"JFK: Destiny Betrayed" Misleads on Dr. Charles Crenshaw
Screen shot from JFK: Destiny Betrayed
Oliver Stone's so-called documentary series, JFK: Destiny Betrayed, features Dr. Charles Crenshaw to bolster its claim that President Kennedy was shot from the front. Viewers are not informed of Dr. Crenshaw's credibility problems. Here is an excerpt from a transcript: (9;59 of episode two)
Whoopi Goldberg: Charles Crenshaw, a third-year resident, was in the emergency room at Parkland that day. He, too, later said in public that he felt the wounds in Kennedy originated from the front.
Dr. Charles Crenshaw: From here, right through ...
Dr. Gary Aguilar: Charles Crenshaw wrote a book, Conspiracy of Silence, in the wake of the film JFK, saying, look, I was at Parkland Hospital. I saw Kennedy and was involved in the treatment. And Kennedy's wounds were not consistent with a shot from above and behind because he had a defect involving the right rear of his head.
Dr. Charles Crenshaw: I looked at the wound again. I wanted to know and remember this the rest of my life. And the rest of my life, I will always know he was shot from the front.
Screen shot from JFK: Destiny Betrayed
In 1992, Dr. Charles Crenshaw released his book, JFK: Conspiracy of Silence, which was coauthored with Jens Hansen and long-time assassination researcher Gary Shaw. He claimed that there was a blowout in the back of Kennedy's head consistent with a shot from the front; that Kennedy had an entrance wound in his neck; that Parkland doctors were afraid to speak out; that he had spoken to Lyndon Johnson while Oswald was being operated on; and that Kennedy's wounds had been altered.
The cover promised "headline-making new revelations" from Dr. Crenshaw -- that is, a first-person account, which most of it is. But it also contains many ridiculous conspiracy factoids.
Here is an excerpt from page 8:
Were people really scared? Why did so many doctors from Parkland actually speak out continually? For instance, nothing stopped Dr. Robert McClelland from spouting conspiracy nonsense for years.
From page 9:
Even death? Really?
From page 33:
Crenshaw recalls with "sickening clarity." The only problem is that he is describing a handbill, and not the ad in the Dallas Morning News.
On pages 42 - 45, Crenshaw buys into the Rose Cherami story. Here is an excerpt from page 43:
Her story was nonsense. Click here for my blog posts on the Cherami story.
Crenshaw also believes the Julia Mercer story. Here is an excerpt from pages 55 - 56:
You can read more about Julia Mercer here.
On page 60, Crenshaw repeats the Ed Hoffman story:
Ed Hoffman's story has also been debunked.
He also buys in to Beverly Oliver's story: (page 66)
Her story has also been debunked.
Crenshaw claims that 75% of witnesses said the shots came from the grassy knoll: (page 66 - 67)
The HSCA had a very different tally of the ear witnesses.
Crenshaw uncritically discusses the stories of Jean Hill: (pages 67 - 68)
While Jean Hill did mention Jack Ruby in her testimony to the Warren Commission, it should be noted that he was in the offices of the Dallas Morning News at the time of the assassination.
When discussing the single-bullet theory, Crenshaw makes a bizarre statement: (page 114)
"Obvious wound fabrication or alteration of the President's body"?
I think you get the point. But what about the medical claims of Dr. Crenshaw?
Dr. Crenshaw had this to say about Kennedy's head wound in his book: (pages 78 - 79)
Dr. Crenshaw explained what he meant by a "conspiracy of silence": (page 153 - 154)
John McAdams said that this "is almost breathtaking in its absurdity."
Crenshaw published a book in 1992 claiming he was breaking a "conspiracy of silence." Yet the other Parkland doctors had been talking their heads off for nearly 30 years by this time. Many have talked to conspiracy authors like Groden, Lifton and Livingstone. Their statements can be seen in books like Six Seconds in Dallas, High Treason, High Treason II, and Best Evidence. They can be seen in videos such as The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Bob Groden's The Case for Conspiracy, and NOVA's Who Shot JFK? Most have given statements that — if they have been quoted accurately — imply a conspiracy. The conspiracy writers (including Gary Aguilar) know this, because the have been quoting these doctors extensively!
JFK assassination researcher David Perry wrote a note about Crenshaw's belief in conspiracy:
The Ft. Worth Post-Telegram of April 2, 1992, had some comments from Crenshaw's colleagues:
Dr. Malcolm Perry told the newspaper that it was not outside pressure that led him not to talk about what happened in Trauma Room One, but that "It's a painful experience most of us don't want to relive."
Crenshaw then went on the ABC show 20/20 to discuss his theories. He pointed out where the head wound started:
He is clearly pointing to a wound in the temple.
Dr. Marion Jenkins told Dennis Breo that he doubted Crenshaw got a great look at the head wound: ("JFK's Death: Part Two - Dallas MDs Recall Their Memories")
I was standing at the head of the table in at the position of the anesthesiologist most often assumes closest to the President's head. My presence there and the president's great shock of hair and the location of the head wound were such that it was not visible to those standing down each side of the gurney where they are carrying out their resuscitative maneuvers.
Dr. Perry had this to say about Crenshaw:
When I first heard about Crenshaw's claims, I was considering a lawsuit, but after I saw Charles on TV one day all my anger melted. It was so pathetic to see him on TV saying this bogus stuff to reach out for his day in the sun that ended up feeling sorry for him. Crenshaw says that the rest of us are part of a conspiracy of silence and that he withheld his information for 29 years because of fear his career would be ruined. Well, if he really felt he had valuable information and kept it secret all those years, I find that despicable.
Dr. Crenshaw wrote that he entered Trauma Room 1 with Dr. Robert McClelland and he saw Kennedy's throat wound: (page 79)
The only problem is that Dr. McClelland said that when he arrived, Dr. Perry had already made the tracheostomy incision.
When Gary Shaw showed Dr. Crenshaw a picture of Kennedy's throat wound, he said this: (page 11)
The Dallas doctors took great exception to this. Another excerpt from Breo's article:
Well, the physician who did that work at Parkland -- Dr. Perry -- and three physicians who observed the tracheostomy -- Drs. Baxter, Carrico and Jenkins -- all say that the autopsy photos of the throat wound are "very compatible" with what they saw in Parkland Trauma Room 1. Dr. Baxter says, "I was right there and the tracheostomy I observed and the autopsy photos look the same -- very compatible." Dr. Carrico says, "I've seen the autopsy photos and they are very compatible to the actual tracheostomy," Dr. Jenkins adds, "They're the same." Dr. Perry concludes, "Of course, tissues sag and stretch after death, but any suggestion that this wound was intentionally enlarged is wrong. When I talked to Commander Humes the morning after the assassination and told him we had done a tracheostomy, he said, "That explains it -- the bullet exited through the throat."
Even conspiracy theorist Pat Speer cannot buy Crenshaw's claims.
In 1992, Dr. Crenshaw's book Conspiracy of Silence arrived on the scene and claimed that the "entire right cerebral hemisphere appeared to be gone...From the damage I saw, there was no doubt in my mind that the bullet had entered his head through the front, and as it surgically passed through his cranium, the missile obliterated part of the temporal and all the parietal and occipital lobes before it lacerated the cerebellum." Well, this doesn't sound like the exit wound on the back of the head purported by most conspiracy theorists, now does it? It sounds more like a giant wound enveloping a large portion of the top, side, and back of the head.
But no, Crenshaw was describing a wound on the far back of the head. On April 2, 1992, he appeared on ABC's 20/20 news program, and pointed to his hairline above his right eye, and explained that, in his opinion, the bullet went "from here through," whereby he pointed to the back of his head below and behind his ear. He then finished the interviewer's sentence, explaining that this bullet took out "The back or the occipital part--the back of your head." He then reiterated, while pointing to a location behind and well below the top of his right ear that "This was gone, in our view. And we could see the cerebellum." He then explained that if the bullet had come from behind, it would have exploded from the top of Kennedy's head, whereby he pointed out the wound location shown on the autopsy photos and Zapruder film. This made it clear he recalled no such wound.
Within days, however, he made a number of appearances which drew into question just what he recalled. As demonstrated in a video later put up on YouTube, Crenshaw made an appearance on a Philadelphia news program called Evening Magazine. When describing the President's wounds, to be clear, he slurred: "The wounds that I personally saw was a small anterior entrance wound here in the throat, and the large avaultered (sic--I think he meant avulsed) hole in the right part of the back, including part of the parietal, the temple, and all of the occipital bone."
As he said this last part, moreover, he pointed to the location of the wound he was describing--Kennedy's large head wound--the one presented at the level of Kennedy's right ear in the supposed McClelland drawing, you know, the drawing supposedly proved accurate by Crenshaw's recollections. And yet the wound location pointed out by Crenshaw was roughly THREE INCHES above where it was presented in the supposed McClelland drawing. THREE INCHES. (This is shown below, in a comparison between the location pointed out by Crenshaw on 20/20, Evening Magazine, and The Killing of a President.)
A few minutes later in the program, moreover, Crenshaw only added to the confusion. Claiming he eventually got a chance to inspect the President's head wound, he described: "The bullet had come in--gone through the parietal, some of the temple, and occipital--and out. And below that the cerebellum--this is a small part of the brain, that is protected by the cerebral hemisphere--and all of this brain tissue was gone. This was a huge cavity."
So why was this confusing? Let's be clear. Crenshaw had just claimed the bullet entered the front of Kennedy's skull and exited the back of his skull above his ear. And now he seemed to be saying this bullet had essentially obliterated Kennedy's cerebellum in its passage. Except...the location of the exit wound, as pointed out by Crenshaw, was inches above the location of Kennedy's cerebellum.
Speer noticed that Crenshaw's description of the heads wounds when interviewed by the ARRB was not consistent:
One of the bigger stories to come out of Crenshaw's book was his assertion that he talked to Lyndon Johnson while Lee Harvey Oswald was being operated on, on Sunday, November 24, 1963: (page 184 - 186 of Conspiracy of Silence)
The only problem with this claim is that all the White House records do not show any call from LBJ to Parkland Hospital. David Perry retrieved all the phone logs and his calendar of events, and you can see them in this link.
On page 188 of his book, Crenshaw claims that he told Dr. Thomas Shires about the call immediately after he got off the phone. But no other doctor has mentioned this phone call.
There also no contemporaneous documents to support the allegation. All the doctors wrote reports on what happened, and no one wrote about a phone call with Johnson.
Conspiracy theorist Harrison Livingstone claimed that originally Crenshaw had written that Johnson wanted Oswald killed. Gus Russo sent an email to John McAdams saying that this story is true::
One night at the Stoneleigh [Hotel], Stone was having a slew of top secret meetings in his suite with people like Ricky White, whom Stone paid $80,000 for his fraudulent story, and the positively goofy Beverly Oliver. That night, Stone ushered Gary Shaw, [Robert] Groden and Crenshaw into his room; I was not invited, but I pressed Shaw (Crenshaw's and Oliver's advisor) for info in the lobby. He was the first to tell me that LBJ ordered Oswald killed. Later, Crenshaw came down, and we happened to be in the Stoneleigh men's room at the same time, standing at adjacent urinals. It was there that he told me that Johnson had ordered the Parkland staff to "kill the son-of-a-bitch." It was decided to "drown Oswald in his own blood," i.e. transfuse him until his lungs collapsed. (E-mail to the author dated August 25, 2003)
I sent this to Gus Russo, and he confirmed the story to me.
Viewers of JFK: Destiny Betrayed will learn none of this and will not be told that Dr. Crenshaw has significant credibility issues.
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