Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Walter Cronkite Was The Source Of The Core "JFK Conspiracies"

President John F. Kennedy was killed, Texas Governor John Connally and James Teague were wounded during an assassination ambush in downtown Dallas on November 22nd, 1963. The shooting occurred at approximately 12:30pm Central Standard Time (CST). CBS-TV broke into regular programming with a bulletin about ten minutes later. Since television cameras back in 1963 took nearly thirty minutes to cold start, all audiences saw were a CBS News Bulletin card and heard the voice of Walter Cronkite. He reported from the Associated Press that three shots had been fired at the motorcade and that Kennedy was "seriously wounded." Cronkite advised, to what was probably a stunned audience, "stay tuned to CBS News for further details".

Well, the "further details" that Cronkite reported during the next thirty minutes are the source material for the core "conspiracy theories" about the assassination. Yes, and not without a definite caveat dolloped on at the end! These reports, of course, disappeared from the broadcasts as the story became the arrest of the possible assassin.
Iconic Polaroid photograph taken by Mary Moorman.
Below, I have transcribed the relevant portions from a recording of the actual broadcast.

12:40pm CST (all times approximate)
CBS breaks into regular programming with a special report by Walter Cronkite, voice only over a “CBS Bulletin”  logo.

Only twenty minutes after the assassination, Cronkite is reporting about the discovery of two possible assassins: a man and a woman! Rarely reported in pro-conspiracy books and articles and not at all in the anti-conspiracy one, this odd imagery, as it were, would be repeated five years later with the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Also, the infamous grassy knoll makes its first appearance.
12:50pm CST
CRONKITE: After these three loud bursts of gunshot, Dallas motorcycle officers escorting the president quickly leaped from their bikes and raced up a grassy hill. At the top of the hill a man and woman appeared huddled on the ground. In the turmoil it has been impossible so far to determine whether the Secret Service and Dallas Police returned the gunfire that struck down Kennedy and Connally, or whether this couple at the top of the hill, crouched down in their inert forms as the police rushed them were the would-be assassins.

This report contains the first overt mention of shot(s) coming from the grassy knoll and automatic weapon fire. Also, he is reporting "a crowd" surrounding the previously mentioned couple.
12:57pm CST
CRONKITE: Some of the Secret Service Agents thought the gunfire, however, was from an automatic weapon fired to the right rear of the Chief Executive’s car. Possibly from a grassy knoll. And that’s that knoll to which motorcycle policemen were seen racing and where the huddled figures of a man and a woman were seen on the ground with a crowd surrounding them. Which suggests of course, that perhaps, this is where the shots came from. This we do not know as yet positively.

The CBS network now switches to its local affiliate in Dallas. The first report of a Secret Service agent in the President's motorcade being killed is aired.
1:03pm CST
Reporters from Dallas station KLRD-
EDDIE BARKER: One of the Secret Service Agents who was riding with the President was killed. Is that correct?
DICK ?: That is the report at this moment.
BARKER: Dick, has there been any report as to whether or not the assassin was apprehended?
DICK ?: Nothing on the apprehension as yet…

1:06pm CST
Still from Dallas station KLRD.
BARKER: Uh, the report is that the attempted assassins, we now hear that it was a man and woman, who fired the shots, were on the ledge of a building near the Houston Street underpass. Uh, just from memory, that would put…

After this interesting bit of news, a major confirmation of what Cronkite had reported less than twenty minutes earlier, Barker is cut off and the image returns to CBS news headquarters in New York and Walter Cronkite.
CRONKITE: That was a report from Eddie Barker at our affiliate KLRD in Dallas, Texas.

1:11pm CST
Back to Dallas and the caveat of unconfirmed stories, however the reporting of the death of a Secret Service agent continued.
BARKER: As you can imagine there are many stories that are coming in now as to the actual condition of the President. One is that he is dead. This cannot be confirmed. Another is that Gov. Connelly is in the operating room. This we have not confirmed. Another is, and apparently this is correct, that one of the Secret Service Agents, whose job it was to guard the life of the President was killed in his line of duty. The President was whisked from the scene of the attempted assassination, or assassination, depending upon his condition of course at this hour, by bus to Parkland Hospital…
Walter Cronkite reads the official bulletin of JFK's death. (photo source: obrag.org)
As these initial reports quietly disappeared, even the reports about the heroic dead Secret Service agent, Cronkite eventually reported the awful, obvious news about Kennedy.
1:38pm CST
CRONKITE: From Dallas, Texas, the flash, apparently official: "President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time." 2 o'clock Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.

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