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JFK Assassination Controversy Erupts at Huffington Post

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An interesting controversy over the JFK assassination has erupted at the Huffington Post. A man named Peter Mandel has authored an essay entitled, “Conspiracy Theorists Keep My Late Father in Their Sights,” which the Huffington Post published this past Monday. Judging from the article’s tagline, Peter Mandel is a prominent author of picture books for kids.

On December 6, 1963, Life magazine published an article by Peter’s Mandel’s father, Paul Mandel, relating to the Kennedy assassination, which had taken place on November 22, 1963. In that article, Paul Mandel wrote the following:

The doctor said one bullet passed from back to front on the right side of the President’s head. But the other, the doctor reported, entered the President’s throat from the front and then lodged in his body. Since by this time the limousine was 50 yards past Oswald and the President’s back was turned almost directly to the sniper, it has been hard to understand how the bullet could enter the front of his throat. Hence the recurring guess that there was a second sniper somewhere else. But the 8mm film shows the President turning his body far around to the right as he waves to someone in the crowd. His throat is exposed – toward the sniper’s nest – just before he clutches it.

The 8mm film to which Paul Mandel is referring is the famous Zapruder film, which Life magazine purchased from Abraham Zapruder for $150,000 during the weekend of the assassination and then prevented the public from seeing for many years. It wasn’t until 1975 that a bootleg copy of the film was shown on television for the first time on Geraldo Rivera’s show “Good Night America.”

By watching the film, it was easy for people to notice one glaring fact: Contrary to Paul Mandel’s statement in his article, Kennedy never turned his body around to the right to enable the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to shoot him in the throat.

Yesterday, David Lifton, author of the 1992 New York Times bestselling book on the assassination, Best Evidence, posted the following comment beneath Peter Mandel’s Huffington Post article:

When I was writing Best Evidence (circa 1977-1979), I tried to contact Paul Mandel about his story in Life magazine (12/6/63 “End to Nagging Rumors, The Six Critical Seconds”) which said that the Zapruder film showed that JFK turned almost all the way around, exposing his throat to the alleged “sniper’s nest” on the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository, and that was why President Kennedy had an entry wound at the front of his throat. How could he write such a thing, I wondered, since the published Zapruder frames showed no such “turn.” So I wanted to speak with Mandel and publish his explanation. Unfortunately, I soon learned he had died more than 10 years before. I concluded that someone gave him false information as to what the film showed. I am well aware of Paul Mandel’s fine credentials as a writer–and am left (along with many others) to wonder just how such a serious error was made–and without any published explanation in the days, weeks, and months following (and not even after the Warren Report was published in September, 1964). Given the reliance the American people placed on what they read in Life magazine, some sort of “errata” should have been published at the time.

Peter Mandel raises the issue because he’s grown weary of the many references to his father and this episode in JFK assassination literature. The issue is obviously important to him because his Huffington Post article is similar to an article he had published in the Boston Globe five years ago, on the 45th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination.

Another interesting twist to this tale is related in a fascinating article entitled “The Two NPIC Zapruder Film Events: Signposts Pointing to the Film’s Alteration,” by Douglas P. Horne, published on LewRockell.com on May 19, 2012. Horne served on the staff of the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) during the 1990s. The ARRB was formed in the wake of the public uproar raised by Oliver Stone’s movie “JFK” and specifically over the large veil of secrecy that enshrouded official records relating to the JFK assassination. The ARRB’s job was to get those records declassified and shown to the public, a job it failed to complete given that, for some reason, the CIA steadfastly continues its refusal to release 1,171 top-secret CIA records relating to the Kennedy assassination in time for the 50th anniversary of the assassination.

While people were led to believe that the Zapruder film had been in the hands of Life magazine after its purchase of the film, such was actually not the case. As Horne details in his article, during the weekend of the assassination, in a top-secret operation, the film actually ended up in the hands of the CIA, both at the agency’s National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) in Washington, D.C., and a Kodak state-of-the-art R &D film lab at its headquarters in Rochester, New York, with which the CIA had a top-secret contractual relationship.

In his 5-volume series on the Kennedy assassination, Inside the Assassination Records Review Board, Horne points out another false statement in the Paul Mandel article in Life magazine. Referring to one of the Dallas physicians who treated Kennedy, Mandel wrote, “The description of the President’s two wounds by a Dallas doctor who tried to save him have added to the rumors. The doctor said one bullet passed from back to front on the right side of the President’s head.” In an excerpt from his book posted on an online 2009 forum entitled “Paul Mandel and the Zapruder Film,” Horne points out: “This is completely untrue; no Parkland hospital physician ever said this. On the contrary, they all spoke only of seeing an exit defect in the back of JFK’s head.”

Obvious questions arise: Why did Paul Mandel state that the Zapruder film showed Kennedy turning around when the film shows no such thing? Had he seen a different version of the Zapruder film prior to writing his article? If he did see the film in its present form, was it just an honest mistake or did someone order him to say that? Or did someone from the CIA tell him that that was what the film showed and, if so, why would the CIA do that? Did Life magazine ask him for his sources? Why didn’t Life or Mandel ever publish a correction or an explanation, especially given that Life ended up with the film after the CIA was finished with it?

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.