top of page
  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

Jim Garrison on Johnny Carson

The above clip was just uploaded to YouTube -- in fact, the video of the entire episode is still not available. This clip illustrates how Jim Garrison lied in his book, On the Trail of the Assassins. The relevant portion starts at about 1:28.

Let's start with an excerpt from my book, On the Trail of Delusion -- Jim Garrison: The Great Accuser: (pages 27 -31)

A staple of conspiracy theorists are pictures showing three tramps (vagrants) being marched away by Dallas police after the assassination. Their arrest records were not in the Warren Commission’s twenty-six volumes of evidence, so who were they, and why were they arrested? Dallas Police Sargent D.V. Harkness testified before the Warren Commission that they pulled the tramps and hoboes off a freight train that was about to leave the railway yard. They were taken to the police station, questioned, and then presumably released.

Conspiracy theorist Richard Sprague believed the pictures of the tramps “might help unlock some mysteries about the assassination. If either the ‘tramps’ or the officers escorting them could be identified, new avenues for investigation would be opened.”

In January 1968, Garrison was scheduled to go on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Sprague sent him the tramp pictures, and he studied them on the flight to New York. He was immediately suspicious. The tramps had short hair and were clean-shaven; Garrison expected their hair to be “shaggy and overgrown.” The soles of their shoes were not thin enough. He wondered why they weren’t handcuffed, and he felt the police officers were not carrying their rifles properly. But what was really strange to him was that the officer who appeared to be in charge was “wearing a miniature radio receiver ear clip—a plastic device less than half an inch by a quarter of an inch in size.”

To Garrison, these weren’t tramps, and the men in uniform were not Dallas police officers. He “was not sure if the Dallas police force had been penetrated, or impersonated, or both.” Garrison noted that “As I put the prints of the shotgun arrests in my briefcase, I resolved that anyone watching the Johnny Carson show the following night was going to get to see them.”

Carson challenged Garrison at every turn and put him on the defensive. Toward the end, Carson asked him why the government was concealing evidence. Here’s the exchange:

Garrison: Let me show you some pictures, and if you want to reject these, go ahead. In the 26 volumes, there is no reference to any serious sort of arrest. There are a couple of references to short dialogues. And then the indication is that the man wasn't of any value, or of any importance at all. Actually, at Dealey Plaza, there were ten men arrested, and this has been kept secret for more than four years. Here are the pictures of five of them being arrested, [hands photo to Carson] and they've never been shown before.

Carson: No, I don't know any of those men [shows the audience one picture of the tramps].

Garrison: Several of these men arrested have been connected by our office with the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States government. The probability is that this is why Officer Tippit4 was killed. Is this speculation? Positively, and I want to identify it as that. But the probability appears to be that the killing of Tippit was a diversion which allowed them to turn loose these ten men. Here’s some more. [hands photo to Carson]] And here's another …

Carson: No, really, it won't show Jim [Carson looks at two of the pictures and puts them down].

Garrison: But why aren't they mentioned? Why aren't they mentioned?

Carson: No, but you say speculation and a probability. Who's suppressing all this information, on whose order?

Garrison: I'll tell you who's suppressing it. The federal government is suppressing it.

Carson: Who in the federal government?

Garrison: The administration. The administration of your government is suppressing it because they know that the Central Intelligence Agency …

Carson: On whose order?

Garrison: On the order of the President of the United States. Who do you think issued—let me finish now—before the advertisement—the executive order, which forbids every person in this audience and every person listening to this program, which forbids him to look at this evidence until September in the year 2039, was issued by the President of the United States. Does that answer your question? He's suppressing it.

Garrison fictionalized this part of the interview in his book On the Trail of the Assassins: (pages 259 -260 in the Kindle edition)

Very gradually, I shifted the emphasis of our colloquy to where I was asking the questions. Naturally he was not prepared to handle a subject as complex as this one. When in frustation he asked me why the government still was concealing evidence, as I had contended, I knew that my moment to show the photographs had arrived.

“Don’t ask me, John,” I said opening my briefcase. “Ask Lyndon Johnson. You know he has to have the answer.”

He stared at me blankly, without responding .

“Maybe I’d better show you pictures,” I said, reaching into the briefcase.

Before anyone could stop me, I was holding in front of the camera one of the big photographs showing the three men being marched off by the Dallas police with their shotguns. It took Carson a moment to recognize the scene, but when he realized what it was, he lunged at my arm like a cobra , pulling it down violently so that the pictures were out of the camera’s view.

“Photographs like this don’t show up on television,” he said sharply.

I held the picture up again for display in front of the camera. “Sure they do,” I replied. “The camera can pick this up.”

This time he yanked my arm down even harder. “No, it can’t,” he snapped.

Nevertheless, I swung the picture up for the third time. This time, however, I saw the red light blink off and realized that the director of the show had cut the camera off. Another camera—probably panning the audience—was now beaming its more comforting picture out across America.

Then, before anyone could change the subject, I said loudly, “Those arrested men you just saw were never seen again. They all got away.”

At that moment, I knew I had communicated what I wanted. Of course, I had an angry host on my hands the rest of the show. But that was his problem, not mine.

You can see from the actual video that Garrison fictionalized the account in his book.

Previous Blog Posts on the Three Tramps

Some incredible beliefs.

Introduction to the three tramps.

Garrison's photo experts told him that Bradley was one of the tramps.

Some conspiracy theorists think D'avy is a good witness but he

said he saw the tramps with Oswald in New Orleans.

Fletcher Prouty believed that Lansdale is one of the pictures of the tramps.

For a while, Garrison believed Crisman was a tramp.

Crisman wasn't just a tramp, he was an assassin.


Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page