Ventura reviews a set of supposedly classified CIA documents that connect the John F. Kennedy assassination to the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, and possible involvement by other U.S. presidents such as Gerald Ford and Lyndon B. Johnson. He interviews Lee Harvey Oswald‘s widow Marina Oswald Porter to gain more insight into the theory that Oswald was a CIA operative who had been framed by his handlers.
“Now, the biggest conspiracy America’s ever seen,” heralds announcer Tyler Derek. “You thought the case was closed but Jesse Ventura tears it wide open. New evidence and new suspects who still pose a threat today. Newly discovered documents, an exclusive death-bed confession. All new, declassified … the biggest government conspiracy of our time!”
“When it comes to conspiracies,” Jesse Ventura chimes in, “it’s the granddaddy of them all. If you can get away with killing a president, you can get away with anything.”
You can, that is, until Jesse Ventura shows up, as he does on a sidewalk in the middle of a bridge (location undisclosed) to meet with wheelchair-bound Ron, an old codger afraid to give his last name who affects a floppy hat, turned-up collar and sunglasses at twilight to hide his face. He passes Jesse a manila envelope, cleverly labeled “CIA Papers,” containing a hundred or so heavily redacted “very classified” documents he got years ago from a young CIA agent that are so explosive he has to sleep with a gun under his pillow. “After all this time,” Jesse notes ominously, “the forces behind the conspiracy are still out there.”
Wheelchair Ron’s redacted papers reveal that a year before losing the 1960 presidential election to JFK, Vice President Richard Nixon had overseen a CIA hit squad targeting Fidel Castro. When, as president, JFK failed to liberate Cuba from its bearded dictator, the hit squad went rogue and killed Kennedy, hoping it would be blamed on Castro, thus compelling the U.S. to take out Fidel.
Wheelchair Ron’s redacted papers also link the JFK assassination to Watergate. Once Nixon became president, he demanded to see all CIA documents relating to Kennedy’s murder. The rogues who’d formerly worked for him did not want Nixon sticking his nose in this malodorous mess, so they orchestrated Watergate to get rid of him.
These “newly discovered documents” spur Jesse Ventura to screen 1995 videotapes of long-retired Air Force Colonel L. Fletcher Prouty, who according to Jesse “knew more than anyone about the forces behind the JFK assassination.” In 1955 Prouty set up the USAF system to provide global military support for clandestine CIA operations. During the Kennedy years, he headed Special Ops for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. On the tapes, Prouty claims JFK’s murder was “a major, controlled coup d’état that was absolutely effective.”
Jesse next heads to Dallas to, as announcer Tyler Derek puts it, “reopen the investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.” Reopen! You mean it was closed? As I recall, the ink was no sooner dry on the Warren Report, delivered to Pres. Johnson ten months after the assassination, than did doubters dismiss its conclusion of a lone gunman. Conspiracy theorists who lived through that era can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing when Mark Lane’s bestseller Rush to Judgment was published in 1966. During the ensuing four decades, 908 other books and 3,126,574 articles have been published disputing the official version. Yet Jesse Ventura must now “reopen the investigation?”
In any case, setting foot in Dealey Plaza, which still looks much the same as it did that fateful day in November 1963, Jesse nostalgically reflects, “This is the event that inspired my work with conspiracies. This is why I always question authority.” He interviews Bill Newman, “one of the few witnesses who survived to tell his story. Many others died mysteriously. Bill may be alive today because he slipped through the cracks.”
Wait a minute! How could a major, controlled coup d’état that was absolutely effective allow an eyewitness, who stood with his wife and two small children 15 feet from the fatal headshot and was interviewed at the time by the FBI, to slip through the cracks? If the conspirators went to the trouble of bumping off other witnesses, surely they’d have rubbed out Bill Newman and family. Nobody smart enough to pull off something this big would’ve overlooked even the smallest detail.
Whatever, Bill tells Jesse he thought he heard shots not from a sixth floor window in the Texas School Book Depository, where alleged rifleman Lee Harvey Oswald worked, but from the nearby ground-level grassy knoll. Jesse isn’t surprised. “The Warren Commission’s lone gunman theory,” he explains via voiceover, “relies on something called the Magic Bullet. One bullet would have caused all the nonfatal wounds to JFK and Texas Governor John Connally sitting in front of him. Warren Commission staffer Arlen Specter came up with that one. What do you know? He wound up a senator. Gerald Ford later admitted that he changed the description of JFK’s wounds to make the theory sound more plausible. He wound up president. You help the Warren Commission in the cover-up, good things can happen.”
And Commission member Gerald Ford isn’t the only future president Jesse accuses of benefitting from helping the Warren Commission cover up facts. Producing a photograph of men milling in front of the Texas School Book Depository sometime after the assassination, Jesse zooms in on a figure at the far left, blows up the image and inserts a headshot of George H.W. Bush for comparison. Personally, I don’t see the resemblance, but you’re welcome to make up your own mind.
Anyhow, if it is Bush, then a Dallas oilman, what’s the significance of his presence at the crime scene? Well, it turns out he was acquainted with a petroleum geologist named George de Mohrenschildt, a longtime member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Russian émigré community. Together with his wife, de Mohrenschildt in 1962 had befriended Dallas resident Lee Harvey Oswald and his Russian bride Marina. De Mohrenschildt also had contacts in the intelligence world. This leads conspiracy buffs to identify him as Oswald’s CIA handler, who helped set up Lee as the fall guy in JFK’s murder. George H.W. Bush, who would later become CIA director, Vice President and ultimately President of the United States, was presumably on hand to ensure that the cover-up was proceeding apace.
And Bush wasn’t the only one representing CIA interests at the Texas School Book Depository that day—at least, if you accept Jesse Ventura’s second photographic analysis. Zooming in on one of three tramps rounded up in Dealey Plaza, and enlarging his image, Jesse concludes that it’s none other than 45-year-old E. Howard Hunt, “the CIA spook who ran Vice President Nixon’s hit squad, reunited the old gang to break the law for President Nixon, and went to prison for masterminding the Watergate burglary.” Again, I fail to see the facial resemblance, but admittedly my eyesight ain’t what it used to be.
This spooking out of Hunt, however, is where the entire show has been leading. “Coming up,” promises announcer Tyler Derek, “the first time on television—a JFK conspirator confesses and names names.”
After the break, Jesse ferrets out E. Howard Hunt’s son, Saint John Hunt, at a Hollywood Boulevard motel, where we get to hear audiotapes recorded in his father’s final days: E. Howard Hunt’s deathbed confessions about who killed JFK. “I was a bench warmer for the Big Event,” the elder Hunt recollects. “We backtracked the chain of command during the run-up for the Big Event.”
Backtracked the chain of command! What does that mean? Hunt was 88 years old and ill. Perhaps he misspoke. Backtracked and backstopped sound similar, and backstopped at least maintains the baseball metaphor of being a bench warmer. But he clearly said backtracked. I suspect decoding this word will occupy conspiracy theorists for decades to come.
What little we hear of Hunt’s audiotapes, however, doesn’t shed any light on the Big Event. As for the Smaller Event—the 1972 Watergate burglary organized by his father—Saint John Hunt says its purpose was to crack a safe in order to retrieve evidence linking President Nixon to the anti-Castro hit squad that killed Kennedy.
Be that as it may, the introductory teases of announcer Tyler Derek go unfulfilled. “You thought the case was closed but Jesse Ventura tears it wide open. New evidence and new suspects who still pose a threat today.” By show’s end, Jesse Ventura has torn nothing open. His “new” evidence consists of wheelchair Ron’s redacted papers, a couple of blurry photographic comparisons, and a deathbed confession to nothing more than bench warming and backtracking, whatever that means. And what “new suspects” pose a threat today? As Jesse himself says in summing up, “Almost 50 years later it’s still the same old military-industrial complex, the same powers still calling the shots, still threatening, still trying to keep us from the truth.” In other words, this hackneyed rehash doesn’t amount to a hill of refried beans.