MEDIA ERRORS IN REPORTING
JFK'S ASSASSINATION





NOTE --- In creating the above video, it was not my intention to cast a negative light on the people who reported the events associated with JFK's tragic murder. On the contrary, I believe the radio and TV reporters did an outstanding job of broadcasting the news coming out of Dallas during that weekend in 1963. And for the most part, they reported it very accurately. But some mistakes and erroneous initial reports were inevitable. And most of these early errors were even corrected on the air later in the weekend. On the whole, I salute and admire the high level of professional (and accurate) journalism that was exhibited by the many people who had the tough and very unexpected duty of reporting these terrible events to the world in November 1963. -- David Von Pein


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"MEDIA ERRORS" DISCUSSIONS....


JOHN McADAMS SAID:

They [the media] said JFK was taken to the hospital in an ambulance.

They said that a cop was killed in a shootout in the Texas Theater.

They said a Secret Service agent was killed.

There were at least four or five identifications of the rifle before it was correctly IDed as a Carcano.


DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

And Eddie Barker of KRLD-TV (who was one of the most accurate reporters on the air that day) actually said that President Kennedy had been taken to Parkland "by bus", which is a comment that always elicits a chuckle from this writer when I cue up that CBS footage.


JOHN McADAMS SAID:

Do you have a link for that online?

Obviously, in asking I'm admitting I haven't worked my way through your online video collection, which I know to be splendid.


DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

Here's a link (fast forward in the video to 15:21).

I also took note of Eddie Barker saying that the shooting was carried out by
"a man and a woman", who were (according to those early, sketchy TV reports) "scrambling on the upper level of a walkway leading to the underpass".


JOHN McADAMS SAID:

That was apparently Zapruder and Sitzman.


DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

You could be right, John. I had never really thought about Zapruder/Sitzman being the people referred to in that "scrambling" report (which, btw, was reported on all of the TV networks in the first few minutes after the assassination--not just on CBS).

I always have the Hesters in my mind whenever I think of that "scrambling on a walkway" report. The main reason I always think of the Hesters is because of the Dave Wiegman film, which shows the Hesters at the top of the Knoll (in one of the few clear frames in Wiegman's film), and they are definitely doing a little bit of "scrambling".


JOHN McADAMS SAID:

I got that from Gary Mack. The "scrambling" part fits the Hesters just fine, but the "upper level of a walkway" probably fits Zapruder and Sitzman better. The latter were getting down off the pedestal. Of course, a lot of testimony (and this includes the testimony of journalists in the motorcade) is terribly inexact, so I don't think we can ever know for sure.


DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

Another interesting error made by the news media in the early hours just after the assassination is when Charles Murphy of NBC's Fort Worth/Dallas affiliate WBAP-TV, while narrating a film taken outside Parkland, said that Jackie Kennedy can be seen running into the hospital.

I can understand Murphy's error though, because the woman in question (who I believe was one of Jackie's secretaries, Pam Turnure) looks very much like Jackie.



But, of course, Jackie was never in the parking lot area of Parkland (which is the direction Turnure was coming from in the film), because we know that Jackie accompanied JFK beside his stretcher into the hospital.

You, John, have probably already pointed out the "Jackie Goes Into The Hospital" mistake to your [Marquette University] students, which was replayed multiple times on the NBC-TV network on November 22nd.

There are also a few very early media reports that claimed the shooting took place at "Elm & Harwood" in Dallas, instead of Elm & Houston.

And there's also the CBS-TV report from Walter Cronkite (and probably other networks too) about a "gap" in the motorcade on Elm Street that eliminated any possibility of Vice President Johnson from being the subject of any potential gunfire at the scene of the shooting.

But, obviously, any such "gap" between JFK's Secret Service follow-up car and Lyndon Johnson's car immediately behind it was not very big at all, with Johnson in fact being almost directly below Oswald's TSBD window at the time when the first shot was fired. So, actually, Johnson would have been a very easy target for Oswald during the time of the assassination.


MORE MEDIA ERRORS (all of these are extremely minor and nitpicky, but I had them in my head, so here they are):

1.) There's footage of a man (a policeman undoubtedly) climbing into a 2nd-story window at the rear of the TSBD, with the narrator (Bob Walker of WFAA-TV) claiming that the man is climbing into the window from where the shots were fired.

Obviously, nobody could ever climb into Oswald's 6th-floor window from the OUTSIDE of the building (unless he was related to Spiderman). The policeman was actually on the roof of the first floor at the back of the Depository, which is a roof that can be seen in this 1967 aerial photo.

2.) And then there's the hilarious statement made by WFAA-TV cameraman Ron Reiland during his on-air report that aired live on WFAA on November 22, which has Reiland saying that "several hundred police officers" went inside the Texas Theater to apprehend Oswald.

The actual number of policemen, of course, was not anywhere near "several hundred". Heck, I doubt if that many people would even fit inside the theater. The size of the crowd outside the theater is also severely exaggerated by newsmen too.

3.) There's also another very funny mistake made by Ron Reiland when he was narrating his film on WFAA when Reiland said that the man who was suspected of killing Officer Tippit had run into the Texas Theater "with a shotgun over his arm". (There were reports on other networks that mentioned the erroneous fact about the suspect having a "shotgun" in the theater, too.)

Here is Ron Reiland's film, with Reiland narrating (Note -- This footage below isn't the clip which has Reiland saying "several hundred officers"; that remark was made later in the day when Reiland narrated the same film again for WFAA-TV):



4.) Reporters were frequently wrong when they mentioned the names of certain people involved in the assassination story during the weekend of November 22-24, such as when Jay Watson of WFAA-TV said that the name of the slain policeman in Oak Cliff was "J.D. Tipton".

And Bob Huffaker of KRLD wasn't the only newsman who had trouble with Lee Oswald's middle name. Huffaker, based on what he thought was correct information that he received from DPD Captain Glen King, kept calling Oswald "Lee Harold Oswald" throughout the weekend, especially on November 24th.

But Walter Cronkite of CBS News also had problems getting Oswald's middle name correct some of the time, with Cronkite (at least twice) referring to LHO as "Lee Henry Oswald".

5.) And there's the very minor error made by Police Chief Jesse Curry (and others who reported the same thing) on November 23rd, with Curry claiming that the rifle Oswald purchased via mail order cost $12.78, which was actually the price listed in a different (Nov. '63) magazine ad.

The ad Oswald clipped came from the February 1963 American Rifleman magazine, and the cost of the rifle at that time was a dime more -- $12.88. And the total price that Oswald actually paid for the rifle plus the scope was $21.45 ($19.95 plus $1.50 S&H).


STEVEN DHUEY SAID:

Wire service reports, read by television and radio announcers, said that a Secret Service agent in the motorcade had been shot. Then, within ten minutes after the official announcement of the president's death, came the "official" report that the Secret Service agent had died.

From whom or how did this false story originate?


DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

I have never found out where the false rumor came from about the dead Secret Service agent. I've often wondered who started that rumor.

RELATED RAMBLINGS:

In another forum thread, John McAdams was talking about all of the various early mistaken news reports that were made on radio and TV on 11/22/63. And when I listened once again to some of the audio coverage from KLIF-Radio in Dallas, I noticed that shortly after JFK's death was made official, suddenly a whole bunch of errors started making their way into the KLIF news coverage.

And this was somewhat surprising to me, because I also took note of KLIF's very accurate reporting between 12:40 PM and 1:45 PM CST, particularly the excellent reporting of Joe Long, who refused to say anything over the air that was not of "an official nature". I've always been very impressed by Joe Long's radio coverage. It's just excellent.

But starting at about 1:45, several mistakes begin to pop up, such as the announcement that John Connally had been hit in the head by a bullet.

In addition to saying that it was "confirmed" that a Secret Service agent had been killed, some of the other post-1:45 PM errors made by KLIF include the following things (in case anyone wants to update their official "Early Errors Made On November 22" scorecards):

1.) KLIF said that President Kennedy was "conscious" on the drive to Parkland Hospital after being shot in the head. This error came about because of Ralph Yarborough's statement that he saw JFK's lips "moving at a normal rate of speed" during the drive to the hospital. Of course, KLIF was not alone in reporting that Yarborough quote. NBC and other media outlets also reported that same thing.

2.) KLIF claimed that "five or six bullet husks" (cartridge cases) were found on the fifth or sixth floor of the TSBD.

3.) It was reported that JFK was shot "in the right temple".

4.) At other times, however, KLIF reported that JFK had been shot "in the left temple".

5.) It was reported that the bubbletop roof of JFK's limousine was bulletproof. It was not, of course.

6.) KLIF said that Governor Connally addressed JFK at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast in Fort Worth, including the comment "You have brought sunshine in our hearts". That comment was not made by Connally; instead, it was said by the head of the Ft. Worth Chamber of Commerce, Raymond Buck.

7.) In an error of lesser importance, JFK's age was given as 44. And then just a few minutes later, KLIF adjusted that number upward, saying that Kennedy was 45 years of age. Of course, neither figure is accurate. JFK was actually 46-and-a-half when he died on 11/22/63. KLIF did get his age right a little while later, however.

[More discussion about the erroneous "Dead Secret Service Agent" rumor can be found HERE.]


TOM LOWRY SAID:

[Oswald] punched Officer McDonald in the face, then tried to pull his pistol, was restrained, handcuffed and yelled "I Got me a president and policeman and almost got another".


DAVID VON PEIN SAID:

Oswald obviously never ever said anything even remotely close to the above quote. If he had said it, the quote would be propped up all the time by LNers as proof that Oswald confessed to both 11/22/63 murders that he committed.

That quote actually comes from a newsman. The radio reporter was merely repeating hearsay (or possibly even double- or triple-hearsay) that he got from a person who was most likely near the Texas Theater when Oswald was arrested.

As I remember it, the radio reporter's exact words that he attributed to Oswald were -- "I got me a cop and I got me a President and I'm gonna get me two more."

That quote is just not a believable quote at all. Especially in light of how Oswald behaved at the police station following his arrest, with LHO denying his guilt as often as he could in front of the TV cameras, etc.

David Von Pein
October 14, 2009
March 13-26, 2010
April 27, 2010