The new History Channel special was well promoted, including a good deal of Facebook visibility.  People called me and emailed me about it. It was a surprise to me becasue there had been no sign that the people involved had made any contact with the JFK research community, either to solicit help on their research or to peer review their findings. As it turns out the program appears to have gone even further in the direction of “entertainment history” that earlier efforts on the History Channel – which at least nominally included some panel comments to present point/counterpoint.

In point of fact there is so much wrong with even the first show in the series that it drew scathing remarks and reviews from people with extensive experience in the subject.  You can get a feel for that with the following review:

https://kennedysandking.com/john-f-kennedy-reviews/jfk-declassified-tracking-oswald

The review says a good deal and much more could be said but I’m not going to belabor that point since there is little to nothing new in the shows content to date. Much of what is presented as ground breaking was known in as early as 1964 to the Warren Commission and areas such as Oswald in Mexico City have been explored in far more depth by several well respected historical researchers – who spent years and even decades on the subject rather than weeks.

In evaluating the series its important to realize that the show’s production company is a general freelance firm which has done shows ranging from topics such as “Booze Traveler” to “Spy World”, even revisiting Hitler (probably the 200th program on that topic by the History channel, which at one time was so focused on Germany during World War II that it was referred to as the Hitler Channel).

The on camera lead for their Hitler show is the same individual who leads the JFK team in the new special; whether they recruited him or he proposed the topic to them is unknown but its far from the first JFK show on cable entertainment channels. I refer to them in that manner since regardless of topic its become pretty clear that even their outdoor/adventure reality shows are highly sensationalized and clearly staged for maximum entertainment.

The JFK show’s lead is a former CIA Case Officer for Eastern Europe and he has been very active in retirement, serving as an intelligence columnist, major news outlet commentator/contributor and an intelligence/security analyst for CNN. He was also the host for the “Hunting Hitler” program on the History Channel.

Perhaps one of the more discouraging things about the new JFK special is that someone with his background would be part of a program with historical issues as noted in the linked review above. Hopefully that does not suggest anything about his more serious work as a news commentator – hopefully..

The other thing that must be noted is that as early as the first segment, the program appears to be going in the direction that every other book and movie program involving or steered by former CIA employees or CIA supported authors has – pointing towards a conspiracy with an Oswald/Castro/Cuba connection.  From that perspective its almost as familiar as finding “entertainment history” on the History Channel.  Many of us spend a lot of time these days arguing for “fact checking” on the stories you see out of this administration, off of media outlets and even from Facebook or email spamming.  I can only advise the same diligence with what you encounter on cable TV, especially those shows promoted as real history.

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About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

4 responses »

  1. Gerry Simone says:

    Thank you Larry for posting your thoughts about this documentary which I wholeheartedly agree with. I don’t have the in-depth knowledge in the subject of Oswald and Mexico City, but your reference to Mr. Fernandez’ article synthesizes important background information that interested persons who want to fact check need.

  2. Anthony M says:

    This seems to be a very common problem, even in the quality press. Occasionally there will be an item on a subject I know something about and it is often full of errors or misunderstandings. This isn’t in relation to highly controversial topics either but presumably reflects journalists writing on topics they are not genuine experts on. That might be part of the problem, as well as commercial pressures to ‘entertain’ before we get to group think and possibly more cynical motives.

    No easy answers, just the need to approach almost everything with an open yet critical mind.

    • Anthony, obviously is a complex problem but here are a few of the things that I think contribute to it. I say this based on some limited experience with columnists and even a few contacts with folks developing potential documentaries and cable shows. First, basically everything now is on internet time – that gives all involved minimal time for research and that’s a real problem. Also most articles are quite short and there are few investigative pieces any longer. There was room and time for that in print journalism but virtually none at all on cable news. In addition the day of experienced newsroom editors is over, nobody can afford them anymore – in the day when most articles were local news, you had pros that pushed back hard on reporters because they knew the venues and had their own sources. Now when most of it is national or international its just not the same. You also mention the entertainment thing…take a look at how many news shows are not panels of talking heads. The news outlets channeled their money away from investigative reporting in order to pay on screen talent. Which means then now contract consultants – everyone knows how many of the FOX consultants have been exposed over the last few years, but take a look at the credentials in play and ask yourself about the breadth of knowledge involved.

      Of course its even worse for the cable entertainment channels – which now includes the History channel, National Geographic etc. Having talked with a few folks who work on content its a vicious sales cycle and one with a really short turn. Most of the money goes into the production, which has to be eye catching to keep the viewers attention. The same thing that’s happened with special effects in movies – easy to see when you compare what’s on TMC with today’s blockbusters. I mean, did the folks doing the History Channel JFK show really have to take a film crew to Mexico City – do the UFO shows have to madly travel around the country – not really but without that how do you build in the drama, the reveals, the intrigue.

      Maybe what we need on these shows is another new tool…a ticker running underneath the program with actual facts…or better yet I recall a TV show from a decade or so back, Mystery Science Fiction Theater 3,000. It showed old SF movies with the characters making snide and cutting commentary along with the movie. Maybe we need a ticker of real historians or credible sources running fact check comments at the bottom of the programs…grin.

  3. Jess Mee says:

    If “Hunting Hitler” is any indication of this show, expect a lot of BS, historical revisionism and flat out lies.

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