– The approaching 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy has prompted a small avalanche of documentaries and docudramas about the slain president, and some of it has already been on view at the annual Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills.
Predictably, the Nov. 22 event will also prompt a lot of weird TV designed to appeal to thousands of conspiracy nuts who got tired of insisting Barack Obama was born in Indonesia, and now get to return to their favorite subject: Who killed John F. Kennedy (the close runner-up is, of course, who killed Marilyn, but that anniversary is over).
There are thoughtful TV shows planned about Kennedy, such as the National Geographic Channel’s “Killing Kennedy,” a two-hour film airing in November and starring Rob Lowe as JFK, Ginnifer Goodwin as Jacqueline Kennedy, Will Rothaar as Lee Harvey Oswald and Michelle Trachtenberg as Marina Oswald. PBS has a new two-part “American Experience” documentary, “JFK,” airing Nov. 11 and 12. And there will be many other films to come between now and Nov. 22.
Among them is a quasi-documentary with re-enactments from the bargain basement cable channel Reelz, which is revisiting a theory first postulated in 1992 that there were, in fact, two shooters that day in Dallas and that one of them was a Secret Service agent riding in Kennedy’s motorcade.
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Reelz will offer “JFK: The Smoking Gun” on Nov. 5, repeating a claim made by author Bonar Menninger in a 1992 book, “Mortal Error: The Shot That Killed JFK,” and a key source of information in a cold-case investigation of the assassination by former police detective Colin McLaren. McLaren cites research completed by the late Howard Donahue, who concluded that one of the bullets that entered JFK’s head was fired from the gun of Secret Service Agent George Hickey, riding behind Kennedy’s car in the motorcade.
After the book came out, Hickey sued the publisher and the author, but the suit was dismissed because he’d waited too long to file. Still, Hickey reportedly worked out some kind of financial settlement with St. Martin’s Press in 1998. He died two years ago and isn’t around to file suit over the TV show.
There was a conspiracy, say proponents of the Hickey theory, but it wasn’t to cover up Hickey’s intention to kill the president. Instead, as the theory goes, when the first shot rang out from the Texas School Book Depository, where Oswald was secreted, Hickey jumped to his feet and grabbed his AR-15. A split second later, either when the motorcade stopped abruptly before speeding up to get out of Dealey Plaza, Hickey stumbled, the gun went off and the bullet went into Kennedy’s brain.
The ballistics theory is that the bullet from the AR-15 was a full-metal jacketed projectile, as mandated by the Geneva Convention, McLaren told the TV press Sunday morning. That bullet went in clean, whereas the first bullet, which had inflicted the mortal wound and came from Oswald’s rifle, shattered a portion of the president’s skull.
McLaren maintains that the cover-up of the second shooter was masterminded by Robert F. Kennedy, the president’s brother, who would himself die at the hands of an assassin in 1968.