Wednesday, May 29, 2013

An Evening at the Newseum — MacNeil/Lehrer on the Kennedy Assassination

I got there around 6 to see the exhibit 3 days which chronicles the events of those fateful 3 days. They have the actual camera that Zapruder used to film the presidential motorcade. There was a video that showed a time line of the afternoon by showing what was on TV. What shows were interrupted and the slow roll of out of information on the assassination. Probably the most famous moment was Walter Cronkite’s famous announcement that the president was dead.

Then it was on to hear the recollections of Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer on that day in Dallas. Lehrer worked for the afternoon paper in Dallas and had been assigned to cover the presidential arrival and departure at Love Field. MacNeil was with NBC and traveling with the president.

They both talked about the nasty incidents that had taken place in Dallas. Adlai Stevenson being hit in the head with a sign and Lady Bird Johnson being spit on. Both said that the Dallas police were afraid there would be some sort of incident like that when the president was there. Of course the thought of assassination wasn’t in anyone’s mind at the time.

MacNeil detailed how he was in the first seat of the press bus behind the motorcade. He was looking at the president’s speech that was going to be given that day. MacNeil was trying to decide the best quote to use in his story. When he heard what he thought was a back fire. But then there were two more sounds which he recognized as shots. He got let off the bus and started frantically to look for a telephone. He ran into the school book depository. He asked a man coming out of the building where there was a phone. The guy pointed to someone else and said ask him. In all likelihood the man MacNeil asked was Lee Harvey Oswald. MacNeil said it really didn’t good look at the guy because his focus was on finding a phone.

Lehrer detailed how he covered the arrival of the president and then had lunch. A waitress came in and screamed that the president had been shot. Lehrer was told to head over to Parkland Hospital and find out what was going on.

They then talked about how this event changed how America looked at things and the security around the president. They both said there really wasn’t any security to speak of. The motorcade route had been published in the newspaper which is of course something that wouldn’t happen today. Lehrer said that a secret service agent on the advance had gotten clearance to have the route published. The idea was to have as many people along the route as possible.

In any discussion about the Kennedy assassination, there was talk about a conspiracy to kill the president. Both men thought Oswald acted alone. Lehrer his paper handed him the lead on the story and he tracked down ever story possible. But he personally thought Oswald acted alone and was simply crazy.

Toward the end Judy Woodwruff brought up the event that brought the two of then together 10 years after the assassination and that was the Watergate Hearings. There was some discussion about that and then questions from the audience.

A very interesting and informative evening.

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