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James DiEugenio's Deflector Shields

James DiEugenio’s afterword to Matt Douthit’s review of my book, Oliver Stone’s Film-Flam: The Demagogue of Dealey Plaza, proves that he is a master of deflection. He is so anxious to avoid addressing problems with JFK: Destiny Betrayed that he has come up with a novel excuse: that there are “fundamental doubts about who they [Steve Roe and Fred Litwin] are,” and thus no one should pay any attention to our work. So, unless I ‘answer,’ to DiEugenio’s satisfaction, questions about my background, and unless Steve Roe ‘explains’ the name of his website, we can be ignored. Handy, no? As Greg Doudna noted “what a rhetorical method: filing an unproven suspicion, and lay it on the target as their burden to disprove! And if they don’t, that proves the content of their writing is not to be read!”

A Penchant for the Smear?

The most unaware part of DiEugenio’s afterword is when he writes that “he [Fred Litwin] has a penchant for the smear.” This is from a man who just called me an “agitprop artist.” On the Education Forum, he recently wrote that “Fred the Farceur is deeply into character smearing.” The moderators forced him to delete the word ‘farceur,’ although you can still see it being quoted.

But have a look at these other insults:

  • “He is the equivalent of a conman carnival barker.”

  • “he really is like a cheap carnival barker who tries to get you to read his piece of crud book by click baiting it.”

  • “Paul Hoch edited Fred’s piece of crud book on Garrison.”

  • “Alecia Long tries to be the female Fred Litwin in this book.”

  • “Fred is reeling because I so effectively neutered his soul sister's book about New Orleans, and in every way.”

  • “I have also listed about ten questions for people to ask these two circus clowns at the upcoming book fair.”

  • “As per Litwin, the guy is today exposed as a neocon clown.”

  • The Canadian clown then says that none of the new declassified documents has any impact on the case!!! LMAO.”

  • “Anyone who argues against this today is just a hack or plain ignorant.”

  • “You [Kirchick] did not dissect anything. I will be slicing up your moronic column very soon at If you don't know anything about a subject then just shut your mouth instead of playing the fool.

  • “Why does anyone even print this rubbish by Roe? (oh its Parnell, figures.)”

  • “Oh, that is not in Fred's pile of rubbish either?”

  • “Its [sic] in my review of Long's piece of crud book, which is also why Fred is using the fruity Lambert.

  • “Wait until you see the new article on James Kirchick by me at K and K. Fred is a disgrace.”

  • “The only thing ridiculous about this series of monomaniacal blog posts is Fred's myopia.”

  • “Litwin is so incontinent to smear Garrison that he recites the whole mildewed rigamarole … ”

  • “ … this author has shown in detail why the Canadian alt/right media maestro should never enter into any debate on the subject.”

  • “But again, that does not matter to Fred or Paul Hoch. Like cheapjack cardsharps, they want to confuse the issue and they will use any trick in the book to do that.”

  • “OMG, did he [Fred] really write this? "I wanted to see what he would write about my book?" LOL, ROTF, LMAO. Does Fred really believe his own BS? Then he is an even bigger phony than I thought he was.”

Believe me, this is not a complete list. Have a look at the insults hurled at Paul Hoch, a first-generation researcher who is incredibly knowledgeable about the assassination.

Matt Douthit seems to be learning from the master. Before his review at KennedysandKing was published, Matt submitted a one-star review to Amazon – check out this paragraph:

Litwin also hilariously got real offended and butthurt about the straight-talk in the film— “I must question whether there was any need for Dr. Cyril Wecht to add that comment in about Gerald Ford. It's nasty.” (12/12/21 blog; Chapter 21) He clutched his pearls again when the film “dissed” the Sixth Floor Museum. (3/13/22 blog)

Some people might consider that saying that a gay man was butthurt and then “clutched his pearls” is somewhat homophobic. I am wondering if perhaps it was a bridge too far for James DiEugenio. Here’s the same paragraph in his review:

Litwin got offended and hurt about the straight-talk in the film— “I must question whether there was any need for Dr. Cyril Wecht to add that comment in about Gerald Ford. It's nasty.” (12/12/21 blog; Chapter 21) Wecht says in the film, “As I recall, they said about Gerald Ford that he could not chew gum and walk at the same time.”

No longer am I butthurt and I am no longer clutching my pearls! Why be homophobic when standard insults are more than adequate?

Aiming for the Capillaries

Matt Douthit’s review of my book reminds me of Yale Law Professor Alexander Bickel’s quote about Mark Lane: “Great trial lawyers, like great detectives, have an instinct for the jugular; Mr. Lane has an instinct for the capillaries.”

Let’s have a look at some of Douthit’s capillaries.

JFK’s Brain

JFK: Destiny Betrayed makes the fantastic claim that JFK’s brain was switched at Bethesda. They used three non-issues to support this allegation:

These non-issues are all explained in those blogs posts of mine and in Oliver Stone’s Film-Flam. Unfortunately, Matt Douthit’s review ignores my major points.

Douthit writes that “Is he [Fred Litwin] really saying what I think he is? That [autopsy photographer John] Stringer would have forgotten how he worked as a photographer over a period of decades, and on one of the most important cases of his life?”

That’s not exactly my argument. If you happen to read John Stringer’s deposition before the ARRB, you cannot help but notice the issue of memory. I gave several examples in my book of instances where he just can’t remember details. He couldn’t remember if there were identification tags on JFK’s body. He couldn’t remember his past dealings with the HSCA. And he couldn’t remember if he used Kodachrome or Ektachrome film:

Q: Do you recall the kind of color film that was used around 1963?

Stringer: Kodachrome, it was. Kodachrome.

Q: Kodachrome or Ektachrome?

Stringer: I think it was Koda—I'm not sure, to tell the truth. I think it was Kodachrome, though.

A few minutes later, there was this exchange:

Q: Do you remember seeing an image of the entire—or the full length of the body of the President?

Stringer: I don't remember.

Q: Under sub–A on Exhibit 78, it refers to Ektachrome E3 film. Does that help refresh your recollection as the type of film—

Stringer: Yes, it does.

Q: —that was used?

Stringer: Yes.

Q: Earlier, if I recall correctly, you had said that you understood that it was Kodachrome.

Stringer: Yeah.

Q: It was Ektachrome E3.

Stringer: I would say it was Ektachrome, yes.

Read Stringer’s deposition for yourself and count how many times he had a memory issue. It’s not that he forgot “how he worked as a photographer,” but that his ability to remember details was limited.

I should add that Stringer has written a book, MEDPHOTO, about his career as a Navy photographer. You would think that if he really thought the photographs of JFK’s brain were not taken by him that he would have mentioned it. In fact, he wrote that “the brain that was examined and photographed was the same specimen that was removed from the President during the autopsy.” (Page 78)

Douthit’s review discusses the weight of JFK’s brain as if he had not read my chapter. He wrote that “Litwin’s argument about using too much formaldehyde shows a shocking ignorance of what happened that night at Bethesda.” Well, once again, that is not my argument. Any brain fixed in formalin will gain weight. My book has tables from two forensic pathology textbooks that indicate the range of brain weight increase by the percentage concentration of formalin. There can be up to a 30% increase in the weight of a brain.

In addition, I quoted Dr. Michael Baden who told Vincent Bugliosi that “When the brain is injured this causes edema fluids to leak out of the blood vessels into the surrounding brain tissue, causing the brain to be swollen and increasing its weight. The increased weight to the president’s brain is from the swelling.” (Endnote 441)

Douthit mentions none of this.

It wasn’t just brain tissue that was spattered on motorcade participants, it was skull, scalp, blood, other brain fluids, and yes, some brain. The right hemisphere of JFK’s brain was disrupted but, according to Baden, “less than an ounce or two of his brain was actually missing.”

The fact remains, however, that a perfectly reasonable combination of a larger than average beginning weight for Kennedy's brain, a smaller than estimated 33% loss of brain matter from the shooting, and larger than expected weight increase from the formalin can be found, and that this combination of factors makes the 1500 gm weight provided for Kennedy's brain, well, perfectly reasonable.

The photographs that John Stringer took of JFK’s brain are entirely consistent with a lone gunman firing from behind.

The Limitations of Human Memory

A major theme in Oliver Stone’s Film-Flam is the limitation of human memory, something that is not mentioned in JFK: Destiny Betrayed. Matt Douthit’s review ignores the issue as well.

For instance, Douthit claims that I “cherry-picked certain witness statements to try to put the skull defect solely on the right side of the head.” This is simply not true – the whole point in my chapters on the head wound was to show that many people had very different memories. For instance, James Sibert, one of the FBI agents at the autopsy, drew diagrams of JFK’s head wound in 1977 for the HSCA and in 1997 for the ARRB. Guess what, his own diagrams were very different.

To further illustrate the problems of memory, his partner Francis O’Neill drew an even different diagram for the HSCA:

They were partners, and yet their memories differ. This is not out of the ordinary. Witnesses frequently give differing accounts. It is a good illustration of why we needn't rely on nonmedical witnesses for the evaluation of JFK's wounds when the autopsy X-rays and photographs are available for examination.

While JFK: Destiny Betrayed emphasizes the importance of the ARRB, it ignores what their Final Report said about memory:

The deposition transcripts and other medical evidence that were released by the Review Board should be evaluated cautiously by the public. Often the witnesses contradict not only each other, but sometimes themselves. For events that transpired almost 35 years ago, all persons are likely to have failures of memory. It would be more prudent to weigh all of the evidence, with due concern for human error, rather than take single statements as “proof” for one theory or another.

Not Even in My Book

There are a couple of things in Douthit’s review that are on my blog and not in my book. I debunked so much of JFK: Destiny Betrayed that I couldn’t include everything. For instance, Douthit is upset with my blog claim that Connally’s account of the shooting “is all consistent with the single bullet theory.” What he is not telling readers is that I quoted an interview Connally gave in 1991 in which he said that he was hit by the second bullet. In addition, during the 1967 CBS News Specials on the JFK assassination, Connally said it was “possible” that the second bullet could have hit both him and Kennedy.

Douthit also claims that I exhibited “faux outrage” when JFK: Destiny Betrayed “dissed” the Sixth Floor Museum. I can assure you that there is nothing faux about my outrage. Here is an excerpt from a transcript (Episode 1, 47:57)

Whoopi Goldberg (Narrator): The Sixth Floor Museum to this day insists that Oswald shot Kennedy from that (film clip of the TSBD building) sixth floor window and virtually everything in the museum is dedicated to that proposition.

In fact, the Sixth Floor Museum has many oral histories of conspiracy advocates such as Josiah Thompson and Cyril Wecht. Their reading room is chock full of conspiracy books.

The Sixth Floor Museum goes out of its way to be helpful to researchers, and Stephen Fagin, the Curator, plays it right down the middle. He never lets on what he believes about the JFK assassination. The charge that the Museum is “dedicated to preserving the myths in the Warren Report” is a false and reckless charge.

Chain of Custody of CE 399

Douthit tries hard to criticize my chapter on the chain of custody of CE 399. He notes that O. P. Wright told Josiah Thompson that the bullet that was found was more pointed than CE 399. However, Thompson noted that “if Wright’s recollection is accurate …” But what if his recollection was not accurate? Interestingly, Douthit doesn’t mention Tomlinson’s interview with Raymond Marcus from 1966 in which he said that the bullet he found was “pretty clean”:

Marcus: OK. Now do you recall when you saw that bullet, was there anything about it that struck you, was it, uh, was it, uh, banged up, or was it neat and clean, or do you remember that, was it mangled at all?

Tomlinson: No, it wasn’t mangled, it was a pretty clean bullet.

Marcus: Pretty clean shape?

Tomlinson: Yep.

He then told Marcus about the June 1964 meeting when FBI agent Odum questioned him about the bullet:

Marcus: When Shanklin [sic; it was Odum] and Mr. Wright called you in at that time, did they show you the bullet?

Tomlinson: Yes.

Marcus: Did they ask you if it looked like the same one?

Tomlinson: Yes, I believe they did.

Marcus: And as far as you could tell—of course, you weren’t making a ballistics test of it—but as far as you could tell, did it look like the same one to you?

Tomlinson: Yes, it appeared to be the same one.

While it is true that Tomlinson and Wright could not “identify” the bullet, they did say that CE 399 “appears to be the same” and “looks like” the bullet found at Parkland. This is not all that surprising since neither marked the bullet with their identifying initials. They never said or implied that CE 399 was not the bullet they found.

In April 1977, Tomlinson told Dallas Morning News reporter Earl Golz that some federal agents “came to the hospital with the bullet in a box and asked me if it was the one I found. I told him apparently it was, but I had not put a mark on it … If it wasn’t the bullet it was exactly like it.”

As for FBI agent Bardwell Odum not remembering showing the bullet to people at Parkland, well, once again the issue of memory comes up. His 2001 comment (when he was 83 years old) came some thirty-seven years after the event. As Jeremy Gunn noted:

And I can tell you something else that is even worse than eyewitness testimony and that is 35-year-old eyewitness testimony.

While Odum might not remember it, the Parkland witnesses certainly remember being shown the bullet. And, as for the supposed missing 302 report, David Von Pein has conclusively shown that, in many instances, 302s were not always filed. The July 7, 1964 report “essentially COULD serve as the FD-302.”

So, there it is. Tomlinson told Marcus in 1966 that he thought the bullet he'd found looked like CE 399, was less certain on this point when talking to Thompson later that year, and then returned to telling reporters the bullets looked the same by the time he talked to Golz in 1977. Either he'd misled Marcus and Golz, or was momentarily confused by the bullet Wright provided Thompson. Wright was a former policeman. Perhaps Tomlinson had momentarily deferred to his expertise. In any event, Tomlinson's recollection of the bullet over the years did not support Wright's recollection, and supported instead that he'd been shown CE 399 by the FBI in 1964, had told them it appeared to be the same bullet as the one he'd found on the stretcher, and had nevertheless refused to identify it. This scenario was consistent, moreover, with the FBI's 6-20-64 memo and 7-7-64 letter to the Warren Commission. It seems hard to believe this was a coincidence. As a result, Tomlinson's recollections cast considerable doubt on Wright's ID of a pointed bullet, and the scenario subsequently pushed by Thompson and Aguilar--that the FBI had lied in its 6-20 memo and 7-7 letter about the bullet--appears to be inaccurate.

As for the chain of custody, Douthit claims that “he [Fred Litwin] actually writes that Frazier wrote down 7:30 because that was the time that O. P. Wright at Parkland Hospital gave the bullet to Secret Service agent Richard Johnsen.” Here is what really happened. Secret Service agent Johnsen flew to Washington D.C. and gave CE 399 to Secret Service Chief James Rowley and noted on “White House Stationery” receiving the bullet from O.P. Wright. I wrote that “Frazier received CE 399 in an envelope attached to the Richard Johnsen note, which was typed or dictated at 7:30 PM.”

Apparently DiEugenio and Douthit want the public to believe that the bullet was substituted in an elaborate cover-up of beyond mythical proportions.

The Fourth Floor

Douthit goes for the strawman jugular with my chapter on the women on the fourth floor of the Texas School Book Depository:

In relation to the testimony of the secretaries on the fourth floor i.e. Sandra Styles and Victoria Adams, the author says “Oswald just simply beat Adams and Styles down the stairs.” (Chapter 23) I simply respond to this presupposing statement with, “How do you know there was anyone running down the stairs from the 6th floor in that time frame?” Litwin might say, “The rifle seen in the window and the rifle being found!” To which I will say, “That just means there was a shooter up there. But again, how do you know there was anyone running down the stairs from the 6th floor in that time frame?” Crickets.

The point I was trying to make is that the recollections and testimony of Adams, Styles, and Garner do not constitute an alibi. There is a lot of ambiguity of how long the women lingered at the windows before heading downstairs. Styles told an interviewer that “he [Oswald] could have been behind us, he could have been ahead of us.”

Matt Douthit forgets that JFK: Destiny Betrayed is trying to prove an alibi, not for just some gunman, but specifically for Lee Harvey Oswald. If I can show another viable alternative, consistent with Oswald as the gunman, as I have, then you do not have an alibi. The plain fact of the matter is that Lee Harvey Oswald could have just beaten Adams and Styles down the stairs. End of alibi.

The Palm Print

Douthit believes that one sentence from the Warren Report (“Nor was there any indication that the lift had been performed”) is proof that the Dallas Police had not lifted his palm print on the barrel of the Mannlicher-Carcano. He leaves out this sentence, “The print’s positive identity as having been lifted from the barrel was confirmed by FBI Laboratory tests which established that the adhesive material bearing the print also bore impressions of the same irregularities that appeared on the barrel of the rifle.” Douthit also maintains that “the only person to see this alleged print said it was an old print.” But doesn’t that disprove the allegation in JFK: Destiny Betrayed that this wasn’t Oswald’s gun?

The Plot in Chicago?

Matt Douthit’s review contains this amazing paragraph about the supposed plot in Chicago in early November 1963:

Let us mention the Chicago Plot. Litwin says: “Now, of course memories fade over time…Might Bolden have been conflating the Vallee story with [a 1963] rumor?” (7/20/22 blog; Chapter 39) As Edwin Black (Chicago Independent, 11/75) and Jim Douglass (JFK and the Unspeakable, Chapter 5) have proven, at length and in depth, the Chicago plot was no rumor. But I will say this…when basically all you have left is the old shibboleth, “memories are unreliable” excuse—which is Litwin’s and many lone nutters’ constant M.O.—then you have no case.

Douthit gives no indication here of actually reading my chapter. The allegations of a plot in Chicago stem from Abraham Bolden, and there is absolutely no corroborating evidence anywhere. As I show in my book, Bolden’s story has changed every time he has told it. Douthit claims that authors Edwin Black and Jim Douglas have proven that “the Chicago plot was no rumor.” Yet, the sole source of Black’s 1975 article was Abraham Bolden.

If you check James Douglass' book, JFK and the Unspeakable, you find that his footnotes on the Chicago plot are either from Bolden's book, an interview with Abraham Bolden, or the Edwin Black article. But there is one citation that is interesting. Here is a quote from JFK and the Unspeakable: (page 201)

"[Secret Service agent] Martineau set up a twenty-four hour surveillance of the men's boarding house. He passed out to his agents four photos of the men allegedly involved in the plots."

His source about the photos is Sherman Skolnick's suit against the National Archives in 1970. Given the fact that Sherman Skolnick was a fabulist who made up all sorts of stuff, I doubt that there are actually photos. Skolnick was actually on to the story about the Chicago plot and Abraham Bolden before Edwin Black. He disseminated a lot of nonsense. Take this excerpt from an interview with Art Kevin in 1970:

If Matt Douthit has any evidence of a plot in Chicago, then let’s have a look. If all he has is Abraham Bolden’s uncorroborated allegation, then perhaps it is time to move on.

The Politics of JFK: Destiny Betrayed

DiEugenio completely misquotes me on the politics of JFK: Destiny Betrayed. Here is what I said in Oliver Stone’s Film-Flam:

The crux of JFK: Destiny Betrayed is a jejune political theory that JFK was going to withdraw from Vietnam and usher in an era of peace and detente. The CIA and the military-industrial establishment had to stop this, and the only way was to have JFK killed.

Emerging from this erroneous reading of history is a nihilist prescription, that unless we unravel the JFK conspiracy, the United States can never fully realize the promise of democracy.

Here is author David Talbot: (54:11 in Episode 4)

I think there's a direct thread between the events of 1963, and the kind of horror show that America is having to endure right now. And I think once you kill a president in broad daylight on the streets of an American city, and everyone knows that powerful forces did it, and it can never be solved, that crime, that sends a signal, not only to the American people, but to the American media, to American future leaders. And if American really wants a democratic society, then we should get to the bottom of this traumatic crime that continues to reverberate throughout American history.

What kind of message is this? Telling people that their actions are useless unless the supposed JFK conspiracy and cover-up are revealed? Is this not a nihilist recipe for inaction?

Now, here is what DiEugenio writes:

Litwin quotes David Talbot from the film saying that there is a thread between 1963 and the horror show of American politics today. (Litwin, p. 363) That is not Talbot saying that about himself. This is what the American public feels. And one can check author Larry Sabato’s book, The Kennedy Half-Century to certify it. In the focus groups he conducted, adults of all ages agreed that the assassination “changed America.” An astonishing 61% said Kennedy’s murder “changed the nation “a great deal’. Sabato observed that those alive at the time, testified to the “deep depression that set in across the country. Because the optimism that prevailed since WW2 seemed to evaporate”. (Sabato, p. 416) Kevin Phillips revealed the same in his book Arrogant Capital. In his introductory chapter he depicted a chart which showed the collapse of the public’s belief in the government. The percentage went from over 70% in 1960 to the teens by the nineties. And the collapse began in 1964, the issuance of the Warren Report.

I don’t doubt that the assassination changed the country. And I never claimed that in my book that it didn’t. Indeed, Larry Sabato wrote that “respondents frequently used the word “unthinkable” to describe the assassination and that “it took away America’s innocence.” Nowhere does Sabato echo the feeling in JFK: Destiny Betrayed that the United States can’t move forward until it uncovers the conspiracy that killed JFK.

And guess who retweeted my tweet about my book?

James DiEugenio accuses me of ignoring all the evidence that JFK was determined to withdraw, no matter what, from Vietnam. However, the one voice he cannot answer is that of JFK.

During the meeting with Robert McNamara, General Maxwell Taylor, and other senior advisors on October 2, 1963, Kennedy indicated that the 1965 date was not firm at all.

Taylor: I will just say this: that we talked to 174 officers, Vietnamese and U.S., and in the case of the U.S., I always asked the question, “When can you finish this job in the sense that you will reduce this insurgency to little more than sporadic incidents?” Inevitably, except for the Delta, they would say, “ ’64 would be ample time.” I realize that’s not necessarily … I assume there’s no major new factors entering. I realize that—

Kennedy: Well, let’s say it anyway. Then ’65, if it doesn’t work out, we’ll get a new date.

Taylor: ’65, we’ll get another.

Marc Selverstone, associate professor in presidential studies at the Miller Center, says that this conversation indicates that JFK would only withdraw from Vietnam “under propitious military circumstances.”

The overthrow of Diem, approved by Kennedy, changed everything. South Vietnam went on a downward spiral and the hope that the United States could totally disengage evaporated. The problem with JFK: Destiny Betrayed is that it insists on a certainty – that no matter what JFK would totally withdraw from Vietnam – that is belied by the evidence.

JFK Assassination Critics Have a Responsibility

The storm of criticism that faced Oliver Stone’s film JFK in 1991–1992 caused him to spend a lot of time defending his work. He seems to have no interest in defending JFK: Destiny Betrayed. When I started blogging out my issues with the documentary series, James DiEugenio blocked me on Facebook. Oliver Stone had previously blocked me on Twitter.

Do they have any responsibility to answer criticism of their work?

James DiEugenio wrote in his Afterword that “This will be the last article Kenendysandking will ever publish on Fred Litwin.” This leaves him off the hook for some very important questions.

For instance:

  • Why does JFK: Destiny Betrayed use a fake Oswald handbill? Oliver Stone used a fake Oswald handbill in his film JFK. One can perhaps excuse that because it is a fictional film, but JFK: Destiny Betrayed purports to be a documentary, and there is no reason to use a fake document. See the four-part series, linked below, on the fake handbill. Oliver Stone and James DiEugenio owe us an explanation.

  • Why did James DiEugenio rely on the word of John Hunt and Dr. David Mantik regarding the supposed non-presence of Elmer Todd’s initials on CE 399? Ultra hi-res photographs had been put online by NARA/NIST, but they were never checked by DiEugenio. These photographs provided firm proof that Todd’s initials were there.

  • When will James DiEugenio address the fact that my book provides firm proof that General Curtis LeMay did not disobey orders on November 22nd when he flew into National Airport?

  • Will James DiEugenio admit that Lee Harvey Oswald was paid for service in the U.S. Marines for the 3rd quarter of 1959?

  • When will Oliver Stone and James DiEugenio admit they are wrong about Clay Shaw? When will they apologize for their continued smearing of a good man?

  • When will they answer for their slanderous treatment of Dr. George Burkley?

For some reason Oliver Stone and James DiEugenio believe they have no obligation to defend their documentary series.

Or is it just indefensible?

I want to acknowledge that Paul Hoch and Steve Roe assisted with this response.

Blog Posts on the Fake Oswald Handbill

An analysis of the handbill used in Oliver Stone's so-called documentary, JFK: Destiny Betrayed.

An examination of where the fake handbill came from.

A look at James DiEugenio's use of the fake handbill.

Jefferson Morley is the latest researcher to use a fake Oswald handbill.


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