On the JFK assassination, the truth hurts - but it doesn't pay
By Paul Mulshine/The Star Ledger
February 17, 2013 at
Fifty years ago, Maurice "Mickey" Carroll was a young reporter for the New York Herald Tribune whose duties led him to become an eyewitness to the shooting of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.
Or at least that’s what he thinks. What the conspiracy theorists say can be quite another matter. Did you know that the guy shot that day was not Oswald, but a body double? And it wasn’t Ruby who shot him. That was staged. The cops actually shot Oswald in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.
And of course there’s the role of the
in setting up the assassination. Or was it Vice President Lyndon Johnson? And
then there’s the mystery gunman standing on the grassy knoll — lined up behind
dozens of other mystery gunmen, each representing a different conspiracy.
None of that stuff has any relationship to reality, but it sells books and movie tickets. As for the truth, it can’t find a publisher. Carroll, who became polling director for the Quinnipiac Poll after years in the news business, will be self-publishing his book "Accidental Assassin — Jack Ruby and Four Minutes in
." (See Max
Pizarro's piece on that here.) Dallas
The four minutes in question ranged from to on Sunday morning,
"At , Jack Ruby is in a
Western Union place sending money to a
stripteaser who danced for him," Carroll said. "He wanders across the
street to the police station, Oswald comes out, and he shoots him."
If Ruby had been planning to shoot Oswald, he wouldn’t have risked missing the opportunity by wiring that money, Carroll said. All of the evidence indicates the hot-tempered Ruby shot Oswald on the spur of the moment in a misguided attempt to salvage the honor of
after the popular
president was gunned down there. Dallas
Conspiracy theorists have made much of the lax security surrounding Oswald, but that’s just the way things were, Carroll recalled. Reporters had the run of the police station that morning. Carroll took an elevator up to the cell where Oswald was being held and asked him as he was being led downstairs whether he had shot the president. Had Oswald answered, those might have been his last words. Alas, he didn’t.
As for Ruby, there was no great mystery about why he was permitted to get so close to Kennedy’s assassin. He was a wannabe cop who gave the police entrée to the strip club he ran. But mystery is more attractive than non-mystery, and it wasn’t long before the first of the conspiracy theories emerged. Carroll’s editors gave him the job of keeping an eye on them.
"They assigned me to keep an eye on the nuts," said the 82-year-old Carroll, who has a home in
. To that end, Carroll
compiled a list of 25 unanswered questions about the assassination. When
the Warren Commission report came out the following year, he found all 25 had
been answered. But the 888-page report was tough reading for the general public,
and that created an opportunity for the conspiracy crowd. Morris
"To have the most glamorous president in history killed by a nobody just wasn’t right," he said.
It was correct, however. And Carroll had as good a look at the evidence as anyone. He even visited the rooming house where Oswald had stayed and talked to some of the roomers amazed that the guy down the hall shot the president.
This should make for great reading, but Carroll doesn’t have high hopes for making the best-seller list. As a pollster, he’s well aware of the polls showing that about three-quarters of Americans believe the conspiracy theories.
"This is for the record," he said. "When this comes out, nobody will buy it, but I will be denounced by some of the existing screwballs."
The problem with said screwballs is that their theories have so many holes that debunking them has become a field of research all its own. Noted author and attorney Vincent Bugliosi even put together a 1,512-page dissection of the flaws in the various theories.
Fear not, reader. Carroll’s tome will come in at about a tenth that length.
"It’s fairly short and beautifully written — as all Herald Tribune stories are," he said.