Sunday, 03 December 2006 17:04

Hugh Aynesworth Never Quits

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Dallas journalist and erstwhile Garrison critic continues to defend Clay Shaw as the source of a proposed screenplay with Jim Piddock, writes Jim DiEugenio.


If you do a search of this web site on the name "Hugh Aynesworth," you will come up with several matches. None of them are complimentary. Probe magazine did a lot of work on Mr. Aynesworth. We discovered that in regards to the JFK case, to call him a "journalist" was, to be kind, rather stretching the term. As Bill Davy notes in his book Let Justice be Done, even journalists in New Orleans covering the Jim Garrison inquiry questioned his practices (and also those of his friend and partner, the late James Phelan).

Well, it appears that Hugh Aynesworth is still carrying a torch for Clay Shaw. At a time of life when he could be enjoying retirement, the 75-year-old Aynesworth is believed to be the principal source for a screenplay centering on Jim Garrison's investigation. The screenplay is now being shopped around Hollywood. But unlike Oliver Stone's 1991 blockbuster JFK, this version of events portrays Clay Shaw in a favorable light.

The screenplay was written by one Jim Piddock, a writer and actor who is apparently a babe in the woods on the JFK case. He actually takes Aynesworth seriously. Well, worse than seriously. He trots out this golden oldie: that Aynesworth and a few other intrepid reporters protected the world from the deluded Garrison and helped save the saintly Clay Shaw. (Yawn.)

Just how under the spell of Aynesworth is Jim Piddock? Piddock calls Oliver Stone's film "entirely fictional" and a piece of "nonsense." He actually quotes Aynesworth as saying: "Well, at least Stone got two things right about Kennedy's death: the time and the date." There's an objective source.

Piddock states that the Garrison case against Shaw has parallels with today. These parallels are "in terms of the abuse of power after a national tragedy and the manipulation of the public by powerful but unscrupulous and corrupt men..." Yeah Jim, just look at the guy you're talking to.

When Oliver Stone's JFK came out, Aynesworth went on one of his patented mini-rampages. He was on one of the news networks claiming that he saw Garrison bribing someone. (The reporter didn't bother to ask: Who was it and for what purpose?) And he wrote a series of articles that appeared in some Texas newspapers basically recycling a lot of the anti-Garrison propaganda that he had originated years before. Clearly, the Stone film disturbed him since Garrison was allowed to make a lot of his case to the public directly, without Aynesworth and Phelan et al biting him in the back.

None of Aynesworth's antics in the early 1990s were much different from his assassination work in the 1960s. In 1964 he wrote a hatchet job review of Joachim Joesten's Oswald: Assassin or Fall Guy?, one of the very first books on the Kennedy assassination. "If you would listen to [Joesten]," Aynesworth sneered, "he would have you thinking that Lee Harvey Oswald was a polite little misunderstood youth who just got mixed up in the wrong company ... It's the same old tripe with some new flavoring." And in a notorious May 1967 Newsweek article, Aynesworth called Jim Garrison's investigation "a plot of Garrison's own making." He alleged the New Orleans DA offered a witness $3,000 "if only he would 'fill in the facts' of the alleged meeting to plot the death of the President."

Jim Garrison himself said Aynesworth "seemed a gentle and fair enough man" when Aynesworth interviewed him. But the DA found out different. "As for the $3,000 bribe, by the time I came across Aynesworth's revelation, the witness our office had supposedly offered it to, Alvin Beaubeouff, had admitted to us it never happened." If the Newsweek article was typical of Aynesworth's work, Garrison observed, then it was hard to undertand how he kept getting his stuff published.

With the work of the Assassination Records Review Board, many more pages of documents have been released showing how tightly bound Aynesworth was with the intelligence community. It has been demonstrated that Aynesworth was -- at the minimum -- working with the Dallas Police, Shaw's defense team, and the FBI. He was also an informant to the White House, and had once applied for work with the CIA. As I have noted elsewhere, in the annals of this case, I can think of no "reporter" who had such extensive contacts with those trying to cover up the facts in the JFK case. And only two come close: Edward Epstein and Gerald Posner.

Whatever Hugh Aynesworth and Jim Piddock might say, it is important to remember the simple fact that Clay Shaw committed perjury. He lied to his own defense counsel in open court about his supposed non-relationship to the CIA. And he lied twice in a 1967 interview with the CBC's Gordon Donaldson. Donaldson asked Shaw if he ever worked for the CIA and whether he had an affiliation with that agency. To the first question Shaw answered: "No." To the second question Shaw replied: "None whatsoever." We know better today.

Jim Piddock has been involved in some of the worst movies put out by Hollywood of late -- which is saying a lot. But take a look, if you can, at things like The Man and An Alan Smithee Film. Piddock says that he knows that films like his Garrison/Shaw opus are not easy to get made. Let's hope that with his track record -- and his sources -- it doesn't. What the world needs now is anything but more Hugh Ayesworth.


Read some more about Piddock's project.

Read some more about Hugh Aynesworth.

Last modified on Saturday, 15 October 2016 16:26
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 Reclaiming Parkland (2013/2016), co-author of The Assassinations, and co-edited Probe Magazine (1993-2000).   See "About Us" for a fuller bio.

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