TV, Fort Worth/Dallas.
[A few minutes later, Murphy gave more information about Oswald.]
Here is more information about the suspect, Oswald. On November 1st, 1959, Oswald told the United States embassy in Moscow he had applied for Soviet citizenship. He said he had been a tourist in Russia since October 13th of that year. Oswald was reported to have a Russian wife.
The Fort Worth Star Telegram confirmed that the man held in Dallas was the same Oswald and said his mother was being taken to Dallas police headquarters to see him. Oswald put up a wild fight in the theater. Charles Murphy reporting from WBAP-TV, Fort Worth/Dallas.
(As it Happened, NBC coverage of the Kennedy assassination)The cover story about Oswald was broadcast over the major radio and television stations and printed in the major newspapers.
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- Martin Agronsky died on Sunday, July 25, 1999 at the age of 84. An AP obituary was published on July 26 stating that Agronsky was Jewish and he began his career in 1936 as a reporter at the Palestine Post, now the Jerusalem Post. The article appeared in the Jefferson City Tribune, among other places, entitled TV veteran Martin Agronsky dies at age 84. http://www.newstribune.com/stories/072699/ent_0726990004.asp
- Irving R. Levine’s coverage of the French-Algerian War was mentioned in a bio about Levine published by InterSpeak, Inc., 144 Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis, MD 21401, tel 301-896-9700, fax 410-990-1131, Info@Inter-Speak.com, http://inter-speak.com/levine.htm