By Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar
(originally a Chicago Tribune commentary, 9-18-13)
In his opinion article "Who needs facts when you have conspiracy theorists?" (Sept. 6), Cory Franklin asserts that the film JFK is "far removed from historical accuracy" and "is full of distortions and outright falsehoods," yet he offers not a single specific example. As co-screenwriters of the film, we want to assure Franklin and your readers that we made every effort to be as accurate and true to historical fact as possible.
The film is based on two source-noted nonfiction books and two years of our own additional research, including hundreds of interviews. We have published an annotated screenplay, JFK: The Book of the Film, that provides source notes for every fact in the film and labels clearly what is speculation, where there has been compositing of characters and where dramatic license has been taken.
Franklin's labeling of the film as "a propaganda piece meant to demonize a covert, evil, right-wing paramilitary group" makes us wonder if he has ever seen the film. It bears no resemblance to the film we made, which depicts various scenarios of what might have happened in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but most prominently explores the possibility that the CIA was involved.
Franklin repeats the Warren Commission's long-discredited conclusion that "Lee Harvey Oswald shot President John F. Kennedy," but offers zero evidence to support this claim. The facts lead to a very different conclusion.
- Lee Oswald was given a nitrate test after his arrest, and it proved that he had not fired a rifle that day.
- According to his fellow Marines, Oswald was a mediocre marksman at best.
- The most skilled FBI sharpshooters tried to duplicate the shooting feat within the time frame set out by the Zapruder film and failed.
- The Mannlicher-Carcano rifle, the weapon Oswald was alleged to have used, is well-known to gun dealers as one of the least accurate rifles ever made, and the particular one Oswald allegedly used had a defective sight.
- Warren Commission staffer (later U.S. senator) Arlen Specter's "Magic Bullet Theory," which attempted to account for the seven wounds in Kennedy and Texas Gov. John Connally with only two bullets, defies the laws of physics and strains the credulity of any reasonable person.
- Fifty-one eyewitnesses interviewed by the Warren Commission testified that they heard or saw shots from the grassy knoll of Dealey Plaza in front of the president, not the Texas School Book Depository in back, meaning there had to have been a second gunman.
- The Zapruder film clearly shows the president's head and body snapped back when hit by the third shot, meaning that it came from in front, not behind.
- The House Select Committee on Assassinations' 1979 investigation concluded that there was a fourth shot and a "probable conspiracy," based on acoustical evidence contained on a police Dictabelt recorder. In 2001, a more sophisticated acoustical study published in Science and Justice, a publication of Britain's Forensic Science Society, confirmed the House committee's conclusions.
Our film does not come to a firm conclusion about who was responsible for the Kennedy assassination, but it does reject the Warren Commission's lone-gunman theory as implausible at best – a conclusion that 90 percent of the American people share, according to polls.
Finally, Franklin attempts to tarnish the reputation of former New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison by saying that his case against Clay Shaw, charged with conspiring to assassinate Kennedy, was "quickly laughed out of court." The truth is that Garrison's case was sabotaged by the federal government and never had a fair day in court. Every one of Garrison's attempts to extradite key witnesses from other states was rejected – something that had never happened in his six previous years as district attorney. His routine requests for important evidence such as X-rays and photos from the president's autopsy, andtax records and intelligence files on Oswald, were denied. Federal prosecutors refused to serve his subpoenas on CIA officials such as Allen Dulles and Richard Helms. Garrison's office phones were tapped, and Garrison and his staff were followed by FBI agents. Key witnesses were bribed or died under mysterious circumstances. And the district attorney's files were stolen and turned over to Shaw's defense counsel before the trial began.
Not the least of these successful efforts at sabotage was the attempt to destroy Garrison's personal credibility. We know now, as a result of released Freedom of Information documents, that defamatory and false articles about Garrison were planted in the mainstream press as part of a smear campaign orchestrated by the CIA to discredit critics of the Warren Commission. All of these facts are source-noted in our annotated screenplay.
We worked closely with Garrison for several years and knew him well. He was an honest, highly intelligent and courageous man. We believe the American people, including Cory Franklin, should thank Garrison for standing up for the truth about the JFK assassination against the full power of the United States government's cover-up.