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  • Fred Litwin

A Question for Max Good from Burt Griffin


Judge Burt Griffin talks about the shots fired at John Kennedy during a 1992 press conference in this file photo. (Gus Chan/The Plain Dealer, File) Cleveland Plain Dealer


Max Good is the producer of the documentary, The Assassination & Mrs. Paine.


Researcher Tracy Parnell has written extensively about this documentary, and I strongly encourage you to check out his posts. For instance, this article discusses the objectivity of Good's film.


If you sign up for Max Good's Patreon account, you can get access to "special features, full interviews, and other exclusive content."


Researcher Greg Doudna subscribed, and this week Max put up a video of an interview with Judge (retired) Burt Griffin who served as a counsel on the Warren Commission. Greg transcribed the video and posted excerpts (since removed) on the Education Forum. Here is what he said:


The footage consists of clips of Judge Griffin spliced back to back, total time 2 minutes, 35 seconds. The filming occurred at an event in Irving, Texas with Griffin standing against a wall in what looks like sort of an art gallery setting. Burt Griffin did not realize who was interviewing him. At the end of the footage Judge Griffin discovers it is Max Good and refuses permission to use any of the footage. Following is my transcription of the video footage. Max Good also posted today on Patreon a letter he received from Burt Griffin (see comments below after the transcript).


Max Good felt that Greg's transcriptions and his reporting on the video were in violation of the terms and conditions of his Patreon account. He has since removed the video and has removed Greg from the Patreon subscription list.


I sent an email to Burt Griffin to get permission to post his 2022 letter to Max Good and he replied that it would be ok to post it on my blog:


Mr. Good:


Not being a journalist, I lack a professional understanding of journalism's ethics. I am concerned, however, about how those ethics affect reporting accusations by third parties against another private citizen.


Let me be specific. I wonder if the ethics of journalism affected how you reported the criticisms and innuendoes by some people against Ruth Paine that you have shown in your recent video about her.


Mrs. Paine's critics suggest (or leave your audience might believe) that she was a CIA operative and has provided false information intended to incriminate Lee Oswald.


Mrs. Paine insists that she was not a CIA operative. She has said she did not knowingly provide false information to the Warren Commission or anyone else about Lee Oswald. Indeed, she says that, when she realized that a statement was incorrect or incomplete, she corrected it on her own initiative.


You have presented to a public audience both her defense and the accusation against her. As a result, you have enabled her accusers to have a larger audience. Mrs. Paine has, thereby, been damaged. You made it necessary for her to defend herself.


Without knowing what canons of journalism apply, I am offended by your providing that larger audience to Mrs. Paine's critics unless you were satisfied that the criticisms or innuendoes were valid. I suspect that you do not think they were valid.


As you may be aware, I have studied closely the conduct of Mrs. Paine and Lee Oswald. I have no doubt that Mrs. Paine has not knowingly made any false statements about Lee Oswald to the Warren Commission and that she did not knowingly assist any effort to assassinate President Kennedy.


She has suffered greatly from her innocent association with Lee Oswald and has done her best to be an honest citizen. I am concerned that your video has aggravated her suffering.


May I suggest what fair treatment, if not ethical journalism, required you to do? Tom Mallon's book, Ruth Paine's Garage and the Murder of John F. Kennedy, is an example of the fair and proper way to treat her.


You should have first evaluated the evidence upon which her critics based their accusations. Unless you were satisfied that the inferences from their accusations were correct, you should not have published their statements. Or, if you did so, you should have clearly stated that they were wrong. You should not have published their insinuations unless Mrs. Paine concurred.


I do not know what legal rights Mrs. Paine has to protect herself against the unhappiness that false accusations or innuendoes have caused her. I hope that, by becoming a subject of public interest she has not lost the protections against defamation that the law provides private citizens.


For Ms. Paine's benefit, I hope you will withdraw your video from the market and apologize to her for the distress it has caused. Unfortunately, she is now an example of the expression that "No good deed goes unpunished."


For your own professional success and for the protection of others in the future, I hope your Ruth Paine video will be a learning experience. Journalists have great power in this age of high-tech publicity. That power should not injure others unless a strong public interest is served. Good journalists should protect the innocent.


Sincerely,


Burt Griffin


In an e-mail to Greg Doudna, Burt posed a question that Max Good should answer:

To what extent do journalistic ethics require an interviewer to determine that a defamatory claim is true before publishing it or require the publisher to say it is untrue if it is published?

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