WITH JOHNNY CARSON
On January 31, 1968, on NBC-TV's "The Tonight Show", Johnny Carson conducted a lengthy interview with New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. The purpose of the special interview was to discuss the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Mr. Garrison, as of that date in early 1968, was in the process of putting together his extremely-lightweight case against Clay Shaw (who was arrested by Garrison's office on the bogus charge of conspiring to murder President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963).
When the Shaw trial finally took place in 1969, the jury took less than an hour to arrive at the only possible (reasonable) verdict in the case against Mr. Shaw -- Not Guilty.
The Garrison/Carson interview lasts approximately 46 minutes (when the NBC-TV commercial breaks are removed) and consumes a large portion of the 01/31/68 "Tonight Show" broadcast. The whole interview can be heard via the embedded video player above.
The 1968 Garrison vs. Carson program is a fascinating glimpse into history -- and, to put it quite bluntly, it's also a rather fascinating glimpse into the mind and inner conspiratorial thoughts of a total kook by the name of Earling Carothers ("Jim") Garrison.
Mr. Garrison, I will admit, handles himself quite well during the NBC broadcast with Johnny Carson. He doesn't lose his cool (even though Carson interrupts Garrison's theory-spouting on numerous occasions, and it becomes very evident that Johnny isn't buying one single thing that Jim is telling him during the entire program).
Johnny Carson has been accused of being overly rough, brusk, and rude toward Garrison on the program in question. But, in my opinion, Johnny did not exhibit those characteristics at all. Mr. Carson, in my view, handled himself exceedingly well under the circumstances (i.e., the circumstances of being placed in a position where he had to act as an investigative reporter for the evening, instead of the late-night comedian and witty interviewer of movie stars that America had become accustomed to seeing since Carson began hosting "The Tonight Show" in October of 1962).
The Garrison interview brought out a low-key and totally-serious side of Carson that I don't recall ever seeing (or hearing) before. He was restrained and completely serious and thoughtful throughout his lengthy piece with Garrison. Usually there's a lot of comedy and quipping going on in a Carson interview (even when the subject matter is dead serious). But not in this footage with Garrison. It's great archival stuff.
Johnny asked some hard-hitting questions of Mr. Garrison, some of which I'm going to write out in word-for-word fashion in just a moment. Carson displayed a good deal of knowledge about many of the details surrounding the JFK murder case, and (IMO) deserves nothing but applause for his actions during his interview with Mr. Garrison.
The main reason I applaud Mr. Carson so loudly with respect to this particular interview is because I was glad to see John ask such hard questions which cast doubt on the notion of conspiracy in the JFK case, instead of merely nodding in agreement with everything this fruitcake named Garrison had to say. (Which were all things, by the way, that haven't a shred of truth to them whatsoever re. the vast "Let's Frame Lee Harvey Oswald As A Patsy" conspiracy plot that Garrison said was afoot in Dealey Plaza in '63.)
About the only thing Johnny seemed unsure of (regarding any REAL evidence in the case) was the mentioning of Dr. Humes burning his notes, a topic that Garrison brought up to make things seem more "shady" of course.
In 1978, Dr. Humes fully explained to the House Select Committee on Assassinations why he burned his original autopsy notes, with that reason being: the notes were stained with President Kennedy's blood and Humes didn't want notes with the President's blood all over them to possibly fall into the hands of someone with "peculiar ideas about the value of that type of material".
Here are Dr. Humes' exact words concerning the note-burning topic:
"The original notes which were stained with the blood of our late President, I felt were inappropriate to retain to turn in to anyone in that condition. I felt that people with some peculiar ideas about the value of that type of material, they might fall into their hands. I sat down and word-for-word copied what I had on fresh paper." -- Dr. James J. Humes; 1978; Via HSCA Testimony
Now, of course, as of Jim Garrison's 1968 appearance on "The Tonight Show", Mr. Garrison probably had no way of knowing for sure the precise reason for why Humes burned his notes, because that information was not made public (to my knowledge) until Dr. Humes told the HSCA his reason ten years after Garrison's interview with Johnny Carson.
NOTE/CORRECTION --- In a 2006 version of this "Garrison/Carson" post, I raked Mr. Garrison over the coals on this particular subject of the note-burning, when I said this:
"Garrison lied (as usual) when he said he didn't know why Humes burned his notes....even though he should have known full well why Humes burned them, because Humes told the WC why he did so, with the reason being: the notes were blood-stained and Humes didn't want notes with the President's blood all over them to become a part of the permanent record in the case. So, Humes re-copied (verbatim) many of his original notes." -- DVP; October 23, 2006
But more recently I realized that I was in error when I blasted Mr. Garrison for not knowing, as of January 1968, the reason Humes burned his notes. I was in error because Humes didn't mention anything in his 1964 Warren Commission testimony about the notes being stained with the late President's blood.
Dr. Humes told the Warren Commission that he "destroyed certain preliminary draft notes" and he also said that a first draft of the autopsy report was "burned" in his home fireplace, but that's as far as it went. There was no mention of JFK's blood staining the notes.
I, however, had erroneously thought that Humes did mention the blood of the President staining the notes in his Warren Commission session. But I now stand corrected on this matter after looking through Dr. Humes' WC testimony again. And I offer an apology to the late Jim Garrison on this matter (but ONLY this matter, however).
Mr. Garrison, of course, likes to make huge conspiracy-flavored mountains out of things that can just as easily be explained in non-conspiratorial ways. For example: The differing eyewitness accounts of the color of the Depository sniper's clothing. Garrison wants Carson's audience to believe that just because a certain witness described a "blue shirt" (vs. another color garment), this therefore is absolute PROOF that it wasn't Lee Harvey Oswald in the window.
That type of argument is nonsense for several reasons, of course, not the least of which is the fact that eyewitness accounts relating to things like clothing, hair color, weight, and height, etc., are almost always going to differ whenever you get several witnesses together to compare these things. People, in general, just do not recall details like this very well (especially under conditions when they have no real NEED to notice these mundane things at the time they are seeing them).
The same goes for "timelines", which are hardly EVER exactly the same from one witness to the next. In the JFK case for example, the witnesses told of the shooting taking anywhere from five seconds to five MINUTES to complete. One witness actually thought the shots were a total of FIVE MINUTES apart; and James Altgens thought the shooting took up to a full thirty seconds as well, illustrating how people don't measure "time" very well when they are asked to do so.
Back to Oswald's clothing -- There were, indeed, varying versions from the witnesses as to what the ONE ASSASSIN IN THE SNIPER'S NEST was wearing. Meaning: somebody's got to be wrong. Unless Mr. Garrison and other conspiracy theorists actually want to believe that there were MULTIPLE KILLERS jammed and squeezed into that tiny sniper's nook at the very same time on November 22, 1963.
But the bottom line is that the whole case against Lee Oswald can't simply be tossed into Garrison's trash bin just because of a witness' description of the assassin's shirt.
Plus, there's the possibility (however remote) that Oswald DID have on a different shirt when he was shooting JFK, and then changed to the brown shirt in flight (just after leaving the sniper's nest), possibly putting on the brown shirt hastily as he descended the four floors to the lunchroom. Why was that simplistic clothes-changing activity not possible in Mr. Garrison's mind?
Granted, I don't think any other shirt was found discarded in the Book Depository that day. But the more I think of this shirt-changing scenario, the more sense it makes from Oswald's point-of-view. Because, it probably WOULD have been a smart move on Oswald's behalf to want to change his outward appearance somewhat after having just shot the President. (Similar to what he did to change his appearance when he tossed aside his windbreaker jacket after shooting Officer Tippit less than an hour after Kennedy's assassination.)
Another very real possibility is that Oswald shot JFK in his white T-shirt ONLY....and then (after the shooting) hurriedly put on his brown shirt over the top of the T-shirt. Hence, Officer Marrion Baker sees Oswald with an untucked brown shirt that Baker thinks is a "jacket".
That seems the most likely "clothing discrepancy" scenario to me....and it's a scenario which does not require Oswald to ditch a second shirt someplace. He merely puts on one shirt over another to change his appearance slightly from 12:30 to 12:32.
In the Johnny Carson interview, Carson asks a very prudent question of Garrison that's as true today as it was during that interview --- "What makes it [Garrison's overall belief in a JFK conspiracy] a fact? Because you say so?"
As Johnny was uttering the above words, I was nodding my head firmly, in thorough agreement with Johnny's skepticism toward Mr. Garrison's unprovable theories.
Another witness that Garrison spends a good deal of time on in the Carson interview is Julia Ann Mercer (who claimed to have seen Jack Ruby driving a green pick-up truck in Dealey Plaza about an hour before the assassination).
It's quite interesting to take note of Mercer's apparent verbiage that she used (as relayed by Garrison). Per those words of Mercer (as read by Garrison), it would seem as if Mercer was actually claiming she could RECOGNIZE Jack Ruby via facial features (et al) as Ruby was killing Oswald.
That IDing of Ruby DURING the shooting of Lee Oswald is, of course, a virtual impossibility, since Ruby was on camera for a mere fleeting instant (with his back to the live TV cameras as well), and then Ruby was wrestled to the ground by police and was then out of sight of the cameras.
But does Garrison point out that apparent impossibility/discrepancy regarding Mercer's statement? Of course not. Because he wants America to believe Mercer's entire account -- including the preposterous part that has a batch of brain-dead assassins actually being stupid enough to take a rifle from the back of a pick-up truck (being driven by Jack Ruby no less -- how convenient there too -- that guy was EVERYWHERE it seems on Nov. 22) in front of a gob of potential witnesses who were stalled in a traffic jam near the Triple Underpass.
Brilliant "professional" assassination plan there, huh? Why not just paste a sign on the truck too, which says in bold letters for all to see -- "RUBY & CO., INC. -- ASSASSINS FOR HIRE -- WE'RE HERE TO UNLOAD THE JFK MURDER WEAPON AND WE DON'T GIVE A DAMN HOW MANY DALLAS MOTORISTS SEE US WITH THIS RIFLE!"
Below, I have written out some of the interesting excerpts and snippets from the Garrison/Carson interview (interjections by this author will be denoted by the initials DVP)......
JIM GARRISON -- "We have found that the Central Intelligence Agency, without any question, had individuals who were connected with it involved [in the assassination of JFK]."
JOHNNY CARSON -- "You have absolute facts and proof of that?"
GARRISON -- "Without any question. I wouldn't say so otherwise."
DVP -- Mr. Garrison had no "proof" of the above allegation re. the CIA. He was merely theorizing. He was good at theorizing about murky, unverifiable conspiracy plots, such as the one involving Clay Shaw, Guy Banister, and David Ferrie. But "proving" these crackpot theories was another matter. In short, he couldn't do it. And a jury in 1969 "proved" that Garrison couldn't do it in a court of law.
GARRISON -- "They [the Warren Commission] concluded that Lee Oswald was the lone assassin....and the evidence is clear that Oswald never fired a shot....never fired a shot."
DVP -- The above comment by Mr. Garrison is totally laughable. Such an asinine remark by a person in Mr. Garrison's position at the time (that of a District Attorney) deserves nothing but utter contempt from anyone who has looked even superficially into the facts surrounding John Kennedy's tragic murder.
GARRISON -- "There was never an investigation. .... I'm not at all impressed with the fact that they [the Warren Commission] could find no evidence of a conspiracy. After going through their inquiry, I doubt if they could find a streetcar if they had a transfer in their hands and it was pointed out to them."
DVP -- The above comment by Jimbo was indeed humorous, and elicited a chuckle from Mr. Carson's studio audience. I kind of wish, though, that Carson had followed up Jim's witticism with a comment about Mr. Garrison not being able to locate his 'common sense'....because it's fairly obvious that Jim had very little of that particular trait when it came to his absurd theories concerning the JFK case.
CARSON -- "Now, you say 'the fact remains' again....as if it IS a fact. You keep saying 'we know' and 'the fact is'....but that's not a fact, is it?"
GARRISON -- "Yes."
CARSON -- "What makes it a fact? Because you say so?"
CARSON -- "Jim, aren't you taking inconsistencies in testimony during the emotional time, even self-contradictory testimony, from even sometimes the most truthful of witnesses....and using THAT as tainting everything else that is very well explained?"
DVP -- An excellent observation by Mr. Carson. And also a correct one, IMO. Conspiracy theorists are experts at using selective pieces of seemingly-contradictory evidence or witness statements and then twisting those things into their own unique brand of "proof" that a conpiracy had taken place on 11/22/63.
But the fact is that the things mentioned by Garrison (which I didn't print out verbatim, but which prompted Johnny's comment above) were, as John said, being used by Mr. Garrison to attempt to taint the overall Lone-Assassin conclusion.
One thing, in particular, that Garrison is certainly dead-wrong about (that he mentioned in the Carson interview) involves the actions and observations of Roy Truly and Marrion Baker (who both saw Lee Oswald on the 2nd Floor of the Book Depository approx. 90 seconds after Oswald shot JFK from a 6th-Floor window).
Garrison erroneously assumes that since Truly and Baker saw Oswald on the second floor shortly after the shooting, this therefore must indicate that Oswald was innocent. But what Jim didn't tell the audience that night in 1968 is that the Warren Commission conducted multiple "re-enactments" of Oswald's alleged movements from the 6th to the 2nd Floor of the building, and those re-creations proved beyond any doubt that a person WAS capable of travelling that distance in less than 80 seconds. Which indicates that the assassin (Oswald) could very well have been on the 6th Floor at 12:30 PM and also on the 2nd Floor by approx. 12:31:30 PM.
GARRISON -- "There is no 'overwhelming' evidence that Oswald shot from the Book Depository. The only evidence available indicates that he did NOT."
DVP -- That last line deserves a replay (just to emphasize the sheer size of Garrison's gall at having spouted such nonsense) -- "The only evidence available indicates that he did NOT."
Incredible (and stupid), isn't it? Both times.
Mr. Garrison thinks the "ONLY evidence available" suggests that Lee Oswald did NOT fire any shots from the Texas School Book Depository Building. About the only thing left to do after hearing (or reading) such total garbage from JG is to throw up one's hands and scream "WTF?!". I think I'll go do that now. Excuse me.
CARSON -- "You are asking us and the American public to believe that a team of seven gunmen carried this out with precision, firing from various points that day in Dallas, which is a remarkable feat in itself, and disappeared into thin air, with no witnesses who ever saw any other gunmen or getaway vehicles....and a gigantic conspiracy in which nobody seems to have yet proved anything....you ask us to believe that....I find that a much larger fairy tale than to accept the findings of the Warren Report."
DVP -- Bravo, Mr. Carson! Well said! I applaud ye (again). I couldn't have said that better myself.
GARRISON -- "Having gone through the twenty-six volumes, Johnny, I CAN say that it is not possible for a reasonable man to conclude that the Warren Commission was right."
DVP -- Another outlandishly-ludicrous statement by Jim G. in my opinion, and in the opinion of a JFK assassination expert/author who possesses probably more common sense and reasoned-thinking skills than anybody I can personally think of -- former Los Angeles Deputy D.A. Vincent Bugliosi, who made the following bold (but spot-on accurate) declaration many years ago:
"Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of President Kennedy. The evidence is absolutely overwhelming that he carried out the tragic shooting all by himself. In fact, you could throw 80 percent of the evidence against him out the window and there would still be more than enough left to convince any reasonable person of his sole role in the crime. The Warren Commission looked at a tremendous amount of evidence and concluded that Oswald acted alone. I've studied the evidence, and I agree."
-- Vince Bugliosi; 1986
I will conclude this essay with the following remarks (which I think aptly apply here, since I'm discussing a conspiracy kook named Jim Garrison, a man who disbelieved virtually all of the actual, documented evidence in the John F. Kennedy and J.D. Tippit murder investigations).....
The physical evidence surrounding President Kennedy's assassination positively supports just one single gunman by the name of Lee Harvey Oswald. And this physical evidence (plus a boatload of circumstantial evidence as well) is just too overpowering in size and scope to merely be arbitrarily tossed into the trash can (as Mr. Garrison seemed to want to do every step of the way in his so-called "investigation" of the case in the 1960s).
And the act of casting doubt upon the validity of ALL of the "Oswald Is Guilty" evidence, sans proof of a large amount of foul play, is merely the cowardly act of hardened conspiracy buffs (such as the late Mr. Garrison) who simply cannot face the raw fact that the totality of evidence in the JFK murder case hangs Mr. Oswald as surely as the Pope is Catholic.
David Von Pein
AUDIO & VIDEO:
Jim Garrison Was Wrong (Part 1)
Jim Garrison Was Wrong (Part 2)