Did Connally turn left or right?
One of the problems with the book Assassination
Science is that some authors misuse or misquote eyewitness testimony.
It is bad enough that eyewitness testimony is already acknowledged to be
the most unreliable form of evidence. But it is made worse when sloppy
researchers misquote eyewitness testimony to support insupportable conclusions.
But it is even worse when a researcher simply makes up an eyewitness statement
from his imagination in order to support his pre-conceived conclusion.
On page 214 Jack White lists his observations of the Zapruder film which
he thinks prove that the film is a fake. In Observation 5, Jack White states
that, "Connally said he turned to his left to look at the President, then
turned to his right. The film does not show this." Jack White does not
provide any footnotes for his chapter, so the reader can not find out where
this statement came from. After repeated questioning Jack finally admitted
that he had based that on an article by Milicent Cranor. He did not bother
to fact check it himself.
Throughout his life John Connally had always
testified consistently that he heard a shot, turned to his right
to look at the President, then started to turn to his left when
he was hit facing approximately forward. The only account that differs
from that is his bedside interview from November 27, 1963. Milicent Cranor,
one of Jack's defenders, points out in her article in
The Fourth Decade (July 1994, pages 3839) that CBS and later
NOVA cut several words out of the rebroadcast of Connally's statement,
specifically Connally's reference to turning left. She points out that
Martin Agronsky of the New York Times preserved the reference to the left
turn in his November 28, 1963 report. But does she faithfully quote what
the New York Times wrote? I doubt it. Here is what she wrote:
We heard a shot. I turned to my left and the President had slumped.
He had said nothing. Almost simultaneously, as I turned I was hit . . .
But according to the account in Josiah Thompson's book Six
Seconds in Dallas on page 65, the New York Times quote was longer.
Compare that to the NOVA version:
So, can we then rely on Josiah Thompson's version? Not exactly. Look
at the second sentence. Does it make any sense for Connally to say, "I
turned to my left in the back seat." when Connally was not in the back
seat, but was in the jump seat? Hardly. It appears that Josiah Thompson
made a copying error and left out the words, "to look". I really
doubt that he would have done so in order to bolster the SBT as CBS and
NOVA did. If we can't rely on other researchers for the authoritative version,
then on whom can we rely? We need to go back to the original source. Not
just the New York Times, but also the original recording of Connally's
statement. Here is how the New York Times transcribed Connally's statement
on page 23 of the November 23, 1963 edition:
This scan from a microfilm copy is hard to read so I will type in the
We had just turned the cor-
ner. we heard a shot. I turned
to my left, and the President
had slumped. He said noth-
ing. As I turned, I was hit,
and I knew I had been hit
But can we even rely on this official transcript provided by the New
York Times? Not exactly.
As Cranor had pointed out, both CBS and NOVA
used edited versions of Connally's bedside interview in an attempt to preserve
the SBT. Fortunately, other researchers have pointed out that this segment
of the original statement was preserved in toto on other videotapes, such
as the Italian documentary "The Two Kennedys" and "Kennedy in Texas." "The
Two Kennedys" is rare and hard to find now, but I was able to find a copy
at a small video store called Hollywood Express. I was going to record
that segment into my computer, but I found that someone had already done
so and posted it to the Web as a . WAV file.
"Kennedy in Texas" can be ordered from JFK Lancer. I transcribed verbatim
the original Connally bedside statement. And you can also listen to the
original statement to compare it to my transcription:
We heard a shot. I turned to my left -- I was sitting in the jump seat --
I turned to my left to look in the back seat. The President was slumped.
Ah, he had said nothing. Almost simultaneously, as I turned, I was hit,
and I knew I'd been hit badly.
So, where is the left, then right turn which Jack White cites? Nowhere
to be found. It is always best to go back to the original statement of
an eyewitness, but it does no good when the researcher misquotes the original
statement. Never in his life did Connally say that he first turned to his
left and then turned to his right. Jack simply made it up from his imagination.
Many of the researchers who
are promoting bizarre theories feel that they need to claim that the
Zapruder film is a fake and will
do anything, including making up fictitious eyewitness statements,
to bolster their claims.
In every other statement Connally made, he
consistently reported that he turned to his right and then started to turn
to his left. In his Warren Commission testimony
, Connally stated:
We had--we had gone, I guess, 150 feet, maybe 200 feet, I don't recall
how far it was, heading down to get on the freeway, the Stemmons Freeway,
to go out to the hall where we were going to have lunch and, as I say,
the crowds had begun to thin, and we could--I was anticipating that we
were going to be at the hall in approximately 5 minutes from the time we
turned on Elm Street.
We had just made the turn, well, when I heard what I thought was a
shot. I heard this noise which I immediately took to be a rifle shot. I
instinctively turned to my right because the sound appeared to come from
over my right shoulder, so I turned to look back over my right shoulder,
and I saw nothing unusual except just people in the crowd, but I did not
catch the President in the corner of my eye, and I was interested, because
once I heard the shot in my own mind I identified it as a rifle shot, and
I immediately--the only thought that crossed my mind was that this is an
So I looked, failing to see him, I was turning to look back over my
left shoulder into the back seat, but I never got that far in my turn.
I got about in the position I am in now facing you, looking a little bit
to the left of center, and then I felt like someone had hit me in the back.
In his testimony before the HSCA
, Connally repeated essentially the same sequence of events:
Mr. CORNWELL. Thank you, very much.
Governor, let me ask you the same question. What
is your memory of the
events? What did you see and hear? What happened after the limousine
down Elm Street and passed underneath the Texas School Book Depository?
Mr. CONNALLY. Mr. Cornwell, we had just turned to
Elm. We had gone, I
suspect, oh, 150, 200 feet when I heard what I thought was a rifle
shot and I
thought it came from--I was seated right, as you know, the jump seat
front of the President, and they have a fairly straight back on them
so I was
sitting up fairly erect. I thought the shot came from back over my
shoulder, so I turned to see if I could catch a sight of the President
the corner of my eye because I immediately had, frankly, had fear of
assassination because I thought it was a rifle shot.
I didn't think it was a blowout or explosion of
any kind. I didn't see the
President out of the corner of my eye, so I was in the process of,
at least I
was turning to look over my left shoulder into the back seat to see
if I could
see him. I never looked, I never made the full turn. About the time
back where I was facing more or less straight ahead, the way the car
I was hit. I was knocked over, just doubled over by the force of the
went in my back and came out my chest about 2 inches below and the
left of my
right nipple. The force of the bullet drove my body over almost double
I looked, immediately I could see I was just drenched with blood. So,
I knew I
had been badly hit and I more or less straightened up. At about this
reached over and pulled me down into her lap.
Connally was interviewed for the 1992 CBS episode of "48 Hours" entitled
"Who Killed JFK?: Facts Not Fiction," but CBS intertwined the interview
with a previous interview, circa 1963. In the transcription below I have
used normal text for the 1992 portion and italicized text for the flashback
"I heard the shot and I turned, thinking
that the shot had come from back over my right shoulder. And I turned to
look in that direction.
And I was in the process of turning
to the left to look in the back seat and I had no more than straightened
up and I felt a blow, as if someone had just hit me in the back, a sharp
blow, with a doubled-up fist. Again, I heard the first shot. I had time
to try to see what had happened. I was in the process of turning again
before I felt the impact of a bullet. And I was lying there and heard the
third shot. I assume that it hit the President."
Again, Connally was consistent in testifying
that he heard a shot, turned to his right to look at the President, then
started to turn to his left when he was hit. This may seem like a minor
point, but it is important for three reasons. First, every author must
be willing to defend what he writes and back up his statements with sources
and references. Second, this is how myths are generated and perpetuated
when no one challenges unproved statements. Third, no researcher should
rely on eyewitness testimony to impeach physical evidence. Eyewitness testimony
is the most unreliable form of evidence. It is even worse when the sloppy
researcher simply makes up fictitious quotes to support his pre-conceived
conclusion that the Zapruder film is a fake. More likely the researcher
is a fake.