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"JFK: Destiny Betrayed" Misleads on JFK's Autopsy Photographs (Revisited)

Oliver Stone's so-called documentary series, JFK: Destiny Betrayed misleads viewers on JFK autopsy photographs -- making it appear that a White House photographer took additional pictures that are not in the record.

Robert Knudsen shown in screen shot from JFK: Destiny Betrayed


Here is an excerpt from a transcript: (17:07 in episode three)


Whoopi Goldberg: Doesn't this all lead to the question, if Stringer did not take these photographs, then who did?


[Robert Knudsen and Saundra Spencer]

Whoopi Goldberg: Robert Knudsen was one of the most fascinating stories that the Review Board encountered. Knudsen was a Navy photographer who was detailed to the White House in 1958. If you read his obituaries in the New York Times and the Washington Post, you will see that he is credited with photographing Kennedy's autopsy, except officially, he was not.

Douglas Horne: Robert Knudsen was not interviewed by the Warren Commission. So they finally found Robert Knudsen in 1978. And to its credit, the House Select Committee did a deposition. To their discredit, they never published it, they buried it for fifty years. And it got released in 1993 and I know why they buried it. Because everything he told them about autopsy photography contradicted what they thought they knew in the official record.


Oliver Stone: What did Knudsen tell them?


Douglas Horne: So he says, "Burkley had me develop these black and white negatives on Saturday, November 23rd, and that's when I saw photographs of probes in the body". Well, they didn't like that. They really didn't know whether to believe him or not, because there are no pictures of probes in the body, in the official collection. But he was sure that he developed those negatives and saw them.


Dr. David Mantik: He has never said he took photographs of the brain, but he implies that he was very busy taking photographs of the body. His wife was interviewed later by the Assassination Records Review Board. He told her that the photographs had been burned, deliberately, by the Secret Service, and that one photograph in particular, presumably the back of the head, had been severely altered. Gloria Knudsen was so disturbed by this after his death in 1989 that she actually contacted some of his colleagues there in the Navy, and they assured her that this was what he had told them, too. In fact, he had told them that he had seen photographs of the back of JFK's head that showed a large wound, low in the back of the head.


Douglas Horne: Stringer is still the autopsy photographer of record. I think they both took pictures. And I personally think that many of John Stringer's pictures never made it in to the official collection, and a lot of the ones we are looking at are Robert Knudsen's pictures.

A large part of this was in the two-hour JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, and I covered the problems of that segment here.

  • Knudsen never claimed he was at the autopsy, and he told the HSCA that the autopsy photographs that he was shown were "roughly what I recall seeing."

  • The supposed photograph that he saw with metal probes was a negative, and he said that he "just glanced at it."

  • There is no evidence to support the claim that Knudsen was at the autopsy.

This post only covers what has been added to the segment.


Dr. David Mantik says that Mrs. Knudsen said that her husband claimed the autopsy photographs had been deliberately burnt by the Secret Service. Here is a link to the ARRB interviews with her and her family and there is no mention of this at all I have also prepared and gone through the transcripts of their interviews with the ARRB and I see no mention of any photographs being burned.


Mantik also mentions the colleagues that Mrs. Knudsen reached out to. Here is what she told Doug Horne:


According to Mrs. Knudsen, none of these people asked her husband if he had been at the autopsy, and he never told them that he had been there. Somehow they inferred from "certain remarks" and from "the quality of the photographs" that "he may well have been at the autopsy."


It sounds like perhaps Knudsen might have had a few autopsy photographs and he showed them to one person.


That fact that Mrs. Knudsen would not divulge names to the ARRB to corroborate her account is telling.



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