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50th Anniversary Brings Up Unanswered Question: Who Killed John F. Kennedy?

James DeBrosse, a visiting professor in UC's Department of Journalism, offers his perspective on many theories surrounding the events of Nov. 22, 1963.

Date: 11/20/2013 12:00:00 AM
By: Courtney Danser
Phone: (513) 556-8577

UC ingot  
It’s a question that has been on the minds of Americans for 50 years: Who is responsible for the assassination John F. Kennedy? 

Visiting professor James DeBrosse of the Department of Journalism in UC's McMicken College of Arts and Sciences doesn’t know the answer to that question, but he does know many of the theories. As part of his doctoral dissertation at Ohio University, Debrosse has read more than 50 books and countless articles on JFK’s assassination and therefore, has a profound amount of knowledge on the events of Nov. 22, 1963.

Warren Commission

The first investigation into JFK’s death, known as the Warren Commission, concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, shot and killed President John F. Kennedy from the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository in Dallas. Why? “They basically implied that [he] was very unstable. Oswald, they said, was a communist, was very unhappy with the American social system and also wanted attention and that’s why he did it,” DeBrosse says.

But many people say that explanation doesn’t make much sense. Until the day Oswald died, he denied killing the president, so how would it be possible that he did it for attention? 

“What’s problematic about that [theory] is even the U.S. government has said that the Warren Commission report … was just sloppy,” DeBrosse says.

House Select Committee on Assassinations 

That’s where the House Select Committee on Assassinations comes in. In 1979, the committee did another investigation into the assassination and found that there is a high probability that two gunmen fired at JFK and that his death was most likely the result of a conspiracy. The committee never ventured a guess as to who was involved in the conspiracy, however.

DeBrosse finds it concerning that many people have never even heard of the House Select Committee on Assassinations investigation. “We have two official versions of how President Kennedy was killed, and the dominant media seemed to totally ignore the second one, the house committee investigation in 1979,” he says.

And even though the second investigation found that there was probably some sort of a conspiracy going on, no one really knows who was involved. That’s where the conspiracy theories start forming. 

Jack Ruby
One of the main questions theorists have about the assassination is how Jack Ruby was involved. Two days after the assassination of JFK, while Oswald was being escorted to a car by police officers, Ruby stepped through a crowd of reporters and fatally shot Oswald. While many people believe he did this to cover up the conspiracy behind who killed JFK, Ruby claims he did it simply to spare “Mrs. Kennedy the discomfiture of coming back to trial.”  

That leaves two possibilities, says DeBrosse: “There are two lone nut gunmen, which is very unlikely, or you have someone trying to cover up a conspiracy.”

Conspiracy Theories

There are dozens of conspiracy theories as to what could have happened that day. Some of them point toward the mafia, since Oswald and Ruby both had numerous connections to the mafia. Others point to the CIA.

“All the evidence points somehow, if nothing else, the CIA was very, very aware of Oswald,” DeBrosse says.

John Newman, author of the book "Oswald and the CIA," looked at the routing numbers on CIA documents related to Oswald in the months prior to Oswald being killed. What he found was that there was a lot of information going to the counterintelligence division of the CIA. “You have to wonder, if the CIA was watching Oswald that closely, then why … didn’t they tell the FBI ‘beware of this guy’?” Debrosse says.

The Questions Continue

And while that theory may make sense, many of them are much more outrageous. Like the theory that a man standing alongside the road shot a poison dart out of his umbrella at JFK.

It may never be entirely clear who killed JFK, but DeBrosse knows that people will continue to try to figure it out. 

“He was at a turning point, I think, in creating an administration that could have had far-reaching effects,” says DeBrosse. “Whoever killed him had a direct impact on the future course of American history.”

And even though the millennial generation wasn’t alive during JFK’s assassination, DeBrosse encourages them to keep on searching for answers.

“I really think that all of this government duplicity and lying began with the Cold War and has continued ever since,” says DeBrosse. “The Kennedy assassination to me is, I don’t want to say the root of all of it, but it was, I think, the beginning … and young people should not forget that.”

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