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  • Writer's pictureFred Litwin

What Ever Happened to Jim Garrison?

Like the child star gone bad in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Jim Garrison was the reformist District Attorney gone kooky, and Oliver Stone is the famous director who went down the rabbit hole. Modern day Baby Janes, they are irredeemably linked, although it does look like Oliver Stone is trying to break free.

His so-called documentary series, JFK: Destiny Betrayed, has three scenes from the film JFK. All of them showcase actor Kevin Costner without telling the audience that he's playing Jim Garrison.

Screen shot from episode 2 of JFK: Destiny Betrayed. A conversation between Kevin Costner and Donald Sutherland about why Kennedy had to be killed.

Likewise, he assumes that the audience knows it's fiction, or (even worse) doesn't care if they think it is real.

In fact, JFK: Destiny Betrayed is the film that dare not speak Garrison's name.

It's all the more remarkable since Oliver Stone's two-hour documentary is titled JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass. Revisited, you say?

But how can you revisit JFK without even mentioning Jim Garrison?

In fact, JFK: Destiny Betrayed, does mention Jim Garrison once and that is in episode 4: (12:35)

Whoopi Goldberg: One of the places Oswald leafletted in front of was Clay Shaw's International Trade Mart. Shaw, who was arrested by New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison on charges that he was part of the conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, always denied he was associated with the CIA.

Nowhere in the film does it even say that Clay Shaw was tried and was acquitted of conspiracy. This is an astounding error of omission, because Stone makes a big deal out of the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald never had his day in court.

Nor does the film mention what Judge Herbert Christenberry said in 1971 after three days of hearings regarding Garrison's perjury charges against Shaw. He found that Garrison “undertook his baseless investigation with the specific intent to deprive Shaw of his rights under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth amendments ... the only conclusion that can be drawn from Garrison’s actions is that he intentionally used the arrest for his own purposes, with complete disregard for the rights of Clay Shaw.”

Perhaps the firestorm over JFK tempered Stone's enthusiasm for Garrison. Back in late 1991, gay rights groups were horrified at reports of what was in the script.

Los Angeles Times, December 6, 1991

Stone told them to watch the film and then decide. They did and they weren't impressed.

From the front cover of The Advocate. One small quibble - they weren't 'pinkos.'

Back in 1991 it was primarily gays who objected to JFK's homophobic content. Times have changed, and referring to Clay Shaw's homosexuality would upset most decent people.

Perhaps Oliver Stone has realized that Jim Garrison is toxic. Perhaps he finally understands that people believe his investigation into the JFK assassination was not just a sham, but that his prosecution of Clay Shaw was, as the New York Times put it, "One of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of American jurisprudence."

Reporter Jed Horne from the New Orleans Times-Picayune told The Advocate:

You want to know what people in New Orleans think of this JFK thing? They think Oliver Stone is a sucker. Garrison is considered a kook, a local joke. That Stone would come in and seek to beautify this guy is just one more instance of the gullibility of the national media and their complete inability to fathom a place like New Orleans.

But perhaps not. Most likely, Oliver Stone is probably tired of defending Jim Garrison and wants to move the debate to more fertile ground.

It looks like Oliver Stone has abandoned JFK to the weeds.


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