Special Program: A Conversation With Oliver Stone

November 01, 2013
Location: Walter and Leonore Annenberg Theater

Guests: Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick

By Sharon Shahid, online managing editor

WASHINGTON — Twenty two years after his controversial movie "JFK" was released, Academy Award-winning director Oliver Stone remains certain that President John F. Kennedy was killed by more than one gunman, and that the people responsible for his death were those who had political influence.

"Look at the people who have power in Washington who work on the fringes," he said. "Look for the hundreds of sharpshooters in the world, and see who was in Dallas that day."

Stone shared his views in a special program held Nov. 1 at the Newseum as part of the museum's observance of the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination. Shelby Coffey, the Newseum's vice chairman, moderated the discussion.

Stone, who grew up in a conservative Republican family, was a senior in a Pennsylvania boarding school the day Kennedy was assassinated. He said he always accepted the official story about the president's death.

That changed in 1989 after he "followed all the details" and also read "On the Trail of Assassins," a book by former New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, which disputed the Warren Commission's findings and claimed the government, particularly the CIA, was responsible for the assassination. Stone's "JFK" was largely based on Garrison's book. Garrison was portrayed in the movie by actor Kevin Costner.

Stone said Kennedy was possibly viewed a threat because he "represented a sea change in our foreign policy, and was moving toward détente in the Cold War with [former Soviet premier Nikita] Khrushchev."

Stone believes the 3-hour, 9-minute movie, which will be newly released on Blu-ray Nov. 12, has stood the test of time.

"The facts held up," he said. "The sequence of bullets held up. The autopsy was pretty accurate. The Parkland scene was pretty accurate."

Stone said that first lady Jacqueline Kennedy "made a mistake" by allowing Kennedy's body to be autopsied at the Bethesda Medical Center outside Washington, instead of at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, where the president was rushed immediately after the shooting. Discrepancies between the autopsy and the initial findings in Dallas remain a disputed topic among conspiracy theorists.

"The [Abraham] Zapruder film is the best evidence we have of Kennedy's assassination," Stone said. "It was an appalling crime scene that was badly handled from the beginning."

Peter Kuznick, co-writer with Stone on the Showtime series "The Untold History of the United States," and associate professor of history at American University, joined Stone for the program. The series and a companion book of the same name, takes a look back at our country's history through recently declassified material.

A book signing followed the program.

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