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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Fact Checking James DiEugenio

James DiEugenio has just published a rejoinder to Jamie Kirchick's excellent article, "Guilt by Orientation."

Unfortunately, Mr. DiEugenio keeps on repeating falsehoods about Clay Shaw being the elusive Clay Bertrand. So, let me set the record straight:

JFK Revisited accurately notes that, with help from the ARRB, 12 witnesses are now revealed to have known that Shaw used the alias of Clay Bertrand.
Some of these were turned up by Joan Mellen in her book, A Farewell to Justice. Barbara Bennett was a chanteuse at Pat O’Brien’s. She “had turned on the television and seen Shaw being arrested: ‘There’s Clay Bertrand!’ she shouted out.” Shaw had frequented that nightclub and Bennett was “his sometime party guest.” (p. 121) French Quarter businesswoman Rickey Planche just knew the man as Bertrand. Only when she saw him on TV did she learn his name was Shaw. (ibid) Her testimony would suggest that the knowledge of Shaw as Bertrand was not uncommon.

Mellen interviewed Barbara Bennett in 2001, which means that she told her story for the first time 34 years after Shaw was indicted. Similarly, Rickey Planche was interviewed by Joan Mellen in 2005, and so she came forward 38 years after the indictment of Shaw. These two people didn't say a word when Garrison was investigating - and there is no witness statement, no nothing except the word of Joan Mellen.

As Garrison notes in his book, a bartender at Cosimo’s said that “Bertrand comes here a lot.” And the man knew that his real name was Clay Shaw. He added, “I think most people know that.” (Garrison, p. 85) Garrison’s investigators then found two more bartenders in the French Quarter who said the same. (ibid)

Garrison makes these claims in his 1988 book, On the Trail of the Assassins. It's easy to say this decades after his investigation. But none of these people came forward. And none of them gave statements. And then there is this memo:

An FBI memorandum of March 2, 1967, states that the Bureau had two sources in February who knew Shaw was Bertrand.

You can see the actual memo here. The two sources were Aaron Kohn and Joseph Oster. New Orleans was a cauldron of rumor, innuendo, and gossip (indeed, the New Orleans States-Item mentioned Clay Bertrand in a news article on February 22, 1967), and so, Kohn heard from his sources that Shaw was Bertrand. But, he had no special knowledge on that front. Oster also told the FBI that his source about Shaw was from "news sources." Neither of these two people had any first-hand knowledge about Shaw being Bertrand.

Jessie Parker a hostess at the VIP room for Eastern Air Lines, testified that Shaw signed her guest book as Clay Bertrand. Alfred Moran corroborated this instance, but declassified documents show the CIA got to him and talked him out of his story. (William Davy, Let Justice be Done, pp. 178– 79)

I covered the VIP Room incident here. Jessie Parker also said that Shaw was accompanied by a party from Venezuela. Andrew Sciambra went to Washington to interview various people in the party and no one could corroborate that Shaw was in the V.I.P. room. Parker then signed a second affidavit which left out the Venezuelans.

Alfred Moran actually told James Alcock that he had not seen Shaw at the lounge - before meeting Hunter Leake of the CIA at a cocktail party.

In March of 1967, reporter Larry Schiller told the FBI that he had five sources in New Orleans and San Francisco who indicated Shaw used other names including Bertrand. (Davy, p. 193)
Ed Guthman, a former Justice Department official, also knew about Shaw’s alias. (ibid)

"Schiller says Guthman told Liebeler it's been known for two months that Bertrand and Shaw are the same man."

There is no evidence that Guthman had any direct knowledge.

In fact, the Justice Department had told the New York Times that such was the case. (Davy, p. 191)

Yes, but the Justice Department misspoke. They knew that the FBI and the Secret Service had looked for Clay Bertrand in 1963 with no avail. They simply made a mistake and said Shaw instead of Bertrand. They corrected their mistake - but DiEugenio and others have ignored that.

Reporter Richard Billings, who was interviewing Garrison in 1967, noted in his journal that evidence that Shaw was Bertrand was popping up everywhere. (Davy, p. 302)

Here is the actual excerpt from Billings diary:

This memo was written after the preliminary hearing. It's interesting that Billings admits that "Garrison has not come up with any other evidence that Shaw was involved in any plot." As for Shaw being Bertrand, well, Billings' three-page memo doesn't mention any of the evidence that was popping up.

But here is the next section of Billings' memo:

Billings writes that "I've been assigned the task of checking out this evidence." He then wonders why Shaw picked the name Bertrand and comes up with a few crazy theories. He then says, "God knows -- I'm the first to say this is all maybe madness."

Billings mirrors the theory of Schiller -- that Bertrand might be some sort of code for homosexuals in general. He probably heard this all from Schiller -- as noted above Billings was talking to Schiller.

But you must admit that if "Bertrand" is a world famous alias for homosexuals it is very conceivable that Shaw (well read + well traveled) -- a screaming queer -- would use this name in connection with his extra-curricular activities."

Back to Garrison. One positive thing, let's call it a positive promise which we doubt will ever happen -- he says that he will detach Lynn Loisel for the purpose of working only on making a connection between Shaw and Bertrand. This is the one area that would seem to require the most ambitious searching at the present date.

Of course it would "require the most ambitious searching."

Billings left the Garrison campaign disillusioned with what he was seeing. I don't think DiEugenio would quote what Robert Blakey and Richard Billings wrote in their book, Fatal Hour: (page 53)

Garrison would insist later that Russo told of having met "Bertrand" at Ferrie's apartment in his first interview with Sciambra, when he was not under sodium pentothal, but we know better. On assignment for Life in 1967, Billings witnessed a meeting of Garrison, Sciambra, and Russo, at which Russo said he did not have, even then, a conscious recollection of the meeting, but having been reminded, he remembered it under the truth drug, and testified to it, as though he did remember.

Billings also wrote this: (page 193)

In early 1969 Clay L. Shaw, the only person charged in the belated Garrison investigation of the Kennedy assassination, was acquitted. The case against him was flimsy, and the testimony of the "star witness," Perry Raymond Russo, had been blatantly concocted. All Garrison had was a circumstantial case of association: between Shaw and Oswald, almost none, once Russo's story had fallen apart; and between Shaw and Ferrie, only an indirect link (a close friend of Ferrie, going back to his youth in Cleveland, had been Shaw's next-door neighbor [James Lewallen]). But even if there had been encounters, evidence of another element of a conspiracy, an intent to commit a crime, was absent

Dr. Jacob Hety knew a gay man named Greg Donnelly. Donnelly had known Shaw for many years and he had referred to him as Clay Bertrand. (Probe, Vol. 7, No. 2, p. 21)

I covered Dr. Hety here. DiEugenio still can't get his name right - his name was Kety, not Hety. Kety was related to Harold Weisberg and never told him about Donnelly. In fact, Garrison sat on the lead and never investigated Donnelly.

When essayist Ed Tatro was in New Orleans for the Shaw trial, he was told words to the effect that, everyone down here knows Shaw is Bertrand. (James DiEugenio, Destiny Betrayed, Second Edition, p. 387)

This is just pure hearsay.

As the film notes, the icing on the cake as far as this matter goes is that Dean Andrews, who Shaw employed as an attorney, admitted to Harold Weisberg that Shaw was Bertrand. (DiEugenio, p. 388)

I have written about this here. Andrews never really came out and said that Shaw was Bertrand. He said, "If the Green Giant gets past that, he is home clear." I think that Weisberg read just a little too much into Andrews' words.

I am sure that none of this will make an impression on DiEugenio. He will keep on repeating all of this nonsense over and over again. And people like Oliver Stone will believe it.

Previous Relevant Blog Posts on James DiEugenio

A response to James DiEugenio about my writings.

Prouty couldn't back up any of his allegations when he was interviewed by the ARRB. You wouldn't believe the lame excuse offered up by DiEugenio.

Why does Oliver Stone support so many dictators?

DiEugenio has no understanding of Permindex/CMC

DiEugenio gets it all wrong on the Mannlicher-Carcano

The conclusion on the Mannlicher-Carcano

Over the past ten months, I have debunked every witness cited by DiEugenio regarding Clay Shaw and David Ferrie.

Previous Relevant Blog Posts on Clay Bertrand

There were two sources that told the FBI that Shaw was Bertrand. Both got the information from news sources and both had no first-hand information.

Some conspiracy theorists believe that Clay Shaw's maid knew he was Clay Bertrand. The record does not support that.

Garrison didn't even bother to follow up this lead.

The real story is not what you read in conspiracy books.

The FBI and the Secret Service searched wide and far for Clay Bertrand with no success.

The short answer is no.

William Morris, a convict, told some stories that hurt his credibility.

The search for Clay Bertrand went right into the District Attorney's office.

A summary of all the evidence.


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