Maybe not. But we will have to wait another generation to know for certain because political forces even to this day prevent any objective discussion.
After passing the 50th Anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, controversy still surrounds the work of the Warren Commission, the official government investigation into the tragedy. I have interviewed some of the members of the Commission, including former President Gerald Ford, whom my wife and I have hosted in our own home on two occasions.
While there is still debate about whether or not there was a conspiracy behind the assassination, there can now be little doubt that there was indeed a “conspiracy” behind the Warren Commission’s inadequate report. Upon his assassination, Kennedy, as in the case of Abraham Lincoln before him, was instantly declared a saint and no politician, investigator, judge or media mogul would risk revealing anything that might appear otherwise.
The result was that any loose ends that brought out into the open the Kennedy family’s ties to the Mafia or the President’s dalliances with other women or the government’s repeated attempts to assassinate Cuban Premier, Fidel Castro, could not be pursued. It may be that Kennedy was indeed killed by an emotionally disturbed, lone gunman, with a “lucky” shot but unfortunately, thanks to an impotent media and compromised investigators, we may never know.
Here are some reasons why the Mafia theory still tantalizes.
During the presidential primary season, JFK’s father, Joe Kennedy, had called on old Mafia connections that had helped him in earlier, nefarious business dealings. He asked for their influence in the West Virginia presidential primary. Mafia violence, through the coal miner’s unions, helped his son beat Minnesota Senator, Hubert Humphrey, and go on to win the Democratic nomination.
During the general election of 1960 the Mafia went to work again, this time in Illinois where ballot boxes from Republican precincts were “lost” and ballot boxes from Democratic precincts were stuffed. It helped Kennedy narrowly beat Nixon in this key state and thus win the White House by a razor thin margin.
When the President’s brother and newly appointed Attorney General, Robert Kennedy, began to aggressively prosecute those same Mafia leaders there was outrage and feelings of betrayal. Led by Chicago boss Sam Giancana, leaders of the underworld began discussing how to kill the president and his brother.
At the time of the assassination the public was not told of the ties between the Kennedy family and leaders of the American mafia. Nor were they shown FBI transcripts of top mafia leaders threatening to kill the president and his brother. Today, all of this is accepted history and the narrative appears in Pulitzer Prize winning books. The FBI transcripts are public.
According to CBS News, “The House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded in 1979 that it was likely Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy.”
The gunman, Lee Harvey Oswald, who had lived in Russia and had a Russian wife, also had an uncle with ties to the Mafia. Oswald stayed with him in New Orleans shortly before the assassination.
Finally, there is much support for the once dismissed story of Judith Campbell Exner who claimed to have had an affair with the president, even as she was the girlfriend to Chicago mobster Sam Giancana. Ms. Exner claimed that she relayed messages and even money from the government to the Mafia for purposes of funding an assassination attempt on communist, Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro.
Her story, at first dismissed by critics has been buttressed by extensive corroborating evidence, including FBI wiretap transcripts, diaries, travel logs, and released government documents showing her regular visits to the White House.
Finally, only days after the Kennedy assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald was gunned down on live television by nightclub owner, Jack Ruby. Taking out the hit man before he can talk is a classic Mafia tactic.
David Belin, counsel to the Warren Commission, scoffed at this notion. “Of course, common sense would dictate otherwise; as a practical matter, so-called Mafia ‘hit men’ do not chose an area where they are surrounded by the police and immediately apprehended.”
Actually, the most famous Mafia hits do indeed happen in public. Ask Carmine Galante, Albert Anastasia, Crazy Joe Gallo, “Big Paul” Castelllano, John Gotti and many others. They were all killed in restaurants, barbershops or on the streets of Manhattan.
In 1971, Joe Colombo was shot at the podium of an Italian Unity Day rally. He survived. His assailant was wrestled to the ground whereupon another man stepped forward and shot him dead. Police were all over the event but could not stop it.
Contrary to the “common sense” of the Warren Commission, the purpose of a Mafia public hit is to scare everyone else into silence.