Conspiracy claims don’t sway former Secret Service agent
Jerry Blaine has heard just about every conspiracy theory put forward about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, 50 years ago today.
He isn’t buying any of them.
“I went through 23 volumes of evidence, including the Warren Commission report,” Blaine said last week during an interview at his home in Grand Junction. “There’s ironclad evidence it was the work of a lone, mentally unstable gunman who wanted attention,” Lee Harvey Oswald.
Blaine speaks with more than a little authority. He is the coauthor of “The Kennedy Detail,” the story of the Secret Service agents who were assigned to protect the president and his family in 1963.
Equally important, Blaine was a member of that detail, and one of the Secret Service special agents who accompanied Kennedy to Texas on that fateful trip in November of 1963. But Blaine wasn’t in Dallas the morning of Nov. 22, when the president and First Lady Jackie Kennedy joined Texas Gov. John Connally in an open limousine to drive through the city.
Early that morning, Blaine and another agent had flown to Austin, Texas, to prepare for what was to be the next stop on the presidential swing though Texas.
For more than 40 years, Blaine and his colleagues who were members of the Kennedy detail didn’t discuss what occurred in Dallas that day. It was just too painful.
But, after Blaine retired from security work for large corporations and moved to Grand Junction, and as conspiracy theories about the Kennedy assassination continued to pile up — in books, films and on the Internet — he decided he needed to get the agents’ story out.
“The reason we wrote the book is that we didn’t want to see history kidnapped by a bunch of theories that ignore the facts,” he said.
Blaine is not alone in standing up for the single-gunman theory. Many others have also done so, including public figures and private observers.
Just this month, Fred Kaplan, an author and foreign policy expert, wrote an article for the online magazine Slate, explaining why he switched from an early believer in some sort of conspiracy to an “Oswald acted alone” guy.
Kaplan talked of reading a number of different books “that argued the case for a dark plot.
“Then one day, I looked up the footnotes in those books, most of them leading me to the multidocument hearings of the Warren Commission,” Kaplan wrote. “I was shocked. The authors had taken witnesses’ statements out of context, distorted them beyond recognition, and in some cases cherry-picked passages that seemed to back their theories while ignoring testimony that didn’t. It was my first brush with intellectual dishonesty.”
Additionally, Blaine noted, “Not one White House representative ever mentioned any conspiracy.”
Eager to tell the story from the Secret Service perspective, Blaine began to contact other surviving members of the Kennedy detail. All but one of them agreed to speak with him. And he began working with a family friend, newswoman and author named Lisa McKubben to put all the information in book form.
“The Kennedy Detail” was released in 2010 by Simon and Schuster, and has since sold more than 100,000 copies, according to Blaine’s wife, Joyce.
“We have had so much interest from people all over the world,” she said. Some of the most interesting trips they have taken to discuss the book have been at the invitation of high school teachers and college professors who want their students to understand what occurred 50 years ago, long before most of them were born.
“I hope this book will become part of our history,” Blaine said.
The same with another book, released this week and written by McKubben and fellow Secret Service Special Agent Clint Hill, who was also part of the Kennedy detail. Hill was assigned to protect Jackie Kennedy and was walking next to the presidential limousine when the assassination occurred. He jumped onto the car and protected Mrs. Kennedy after the shots were fired that killed her husband.
Blaine said the Hill-McKubben book, “Five Days in November,” will feature more photos and provide more information to debunk some specific conspiracy theories.
In a world of so many theories about what really happened, it’s not surprising that some proponents of conspiracy theories are not fans of Blaine and his book. One author wrote a book claiming some members of the Kennedy detail were complicit in a CIA-led plot to kill Kennedy, or in the cover-up. He didn’t include Blaine or Hill among those he accused, but he referred to Blaine as the author of “a blame-the-victim” book because Blaine reported Kennedy didn’t want Secret Service agents riding on the presidential limousine in Dallas or other locations.
Other conspiracy proponents have posted pictures on the Internet of Adolf Hitler, surrounded by smaller photos of Jerry Blaine.
Blaine shrugged it off. “I made an enemy,” he said.
His greater concern is not for the personal attacks on him, but for damage he believes the conspiracy theorists have done to our political discourse and trust in government.
“In the long run, I think the conspiracies have increased the divide in our country,” he said.
They also made it easier for later conspiracy buffs to claim intentional government involvement in events such as the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11.
Blaine hopes his book and Hill’s will help people understand the truth of what occurred 50 years ago today. But he is under no illusion the conspiracy theories will simply disappear.
“There’s still new theories all the time about the Lincoln assassination,” he said.