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Penn Magazine November 2017

The inaugural issue of Penn Magazine

“The camera never

“The camera never blinks.” — Dan Rather “The greatest criminal in the nation, we think, is a dishonest newsman.” — Penn Jones Dan Rather Blinked by Penn Jones, Jr. The greatest criminal in this nation, we think, is a dishonest newsman. Newsmen have been given the highest gift a nation can give a group: a RIGHT. Newsmen have been given this right of freedom of the press and freedom of speech in the expectation they would report the truth as honestly as humanly possible. Ordinary criminals kill individuals, but dishonest newsmen are involved in killing a nation -- in this case, this democracy. Which brings us to native Texan Dan Rather, a long time Houstonian, and his new book, THE CAMERA NEVER BLINKS. Rather’s book is somewhat like Jim Bishop’s THE DAY KENNEDY WAS SHOT. At least a month’s work would be required to correct the many errors. Jim Bishop and Rather each foist on the readers. WE limit our criticisms of the Rather book to the sections dealing with CBS coverage of President Kennedy’s visit to Dallas. 14/Penn Magazine/November 2017 Rather was chief of the Dallas bureau. The omissions, errors, distortions, and untruths in Rather’s book are just too great and too numerous to be dismissed as unintentional inaccuracies or harmless forgetfulness. Back in Dallas after having been moved from there to New Orleans just a few weeks before President Kennedy’s assassination, Rather played a major role that day in all the events for CBS. For a young newsman with such an important assignment on his hands, we find it strange that he would take a side trip that morning. Rather reports he went to Uvalde, Texas for an after-breakfast meeting with former Vice President John Nance Garner at his home there, but he doesn’t mention the distances involved. He doe not bother to tell his readers it was a six hundred mile round trip and that he was back in Dallas before the President’s parade. That kind of timing would have required a jet, we think. Whose jet, Rather didn’t say. Back in Dallas before noon, Rather says he discovered the most important film drop location on the Dallas motorcade route had been left unmanned. “... so I picked up a yellow grapefruit bag and ...” went to the assignment which he says was only four blocks away. Somehow, according to RAther, on return it became five blocks. Actually it was nine blocks from the Dallas Times Herald building which was Rather’s headquarters for the day. It seems to us Rather used tangled logic in picking a spot to catch film from a moving vehicle. Not content with Dealey Plaza where the cars actually slowed to four miles per hour, he opted to be on the opposite side of the Dealey Plaza railroad underpass -- just out of the kill area, where he knew the cars would be travelling much faster than in Dealey Plaza. The motorcade was to end the parade at the underpass and speed on out to the Trade Mart which was the luncheon site. So Rather chose his position to catch this important film, but failed to tell us if he ever got the film.

Failed to tell what the film showed. Rather selected a spot which required that he catch the film from a truck which would be traeling at least forty to fifty milers per hour. He does pause to tell that the press cars were placed well back in the motorcade and that this has subsequently been changed, after the assassination in Dallas, so the press buses are now close to the President. He neglects to say the vehicles in the Dallas motorcade were jumbled, somehow, from their pre-planned and pre-numbered assignments. If Rather picked a puzzling location to catch film, he chose an even stranger route back to the Times Herald building for which he says he headed “at a full run.” Then, “I topped the railroad grading a few yards away and paused long enough to shade my eyes and look for the camera truck. It was nowhere in sight.” The railroad dump is twenty-five feet high and there were then five sets of railroad tracks over that underpass. It seems likely the camera truck could have passed under Rather who was getting up on the tracks. But perhaps that strange detour was not really to search for the camera truck. We feel Rather’s eyewitness information dictated that he run to the railroad yards, even from the opposite side from Dealey Plaza where all the people were located. The railroad tracks behind the picket fence are where people and police ran immediately after the shots were fired. Some people were honest enough to say they found men in the railroad track area who had guns, and that some of the questionable characters flashed Secret Service credentials. The Secret Service has always insisted they had no men in the railroad area. So Dan Rather waited to catch film just out of the kill area, saw the President’s car rush past him, and ran where eyewitnesses told the Warren Commission the gunmen were located. These witnesses were untrained, without notebooks. They simply told what they saw. Rather, the professional, interviewed no one, did not take out his notebook, gave no testimony to the Warren Commission. He says: “Perhaps I should have stopped and taken out my notebook, grabbing people and asking questions. But I needed only five seconds to make up my mind to hustle back to the station. I ran every step.” Bravo. But the biggest distortion is what he said he saw when he was one of the few persons in the world privileged to see the Abraham Zapruder film that Saturday morning, November 23. In his narration of the film as part of CBS nationwide television coverage, Rather said the President’ head “went forward with considerable violence.” This narration confirmed the so-called “Oswald position” for the nation, but he said nothing about the violent backward motion of the President’s head which would have strongly suggested a second gunman at that early date. Rather does take care to tell us again that he took no notes. Actually the President’s head went forward for about three inches and the was slammed to the left rear -- NOT consistent with a shot being fired from the “Oswald position” from behind President Kennedy. His book says this about the incident: “At the risk of sounded too defensive, I challenge anyone to watch for the first time a twenty-two second film of devastating impact, run several blocks, then describe what they had seen in its entirety, without notes. Perhaps someone can do it better than I did that day. I only know that I did it as well and as honestly as I could under the conditions. LIFE paid a tremendous price with the stated purpose of withholding the film from the people. This done by a group to whom the people had granted the RIGHT of freedom of the press so the people could be informed. November 2017/Penn Magazine/15

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