"JFK Revisited" Misleads on Dr. Burkley's Suspicions of a Conspiracy
Updated: Apr 19, 2022
Screen shot of George Burkley in JFK Revisited
Oliver Stone's so-called documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, misleads viewers into believing that JFK's doctor, Admiral George Burkley, said that there were multiple gunmen.
Here is an excerpt from a transcript: (1:01:28)
Whoopi Goldberg: The one physician present at both Parkland Hospital and the Bethesda morgue was George Burkley, Kennedy's personal doctor. Arlen Specter did not depose George Burkley, but Burkley did an interview with the JFK Library in 1967, and was asked this question:
Question: Do you agree with the Warren Report on the number of bullets that entered the President's body?
Burkley: I would not care to be quoted on that.
Dr. Donald Miller: The reason he didn't say anything was he was intimately involved in the cover-up.
Whoopi Goldberg: Burkley signed the autopsy descriptive sheet with the bullet in the back at the level of T3. He also signed Kennedy's death certificate, which also placed that wound in the back. That death certificate is not in the Warren Commission volumes and the descriptive sheet in the Commission volumes does not have Burkley's signature. In 1977, through his lawyer, he wrote a letter to Richard Sprague, Chief Counsel of the House Select Committee on Assassinations. He said he had information indicating that "others besides Oswald must have participated" in the assassination.
Whoopi Goldberg: He was willing to talk about it at this time. Sprague, who made clear his intention to fully investigate the CIA's involvement, was forced out two weeks later. Dr. Burkley submitted a written statement to the House Select Committee but there is no official record of him being deposed as a witness.
Douglas Horne: In 1982, he told JFK researcher Henry Hurt "I know there was more than one gunman." And when Henry Hurt tried to recontact Burkley for more details, Burkley cut him off at the knees, "I don't want to talk about it anymore."
Douglas Horne: The very next year, Burkley talked to Michael Kurtz, another JFK researcher, told him that he knew there was a conspiracy to kill the President and that he recalled an exit wound in the back of President Kennedy's head. Now that's a very significant statement, that the only doctor we know of who was present at both Parkland, for treatment, and at Bethesda, during the autopsy, told Michael Kurtz in 1983 that Kennedy had an exit wound in the back of his head. When Kurtz tried to recontact Burkley, Burkley cut him off at the knees, "I don't want to talk about this anymore." Dr. Burkley was deceased by the time the Review Board was impaneled. So then [ARRB General Counsel] Jeremy [Gunn] decided, well, we can ask the executor of his estate, his daughter, to sign a waiver so that we could go to the law firm, that Mr. Illig used to work for, since he was deceased also, and see if there were any records in the files of Mr. Illig that would have revealed what it was he wanted to tell the HSCA, in detail. And she said she would do that.
Douglas Horne: And then Jeremy called her on the phone, she had completely changed her mind and adamantly refused to sign it and terminated the phone call
Screen shot of author Henry Hurt from JFK Revisited
JFK Revisited claims that Burkley "told JFK researcher Henry Hurt that 'I know there was more than one gunman.'" That is not what Burkley told Hurt. On page 49 in Reasonable Doubt, Hurt writes:
In 1982 Dr. Burkley told the author in a telephone conversation that he believed that President Kennedy's assassination was the result of a conspiracy.
Believing in a conspiracy in the JFK assassination is not the same thing as believing there were multiple gunmen.
In the late 1970s, at the time of the HSCA’s investigation, Dr. Burkley, through his attorney, suggested to the HSCA that he might have some additional information about the autopsy.
The use of Michael Kurtz as a reliable source in JFK Revisited is problematic. Over the years he has made several dubious claims, and even some conspiracy theorists do not take him seriously. Pat Speer even questions whether he really interviewed Dr. Burkley:
If Kurtz had actually interviewed rarely-interviewed doctors such as Canada, Burkley, Humes, and Fisher he would almost certainly have mentioned them before mentioning his interview with a more commonly-interviewed subject as [Dr.] Shaw. That only makes sense.
In 1986, Paul Hoch corresponded with a relative of Dr. Burkley. The belief in conspiracy was not based upon the medical evidence. Here is an excerpt from Paul's newsletter Echoes of Conspiracy of May, 31 1987: (Volume 9, #1)
I spoke to that relative of Dr. Burkley. He said that Dr. Burkley was very circumspect and would not say very much about the assassination to anybody. Many neighbors tried to question Burkley, but he wouldn't say a thing. At one point, Dr. Burkley gave him a copy of David Lifton's book, Best Evidence. It was all puzzling, and he asked Burkley why he had given him the book. Burkley said that that was because there was a picture in the book of Lyndon Johnson being sworn in on Air Force One, and that in most versions of that picture, Burkley was cropped out. But not in Best Evidence.
I went and checked my copy of Best Evidence and sure enough there is a picture with Dr. Burkley in it.
You can see the reticence of Dr. Burkley to talk about the assassination from this article from the Indiana Gazette of April 11, 1970:
I said nothing to Greer about it, but the night before, I had talked with Burkley. It was one of the most frustrating conversations I had. Burkley was a stone wall.
I had no sooner identified myself, and said that I was attending a class at the UCLA Law School on the Warren Commission, than Burkley cut in: “Well, I’m sorry. I’m not answering any questions. It’s all in the Warren Commission, and you get your information from there.
Viewers of JFK Revisited will learn none of this. Instead, the reckless propaganda film turns Dr. Burkley, an admirable man, into a villain. Not only are words put into his mouth, but he's accused of being part of the supposed cover-up. This is completely irresponsible, and Oliver Stone, James DiEugenio, Douglas Horne, and Dr. Donald Miller should be ashamed. This rush to judgment without a basic knowledge of the facts is unbecoming.
On interviewing witnesses: I don't have any experience worth mentioning, so I'll make just one point: Watch out for principals who have become buffs, and are basing conclusions on information outside their areas of direct knowledge or expertise. If John Rosselli, for example, knew there was a shot from the knoll, it might not have been from inside knowledge, but because some of his friends, like many others, heard Mark Lane's stump speech. It seemed very significant that Dr. George Burkley said he thought there was a conspiracy, but the most I could find out was that he thought Oswald had more money than could be accounted for. One of the Dallas doctors, as I recall, thinks the head snap and simple physics constitute irrefutable proof of a shot from the front. They don't.
I hope at some point the producers and writers of JFK Revisited will apologize to the Burkley family. But I wouldn't hold my breath.
Thank You: Paul Hoch has been instrumental in the writing of this series on Dr. Burkley. His superb research, his eagle-eye editing, and his impressive knowledge of the case helped make this an important project. Paul didn't just take the word of Henry Hurt - he went out and found the story, like a good journalist would. Thank you, Paul.
Here are links to the other four parts of the series on Dr. Burkley:
Oliver Stone's so-called documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, misleads viewers on the context of discussions between Burkley's family and the ARRB regarding supposed papers in the possession of his lawyer.
Reckless charges are made against George Burkley with no evidence.
Oliver Stone's so-called documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, greatly misleads viewers on Admiral George Burkley and his interactions with the HSCA.
Oliver Stone's so-called documentary puts words in Burkley's mouth.
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