Who Shot JFK?
"I've got it! Lee Harvey Oswald wanted to steal the Jack Ruby!"Americans love a conspiracy, and no good show is complete without some theory as to who really offed the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. The Mafia, the Russians, LBJ, Nixon, the FBI, Nazi sleeper agents, the Cigarette-Smoking Man, transnational financial institutions, space aliens, Magneto, some lone nut with a gun, additional gunmen, the crew of the Enterprise NCC-1701, Waldo, a time-displaced version of himself, the Comedian, Your Mom, all of the above at once — the number of variations on this theme, combined with the effect that it had on the American psyche, have made it a fertile ground for TV, book and film plots since the day Kennedy got shot. A good topic for a Seinfeldian Conversation. Frequently played for humor. Incidentally, preventing the Kennedy assassination, or finding out who really did it, seems to be the second-biggest pastime of time travellers (the biggest being causing that of a certain other historical figure). This may be the best evidence to demonstrate that there is no such thing as time travel: If time travel were possible, there wouldn't be room on the grassy knoll for a second gunman. Truth in Television, as this is a perennial topic for conspiracy theorists, involving such controversies as the "magic bullet" and the "grassy knoll", aided by the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald by nightclub owner Jack Ruby (who was alleged by some conspiracy theorists to have mob ties) two days afterwards on live TV. For what it's worth, in Real Life the actual motives and events behind Kennedy's death remain hotly disputed (amongst nonexperts), but the 'Lone Gunman' theory remains the official, most complete, and accurate version of events according to general consensus.
— Homer Simpson, The Simpsons
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- This controversial commercial.
Anime & Manga
- In Mahoromatic (the anime version only), it was Management, who did it to prevent Kennedy from revealing the existence of Saint and/or Management to the public. In the manga version, it was a fictional president named "Greg" who was assassinated instead, and there was a mention of an earlier president (whose name wasn't stated) who was assassinated by Management / the Keepers for having seen a Saint spacecraft.
- In The Professional: Golgo 13, the Kennedy assassination was revealed to have been carried out by the FBI at the request of Corrupt Corporate Executive Leonard Dawson.
- In Lupin III: Alcatraz Connection, it was the shutdown of Alcatraz that led to the JFK assassination. Explanation: Nearly all Americans were led to believe that Alcatraz was a prison for the many dangerous criminals and gangsters when, in fact, it was an underground city where they (and even the wardens) lived together and could do whatever they want; it was their so-called "paradise". When John Kennedy found out about this, he ordered the prison to be closed for good. The ex-Alcatraz prisoners weren't very happy about that and took matters in their own hands. Immediately after the assassination, they also killed a witness to cover up the truth. After that, when John's brother Robert Kennedy resigned as attorney and joined the following election, he was assassinated by them too.
- Billy Bat: The conspiracy offed Kennedy to fulfill the Billy Bat's commands. Oswald was at work in the level beneath the shooter's, watching the parade, and became the fall guy.
- Alan Moore really likes this one.
- 1963 has both "Leo Harley Osborne" and the men on the grassy knoll, all acting on orders from the communist supervillain the Red Brain, as the would-be assassins. The assassination itself is foiled due to the efforts of a time-traveling Nineties Anti-Hero and the Ultimate Special Agent.
- In Watchmen, it is hinted that The Comedian and Richard Nixon are somehow connected to the assassination in that story's timeline (the Comedian later quips "just don't ask me where I was when I heard the news"), while the movie actually shows The Comedian in the act. But in Before Watchmen, it's revealed that the Comedian definitely didn't do it. (And before you reach for that editing button, remember that it's up to each individual reader to decide for themselves whether Before Watchmen is canon or not.)
- The First American from the Tomorrow Stories is hinted to have accidentally done this while being Kennedy's chauffeur.
- Then there is that comic where Kennedy arranges his own assassination because he caught his wife getting it on with a snake demon and enjoying it... You know... (It was in Hellblazer, during the short-lived run by Warren Ellis but it was more John Constantine telling tall tales to a gullible guy. He also said that that the Royal Family were secretly snake demons and purposefully killed Princess Diana because she was impregnated with one of them.) That last bit about British royalty is actually another Real Life popular conspiracy nut rambling. See David Icke.
- In an issue of Teen Titans meant to replicate the feel of Silver Age craziness, Kennedy wasn't shot. A shapeshifting alien doppelganger had replaced him so the real Kennedy could be brainwashed into fighting a war on the alien's home planet. To make matters worse, the Titans get Kennedy back just in time to see Alien Kennedy getting buried, so instead he decides to become a traveling spaceman superhero.
- The Umbrella Academy
- The Apocalypse Suite alludes to Number Five being involved in the Kennedy assassination, but the point is never elaborated on.
- Dallas reveals that Number Five was sent by the Temps Aeternalis to kill Kennedy, but he changed his mind and instead killed the other assassins. Later (in his personal timeline), he goes back to that day to stop his past self from stopping the assassination. He does so by having his teammate The Rumor pose as Mrs. Kennedy and use her reality-warping powers to kill JFK.
- From DC Comics is the Guy Gardner series. Long story short, during the Zero Hour crossover, Guy shoots at the Big Bad, Extant. The villain transports the shots through time, hinting these may be the blasts that killed Kennedy.
- One Hundred Bullets has Joe DiMaggio, of all people, taking shots from the grassy knoll — he was pissed off over Jack Kennedy stealing Marilyn Monroe, you see. DiMaggio does say that other people were shooting too and he's not sure if his bullets were the fatal ones.
- The second and third issue of the 90s DC/Vertigo series Shade, the Changing Man give us a Sphinx with JFK's head that asks people this question and eats them when they're unable to answer. The JFK-Sphinx's madness is fueled by a Kennedy admirer-turned conspiracy theorist. In the end, he's forced to ask the question, and says we're all responsible, for letting the President's death overshadow his life, but the real truth is confronting the manifestation of his obsession allows him to come to terms with the death of his young daughter, which he can only blame on life's unfairness.
- Red Skull was responsible for this in The Ultimates. The sad thing is that this is one of his lesser crimes.
- From the regular Marvel Universe, meanwhile, we have this gem, courtesy of Ed Brubaker's Captain America run:
SHIELD Agent: We have undeniable evidence linking the Winter Soldier to a dozen assassinations over the last six decades, and circumstantial evidence connecting him to dozens more in the same period.
Lawyer: Good grief. Are you going to claim he shot Kennedy?
SHIELD Agent: No, Kennedy was replaced by a Skrull infiltrator who was subsequently killed by SHIELD before he could start an atomic war.
Lawyer: Ah. (beat) Alright then.
- There was a scene in an issue of Spectacular Spider-Man Vol. 2 (during a storyline which introduced Adriana Soria "The Queen") where Captain America points out to Nick Fury that JFK was killed by "Cuban Nationalists" but it was covered up to prevent war. This was brought up to convince Nick Fury to keep quiet about a WMD that the United States developed during WW2 that would kill everyone except people who possessed the "insect gene", a weapon which The Queen currently had in her possession. Of course this is the same storyline that gave us "Spider-Man: Now with Organic Web Shooters and Insect Telepathy!" Not to mention Spider M-Preg.
- Fitting the Beethoven Was an Alien Spy style Alternate History of The Manhattan Projects, Oswald is revealed to be the fall guy for William Westmoreland, using Leslie Groves' magic bullet, under the orders of Lyndon Johnson in retaliation Kennedy's attempt to take over the titular Projects.
- In the original comic version of Wanted, Mr. Rictus references this trope when he sarcastically claims Lee Harvey Oswald killed Wesley's father. Wesley's father later claims to have "killed presidents from grassy knolls".
- Sue Mary's story JFK's Presidential Showdown has Optimus Prime, who was one of the candidates in the election where Kennedy won, bring John Wilkes Booth (the guy who assassinated Abraham Lincoln) to the future and participate in Kennedy's assassination as "Lee Harvey Oswald".
- In the Paris Burning 'verse, it's strongly implied that Washington DC did it.
Films — Live-Action
- One of the earliest films to discuss the topic was Executive Action, told from the point of view of the conspirators, a bunch of industry tycoons who see Kennedy's increasing liberal ways and mishandling of foreign policy as threats to their interests. (And the further implied threat of Bobby and Ted as President too.) Three gunmen are hired to give "triangulation of fire" and a Lee Harvey Oswald impersonator is sent to be publicly conspicuous before the event.
- Oddly enough, a Spaghetti Western entitled The Price of Power (1969) predates even Executive Action. This movie transposes the assassination to 1881 Dallas, with James Garfield standing in for Kennedy. Price of Power makes heavy use of JFK lore: the First Lady wearing Jackie Kennedy's pink dress, the Zapruder-style staging of the assassination, the "impossible accuracy" of the shooter, the fall guy assassinated, the Vice President conspiring with big business to achieve power (though more sympathetically portrayed than LBJ usually is). The villains here are unreconstructed Confederates and local businessmen opposed to Garfield's civil rights platform.
- At the end of The Rock, Nicolas Cage recovers the microfilm (containing everything the government doesn't want you to know) that Sean Connery's character had stolen and caused him to be locked away for so many years. As he drives away from the hiding-place, he looks through the film and asks his wife "You wanna know who really killed JFK?" Which doesn't make sense, however — Sean Connery's character went to prison before JFK was shot. Of course, you could explain it by assuming that the big conspiracy had to be planned years earlier...
- JFK did not reach any real tangible conclusions about the assassination, aside from that there must have somehow been a conspiracy; the film instead was essentially an allegory for the general public's frustration on not knowing the definitive truth about the assassination.
- It does, however, effectively perform character assassination on the late Clay Shaw by hammering on him being responsible.
- Kevin Costner's character in Bull Durham concludes a famous (though dramatically unjustified) rant by saying "I believe that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone." Of course, this is not what he believed as Jim Garrison in JFK. The year JFK was nominated for Best Picture, a clip of the Bull Durham line was shown at the Oscars. It got a big laugh.
- Oliver Stone's follow-up movie, Nixon, also carried a subtext about the assassination, as it suggests that one of the things driving Richard Nixon was his sheer paranoia that "the whole Bay of Pigs thing" would be blown open by Watergate — with "the Bay of Pigs" code for some kind of real-or-imagined responsibility that Nixon felt for his involvement in events that eventually spiraled out of control and led to the assassination. There's also a scene in 1963 where Nixon meets with some shadowy big business and Cuban exile types who urge him to run for president in 1964 and, when Nixon replies that no one's going to beat Kennedy in 1964, knowingly suggest "Suppose Kennedy don't run in '64?" The day after the meeting? November 22nd 1963.
- There's an element of truth here; by a curious quirk of fate, Nixon actually did happen to be in Dallas on November 22 1963, and left the city mere hours before Kennedy arrived. He'd been there several days on business for a New York law firm he was working for after his failed run for Governor of California in 1962. That he also met with a sinister cartel with implied links to the Kennedy assassination is, of course, pure conjecture, but needless to say, this little fact has generated plenty of interest from conspiracy theorists.
- The sketch at the beginning of the Italian comedy film Tre uomini e una gamba has the three main characters (a trio of well-known Italian comedy actors) as bumbling Mafia goons who are revealed to be the ones who shot Kennedy. See here.
- In Armageddon (the Bruce Willis movie), not even The Impending End Of The World As We Know It could make the government cough up this secret. Of course, it might have been that not even the government actually knew.
- The Wrong Guy gets a honorable mention for its offside proposal of the No Bullet Theory.
Hitchhiker: His head just did that.
- In the James Woods vehicle True Believer, the only eyewitness to the shooting Woods' client did not commit is a conspiracy-obsessed street person. He has to be coached for hours to answer "Lee Harvey Oswald" when the DA tries to discredit him. Later, when the witness' other loopy claim (the victim was not shot by an Asian man) proves true, Woods throws in the line "Does this mean the phone company killed Kennedy?".
- My Boss's Daughter: "Desi... Arnaz. His life just changed."
- Sneakers includes a brief conversation between former CIA agent Crease and conspiracy theorist "Mother": "You're telling me the NSA killed Kennedy?" "No, they shot him, but they didn't kill him. He's still alive."
- In Bubba Ho Tep, He's Just Hiding in a retirement home with Elvis and fighting an evil mummy. To prevent him from being recognized, the CIA turned him into a black man.
- In the early stages of production on Star Trek II, Gene Roddenberry proposed a storyline in which the time-traveling crew of the Enterprise assassinates JFK to repair a corrupted timeline. Paramount rejected it, of course, and demoted Roddenberry from executive producer to executive consultant.
- In National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, the heroes find the book with all of the nation's secrets. It had a page with the truth about the JFK assassination on it, but they were in such a hurry to find the next Plot Coupon that they didn't have time to look at it, much to Riley's disappointment.
- Shooter (2007). The ex-sniper protagonist is called in to advise on a planned sniper attempt on the President of the United States, only to discover he's the fall guy for the actual assassination. Later he consults a firearms expert on how the hit could have been carried out, and the JFK assassination theory is discussed.
Mr. Rate: That's how a conspiracy works. Them boys on the Grassy Knoll they were dead within three hours, buried in the damned desert, unmarked graves out past Terlingua.
Nick Memphis: You know this for a fact?
Mr. Rate: Still got the shovel...
- The Captain America (1990) movie showed that The Red Skull trained Oswald, as well as Sirhan Sirhan (Robert Kennedy) and James Earl Ray (Martin Luther King).
- Zoolander reveals that all the major political assassinations of the past few centuries were pulled by the fashion industry. The intrepid reporter notes that Oswald wasn't a model; however, the Conspiracy Theorist reveals, the two guys on the Grassy Knoll were.
- As noted in the Comics section above, the film version of Watchmen depicts The Comedian as Kennedy's killer, in league with Richard Nixon. The comic, however, only implies this. It further implies that Blake posed as an informant (presumably Deep Throat) and killed Woodward and Bernstein.
- Flash Point (1984). Two Texas Rangers discover a buried jeep with a skeleton, a rifle, and $800,000 in cash out in the desert. They think their fortunes are made; unfortunately it turns out the dead man was the real assassin of JFK and so the US Government is willing to go to great lengths to destroy the evidence, and anyone who's seen it.
- In Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Ace loudly explains "I CAME TO CONFESS! I was the second gunman on the grassy knoll!" when his (unwanted) presence at the police station is questioned.
- In Annie Hall Woody Allen's character flashes back to him arguing with one of his ex-wives played by Carol Kane about who killed JFK.
- One of the skits in the comedy film The Kentucky Fried Movie is a commercial for the board game "Scot Free" about the JFK assassination.
- Salt: Salt (played by Angelina Jolie) interviews an aging former Soviet agent, who claims that Lee Harvey Oswald was substituted with a Soviet Body Double early on during his time in Russia, who went on to carry out the shooting.
- In The House of Yes, the main character confuses JFK's murder with the (possible) murder of her father, implicating that her mother killed JFK. She was not well.
- In The Salton Sea, Vincent D'Onofrio's character "Pooh-Bear" is introduced re-enacting the assassination... with pigeons!
- Matt Vaughn has said he wants to open a sequel to X-Men: First Class with Magneto killing Kennedy by controlling the Magic Bullet with his powers.
- The Bent Bullet, part of the ARG campaign for X-Men: Days of Future Past, has Magneto as the man on the grassy knoll, having used his powers to alter the trajectory of Oswald's bullet, which led to Kennedy's death. However, it is implied that Magneto was trying to stop the shooter... who was actually Mystique and not the real Oswald (Though this would seem out of character with her portrayal in the film, where she is stated to have never tried to kill anyone before Trask). In the film itself, Magneto is being held in the Pentagon for it, but claims to Xavier that he was trying to save Kennedy because he was a mutant. We never find out if he was lying or not.
- The film and novel Winter Kills is a fictionalized version of a Kennedy conspiracy theory, where the late President's brother (Jeff Bridges) hears the confession of a man who claims to have been the second gunman - in the course of investigating, Bridges discovers his and the President's own father behind the assassination.
- At a low point in A Few Good Men, Kaffee sarcastically suggests that since the lawyers' hard work has served so far only to make their clients look guilty as hell, "if we work hard, maybe we can get Dawson charged with the Kennedy assassination."
- Stephen King's 11/22/63, deals with Jake Epping, a man from 2011, attempting to prevent the assassination of Kennedy by going back in time. He has five years in which to do it (he can only go back to September 9, 1958), but he refuses to make a move against Oswald until he can be as sure as he can that Oswald was the lone gunman. He'd be wasting his time if the conspiracy theorists were correct and Oswald was just a piece that could be replaced. King's version of events dismisses the conspiracy theories; Oswald is acting alone and independently. Jake and Sadie manage to distract him just as he fires the first shot. It goes wide and the assassination is prevented. But when Jake returns to 2011, he finds that his meddling has caused the whole world to go to shit.
- Stanley Shapiro's A Time to Remember is about a man who goes back in time, and specifically to the book depository just a few minutes before Kennedy was killed, to stop the assassination. Unfortunately, he gets there too late, he gets blamed for the assassination, and Lee Harvey Oswald is labeled a hero for helping capture him. Eventually, the man who built the time machine the hero uses goes back himself the day before the assassination and completely averts Hitler's Time Travel Exemption Act.
- The Illuminatus! Trilogy had a field day with this; Oswald is about to shoot when he spots the man on the grassy knoll, who in turn is about to shoot when he sees a rifle poking out of a sewer grate, who in turn.... In its entirety, there was Oswald in the book depository, Harry Coin at the sewer at the Triple Underpass, a mafia gunman on the roof of a nearby restaurant, John Dillinger (one out of five) on the Grassy Knoll, and a fifth man behind him, who actually shot the fatal shots. Motive? Kennedy's speech about the final frontier made the stock prices of "Blue Sky Inc." skyrocket, just after the man had sold all his shares.
- Robert A. Heinlein's novel Friday has the protagonist summarize the topic of the assassination by stating that, even though all events before, during, and after the killing were well documented, even in the future of the story, it's impossible to tell "who shot him, how many shot him, how many times he was shot, who did it, why it was done, and who was involved in the conspiracy if there was a conspiracy."
- The Discworld novel Jingo uses the assassination of a visiting dignitary in Ankh-Morpork to spoof the JFK conspiracy theories. The Watch come to the conclusion that he was shot in the back by a man in front of him who couldn't possibly have used the bow. Stealth Pun: One witness is a troll-related creature known as a "gnoll". Gnolls are essentially living heaps of dirt, so of course he is covered with grass. Worse than that, a slang term for an informer is a "grass" — so he was a gnolly grass...
- The Bourne Identity. Jason Bourne reads a magazine article suggesting that Carlos was the killer, disguised as a known homeless man who was later found dead.
- Don DeLillo's Libra is a fictional biography of Lee Harvey Oswald with a bit of Greek tragedy that has him blaming fate for the shooting in Dallas. To be specific, Oswald in the book is not the only gunman; there are also two guys on the grassy knoll, one of whom fires the fatal headshot. The conspiracy is cooked up by a bunch of disgruntled CIA operatives who initially just want there to be a rumour about a planned assassination, but then realise that they'll have to do it for real.
- In Meat Loaf's autobiography To Hell and Back, Mr. Loaf tells a story about meeting an alleged international crime boss, and jokingly asking who really shot Kennedy. He was apparently met with a stony glare and the response that "If I were you, I would never ask that question again."
- In one of a series of Columbo tie-in novels each involving famous crimes of the past, Columbo's homicide investigation touches on the JFK assassination. It turns out that there really was a conspiracy to kill Kennedy, but Oswald beat the hired assassin to the punch. Said assassin then skips town with his pay before the conspiracy realizes that Oswald was the killer, thus sparking the events of the book.
- James Ellroy's Underworld USA Trilogy (American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand and Blood's a Rover) is all about this and the fallout, as well as the Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy assassinations. Ellroy pins it on a combination of the Mob, Cuban exiles, FBI agents and right wing extremists.
- In Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, there is a book with the title "How America Was Saved From Communism: Elvis Shot JFK."
- Nicholas A. DiChario's story "The Winterberry" is told from the point-of-view of a brain-damaged JFK, officially dead and hidden away in order to avert a national crisis.
- In Rene Barjavel's The Immortals, JFK is assassinated because while under the influence of strong pain drugs (famously prescribed for his back) he deliberately infected himself with the immortality virus that is at the core of the plot, convinced he is the only person who can save humanity from Communism and/or global thermonuclear war. The virus incubates for days or weeks before rendering the host immortal (and contagious) and the Dallas trip falls into the incubation window. So, in a unique take, JFK is assassinated so that all other life on Earth can live.
- In the novel Replay by Ken Grimwood, the protagonist attempts during one of his "replays" to thwart the assassination of JFK by forging a threatening letter bearing Lee Harvey Oswald's name and address and mailing it to the White House, leading to Oswald's arrest. However, the assassination still plays out exactly the same (including Ruby's assassination of the assassin), except a different man takes Oswald's place, leading to speculation that there was a conspiracy, and the plotters had back-up shooters prepared to step in.
- The Doctor Who novel Who Killed Kennedy reveals the assassination was a plot by The Master to get a nuclear war started, just in time for the First Doctor's arrival on November 22, 1963, and that the attempt was supposed to fail — in order to prevent nuclear catastrophe, the author eventually has to travel back in time and shoot Kennedy himself.
- The Robert Littell novel The Sisters has two CIA agents planning the assassination of Kennedy - never named, but obviously him - by activating a Soviet agent to be one of the assassins, so he can be blamed for it. Of course, then it turns out one of the two agents, as well as the Soviets, has an agenda of his own...
- In the novel The Lacey Confession a very rich old man leaves a deathbed confession stating that he had JFK assassinated. The reasons turn out to have nothing to do with politics at all. He hated Kennedy for purely personal reasons.
- Played with in the Alternate History novel The Two Georges, set in a world where the American Revolution was resolved peacefully, which features an assassination very similar to several theories of the Kennedy assassination, including snipers apparently at work from behind a nearby grassy knoll... except that the victim in this case is an alternate version of Richard Nixon, not Kennedy. Kennedy himself is still alive, but in this world is a newspaper publisher.
- In the President's Vampire series, this assassination was, much like nearly everything else in the series, engineered by the Shadow Company. Though it turns out that was just stage one of the plan — they were also supposed to blow up Air Force One while Johnson was onboard being sworn in, then leave evidence that pointed towards Cuban agents, in order to trigger World War III. Fortunately, Cade hunted down and killed the team responsible, before this could happen.
- According to The AMLASH Legacy, an unpublished Roman à Clef written by former CIA agent David Atlee Phillips, Lee Harvey Oswald was assigned to AMLASH, the CIA's project to assassinate Fidel Castro, but became a Rogue Agent and assassinated Kennedy by following the same tactical plan.
- Parodied in an episode in which Newman and Kramer describe an incident about someone spitting on one of them that reflected the events of the JFK assassination. Jerry then acts as the token Conspiracy Theorist by claiming Kramer's story is "impossible" then has the two reenact the scene and claims, "There must have been a second spitter." It's even funnier when you know that Wayne Knight, who plays Newman was also in the movie JFK which came out just before the episode aired and was used in the exact same way in the courtroom demonstration of the "magic bullet" theory by Kevin Costner's character!
- In another episode, Kramer has become convinced Jerry is in some way connected to the CIA and his life as a New York comedian has been a cover. "He might even know who killed Kennedy!"
- In a comic sketch on Chappelle's Show, Dave Chappelle as the President reveals to the world that JFK was killed by Oswald acting alone. With a magic bullet. Literal magic.
"Yes. Magic is real. We've known about it for almost two thousand years."
- Comedian Bill Hicks used this one absolutely straight in his routines. "Back and to the left, back and to the left".
- On Angel, a conspiracy theorist character encounters the goddess Jasmine, who clears up the mystery and tells him that there was no second gunman, and Oswald acted alone. However, it is revealed in the fifth season that Joe Kennedy had made a deal with Wolfram and Hart and then tried to back out of it. Fred comments that this explains a lot.
- Dark Skies
- Majestic 12 had him killed after the protagonist told him and Bobby the truth about Roswell and The Men in Black. Jack Ruby, on the other hand, was an agent of the Hive.
- The protagonist also recounts the story to the Warren Commission, but they don't buy the ludicrous story about aliens and conspiracies. Nevertheless, his testimony is still included in the locked archives of the investigation.
- In an episode of Early Edition, Gary finds the real shooter and prevents him from assassinating the current president.
- The Invisible Man TV series had a brief reference to this.
- NewsRadio: In Bill's goodbye letter to Jimmy James, he thanks him for letting him in on who really killed Kennedy.
- In one flashback in The Pretender, young Jarod is pretending Oswald's part, and concludes that he wasn't acting alone.
- In a famous episode of Quantum Leap, Sam and Al puzzled about it while he leapt back and forth through the life of Lee Harvey Oswald. In the end, they determine that Oswald acted alone, and Sam leaps out of his body and into Secret Service agent Clint Hill just in time for Oswald to make the shot. Sam's mission was to keep Oswald from killing Jackie Kennedy, who had died in the "original" timeline, according to Al. Al is actually a conspiracy theorist at first; when Sam's experiences change his mind, he memorably remarks that "It's more comforting to believe in plots, because if Kennedy could be killed that easily, by one sicko, what hope is there for the rest of us?"
The series' creator, Donald P. Bellisario, had actually served with Lee Harvey Oswald in the Marines, and wanted to show that yes, Oswald was willing and capable of doing this on his own, something many people had a hard time believing. (Remember that odd scene with Sam-as-Oswald talking to some random Marine who finds his copy of The Daily Worker? That was a dramatization of Bellisario's real meeting with Oswald.)
- Red Dwarf had the crew causing a Bad Future by accidentally knocking Oswald out of the window (in the process of going back in time to replenish the ship's depleted stock of curry), and had to bring the now not-dead JFK himself back through time to shoot himself from the grassy knoll to restore his place in history. Especially hilarious since suggesting that the time traveling Star Trek crew kill JFK to fix a corrupted timeline is what cost Gene Roddenberry his Protection from Editors.
JFK: You mean... assassinate myself?
Lister: Yeah. It'll drive the conspiracy nuts crazy, but they'll never figure it out.
- The Colbert Report
- At one point on his show, Stephen Colbert deduced that JFK traveled back in time and killed himself.
- In another episode, he claims that Jackie killed Kennedy. And in another, he blamed Bigfoot. In yet another, he says that he believes Lee Harvey Oswald killed him... but that he was a robot built by the Cuban government.
- In an episode of The Twilight Zone revival, a time-travelling history professor prevented the JFK assassination which resulted in time correcting himself by having Khrushchev be assassinated instead and creating a timeline where mankind's extinction via nuclear war between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. is inevitable. When informed of this, Kennedy volunteers to go back, which impresses the professor so much that he sends JFK to the future and he himself takes the president's place in the motorcade so that he can't be in the crowd to prevent the assassination in the first place, returning the timeline to normal. The (boringly obvious) Aesop? Don't mess around with history. Extra bonus points for the professor being JFK's very distant descendant (but not an Identical Grandson), and JFK becoming a professor of history himself.
- In one episode of Walker, Texas Ranger, Walker is tracking down "The Viper", a notorious assassin. While talking with an Interpol agent, it eventually comes out that The Viper was the second shooter. It's also revealed that a very young Walker was at the parade, and very few feet away from JFK when he was shot.
- On Witchblade, Sara was investigating the murder of a guy who made off with the video made of Kennedy's murder, while being haunted by the ghost of JFK herself.
- The X-Files
- The Cigarette-Smoking Man claims to have killed Kennedy (and Martin Luther King as well), though it's not clear whether or not he's being truthful. Indeed, he is equally as dishonest as he is evil.
- In "Unusual Suspects" Byers asks this question to X, who snidely replies "I heard it was the work of a lone gunman.". This inspires Byers and his friends to name themselves The Lone Gunmen.
- On Strangers with Candy, Mr. Noblet tells his history class that syphilis is one of the most destructive forces in human history ("right up there with Germans"): "It wiped out the Romanovs, it decimated our fleet at Pearl Harbor, and of course, Fidel Castro impersonated Marilyn Monroe and gave President Kennedy a case of syphilis so severe that eventually it blew the back of his head off." Incidentally, Chuck Noblet is played by Stephen Colbert, mentioned above.
- Happens on Bones when his skeleton is brought in by The Men in Black. Of course it turns out that there was a second shooter, which then leads to Booth getting really upset, and then they find out that it wasn't the skeleton of JFK anyway. Maybe?
- Doctor Who:
- "The Deadly Assassin" riffs off this as a Whole Plot Reference - the Doctor gets framed for assassinating the Lord President of Gallifrey with a sniper shot from a high vantage, and has to prove a second gunman did it.
- The first episode of the revised has a man reveal the Doctor was present at the assassination, with the tone of his voice suggesting he believed the Doctor something to do with it. It's never mentioned again, but the implication from the photo (and given what we know about him) is that the Doctor was actually there to find out for himself what was going on. It's never alluded to again, however.
- The History Channel did a program about the assassination in which they put (1) a man in a bucket truck; (2) at the exact same height as the window in the Texas School Book Depository; (3) with a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle exactly the same as Oswald's; (4) pointing at a similar convertible automobile; (5) at the same distance from the bucket truck as the book depository window was from Dealey Plaza; (6) holding dummies made of ballistics gel; (7) with pig bones in the same places as the appropriate bones struck in President Kennedy and Governor Connolly; (8) placed in the same positions in the vehicle as the two men were in the original automobile; (9) which was being towed at the same speed as the original vehicle was driven, and had the man take three shots at the car. The examination found that (1) the man who made the shots could make them with the rifle fast as was claimed; (2) the bullets followed virtually the identical trajectory as the original ones were reported to have done as the "single bullet" theory and was only off by a tiny fraction of an inch due to differences in the bone, including going through one body and into the other one. While it doesn't completely prove the single bullet theory, it makes an extremely strong case that it is a credible argument: that the entire killing and injuries to the second person could reasonably have been the result of the one bullet, caused by one man shooting from the 6th Floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. (Unless that's what they WANT you to think...)
Note that in the above example they went so far as to use fans to generate the exact same wind speed that occurred that day and would have been generated by the car's speed. They also had fluid in the ballistics dummies designed to replicate bodily fluids, and the spatter pattern of the green gel in the mock car matched that from the assassination car and even replicated the "cloud" pattern seen on the Zapruder Film. They also took their sharpshooter (a Sandhurst-trained champion marksman, brought in so they could be sure he'd hit the same spot the assassin hit on the skull, i.e. a target the size of a dime) to three of the purported "second gunman" sites and had him attempt to sight on a car with actors positioned exactly as Kennedy and Jackie were during the final shot. He determined firing from the sewer (à la The X-Files) would be impossible, a gunman on the overpass wouldn't be able to see Kennedy, and a gunman on the grassy knoll would have resulted in either a dead Jackie (via a through-and-through shot with jacketed ammunition) or a Kennedy with no head left on his corpse (with a soft-nosed round more like what a "professional" sniper would be likely to use). The show went well beyond most investigations in not only showing the Lone Gunman theory as plausible but the alternatives as impossible. Unless that's what they WANT you to think....
- A similar History Channel show tested the idea that Oswald couldn't have gotten down to the break room in the amount of time it took for the police to arrive by having someone of Oswald's size and fitness level attempt it. He didn't even need to walk particularly fast. They then had him walk Oswald's supposed route that eventually led him to his confrontation with Officer Tippet, that was said to be impossible for Oswald to travel in the amount of time he had. Again, the stand-in did so without even breaking a sweat.
- PBS' Nova analyzed the ballistics of the assassination in "Cold Case JFK", and again demonstrated that the "magic bullet" really could do what it was claimed to. Carcano bullets have weird ballistic properties, including extremely high material penetration and a tendency to tumble after striking objects. This explains the "magic bullet" inflicting the wounds it did on the governor (it hit him traveling sideways and ended up slightly flattened), and the horrific damage to Kennedy's brain (it tumbled as it passed through).
- The Murdoch Mysteries episode "Back and to the Right", despite being set around 60 years prior to the Kennedy assassination, nonetheless homages most aspects of the conspiracy theories with an apparent assassination attempt on the mayor of Toronto.
- In the QI episode "Journeys", Stephen comments that, unlike everyone else in the show, he's old enough to remember the assassination. Phil Jupitus suggests that he remembers it because he was standing on a grassy knoll with a rifle in his hand.
- The In Search Of episode "Lee Harvey Oswald" suggests that the KGB did it in revenge for the Soviet Union's humiliation in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The case of Yuri Nosenko is discussed, and it's claimed that the FBI killed an investigation of Nosenko because they didn't want to admit they had failed to properly investigate whether Oswald was a Russian agent. Some talking heads tell us that Oswald was replaced by a Soviet double and that his diary was a Soviet forgery. The show offers no explanation for who fired from the grassy knoll, but nevertheless insists that some unknown person did.
- "After all, it was you and me", at least according to The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil".
- There's a (comedic) Laura Cantrell song called "Lee Harvey was a Friend of Mine" about how Mr. Oswald was too nice a guy to kill Kennedy.
- Obliquely mentioned in the They Might Be Giants song "Purple Toupee":
I remember the book depository
Where they crowned the King of Cuba
That's all I can think of, but I'm sure there's something else
Way down inside me, I can feel it coming back.
- New Order's song "1963" is based on the theory that this was an attempt by John F. Kennedy to Murder the Hypotenuse (Jackie) Gone Horribly Wrong.
- The Misfits' song "Bullet".
- The Music Video for the "Reload" song by Ministry is a spoof of the assassination with the band members playing the various roles. A series of people are shown taking a shot, including Marilyn Monroe, Andy Warhol, The Pope, Nixon, Castro, an alien and Jesus with a nail gun!
- Chumbawamba's "Everything You know Is Wrong".
See my silhouette, in the Super 8, around the Grassy Gnoll
- The Postal Service's "Sleeping In."
Last week I had the strangest dream
Where everything was exactly how it seemed
Where there never any mystery on who shot John F. Kennedy
It was just a man with something to prove
Slightly bored and severely confused
He steadied his rifle with his target in the center
And became famous on that day in November
- Andy Prieboy's "Tommorrow Wendy" (although the Concrete Blonde cover is probably better known):
Underneath the chilly grey November sky
You can make believe that Kennedy is still alive
And we're shooting for the Moon
And smiling Jackie's driving by
They say "Goodbye"
- Jonathan Coulton's song "The Presidents" had this line:
Kennedy was killed by a magic bullet
- In a MAD article "Commemorative Plates of Revisionist History" (issue #373) JFK is depicted shooting himself, because his plot to turn over the US government to the Pope was about to be exposed.
- Speaking of MAD, they filled a whole page with unusual conspiracy theories, ranging from Onassis (cue to tanker on the crime scene) via Zapruder (you still think that it was just a camera?) to "we all did it" (obviously a nod to the Rolling Stones, see above).
- According to a deleted scene in Team America: World Police, it was Winnie the Pooh.
Spottswoode: That cock-sucking bear killed Jack Kennedy!
- Conspiracy X has one of the most convoluted explanations in any mdeium: Kennedy found out that his Secret Service agents were working for Aegis (the default conspiracy for the player characters), and tried to blackmail them into becoming his own personal covert operations team. So Aegis decided that Kennedy had to go and got Oswald, one of the successful MKULTRA subjects to take him out. On the day, Oswald fired two shots but was interrupted by a Black Book (a rival conspiracy to Aegis) agent sent to stop Oswald as part of agreement they had made with the President once Black Book got wind of the the assassination, but Oswald got away by shooting the Black Book agent who survived due to a Bullet Proof Vest (accounting for the three shells found in the book depository).
It get weirder: the two shots Oswald fired were so off-target they wouldn't kill Kennedy, so two psychics that Aegis had kept as back-up made the bullets zig-zag through the President (a reference to the "magic bullet" trajectory). But this was still wasn't the the kill shot, which came from a mysterious shooter using an unknown quiet weapon who shot at the same time as Oswald from the Grassy Knoll, and hit Kennedy's head. It's that sort of game.
- Twilight Struggle utilizes this as the "Lone Gunman" card, a Mid-War 1-op Soviet event card that allows the Soviet player to look at the US player's hand and then play 1 operation point on the board - it's effectively the Soviet version of the Early War card "CIA Created". The game makes no claim that the Soviets had any hand in the assassination; rather it represents Soviet willingness to capitalize on the chaos caused by the shocking event.
- In Assassins, Oswald is the shooter, with Presidential assassins (successful or not), from John Wilkes Booth clear through to John Hinckley, in the Texas Schoolbook Depository encouraging him. Booth even makes references to the various conspiracy theories.
- The Reduced Shakespeare Company play The Complete History of America (abridged) parodies this trope. The "Shot Heard Round The World" that started the American Revolution is said to have been "fired from the fourth floor of the Lexington and Concord Scroll Depository" by an unknown person, moving along a bizarre trajectory including at least one U-turn, and ultimately killing seventy-three people — at least, if you believe the Official Benedict Arnold Committee Report. At the end of the play, Conspiracy Guy makes a dying confession that he, not Oswald, shot JFK, and also claims responsibility for killing RFK, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Marilyn Monroe, and J.R.
- Deus Ex: DeBeers implies that the Illuminati had JFK killed when he said too much.
Lucius DeBeers: We don’t equivocate about outsiders, do we? Mr. Kennedy mentions a ‘plot’ during a speech at Columbia University, he’s out, no discussion, no matter that we got him elected. But a student of ours, an initiate — oh, heavens, no!
- The controversial JFK: Reloaded recreates that fateful day from Lee Harvey Oswald's point of view, the point of the challenge being whether the shots fired according to the Warren Commission can be reproduced by the player. That's: three shots, one right in front of the car, the second causing one injurylocation in Kennedy and threelocation in Connally, and the final one taking off the back of Kennedy's head. (Oswald missed with the first two shots.)
- Of course, this game makes it so depressingly easy to assassinate the president that a lot of players try to make the kill in all sorts of...uh...creative ways (like shooting the driver, causing the car to crash).
- An official Skirmish map in Command & Conquer: Tiberian Sun was called "Grassy Knoll". The map featured an urban area (that looked roughly like the place of shooting with regards to the road and the building placement) and a grassy elevation. On top of the elevation was a single custom unit called "Assassin" whose weapon used the "sniper rifle" sound clip and had little effect on vehicles but high damage on infantry.
- There's an official CTF map in Unreal Tournament 2004 named Grassy Knoll. Besides an abundance of sniper rifles, though, there isn't much of a similarity.
- Assassin's Creed. The Templars killed him because he was going to go public with the existence of the Pieces of Eden. Oswald actually did the deed, Zapruder was his backup, and the shooter on the grassy knoll was a Piece of Eden-created illusion meant to confuse witnesses and muddle up the investigation.
Operation: New Frontier
HQ has given the go-ahead to extract the resource. Negotiations are over. F. is planning to give the vote to everyone. Reason just doesn't work with someone like that.
I'll send you the driver. We've trained him with PE2 in our labs, he shouldn't be any trouble.
The motorcade route is marked below. Once the target has been downed, either by Oswald or Z., use PE1 to stage a distraction. Make some kind of phantom appear around this slope I've marked with an X. Freak people out. The driver will grab PE3 in the confusion.
- In Call of Duty: Black Ops, it's implied that the main character, Alex Mason, was the one who killed JFK due to being conditioned mentally with number codes after being captured by the Russians. It may still have been Lee Harvey Oswald though, as Mason's brain washing was hijacked by Reznov and redirected at Reznov's enemies, who were in charge of the whole brain washing thing. The end credit scene where a brainwashed agent assassinates Kennedy is done from first person, so we don't know who it actually was..
- Word of God says that in the Metal Gear Solid universe, The Boss killed JFK. This never comes up, though.
- Referenced in Psychonauts in the Milkman Conspiracy level. Raz must navigate a field of trench-coat wearing G-Men holding rifles while another shooter tries to hit him from the Book Depository.
- In Gone Home, Terry, Sam and Katie's father, have made a fictional book based on serveral conspiracies in his attempt to become a known writer. The game barely touches on what the book is about, but serveral ideas were brainstormed and put up on Terry's wall in his studies, such as JFK being kidnapped and the assassination was a cover-up. The book barely sells, with a majority of the unsold books taking up space in the house. It sends Terry into further despair.
- Parodied in The Onion's faux historical retrospective ''Our Dumb Century'', which alleges that JFK was shot by "CIA, Mafia, Castro, LBJ, Teamsters, Freemasons", and possibly aliens and Governor John Connally as well. His body was then stolen and used for myriad purposes. And all forty-three shooters were gunned down by Jack Ruby.
- A long-circulated piece of Internet humor calling for have America once again become a part of Great Britain has a list of conditions, one of which is "Please tell us who shot JFK. It's been driving us nuts." The American retaliation reads "We'll tell you who shot JFK when you apologise for the Teletubbies."
- SCP Foundation
- A piece of fiction has the Foundation showing the new President around their facilities, trying to convince him that they need utmost secrecy. When he says he's going to tell the truth to the American public, they reveal that they're the ones who killed Kennedy, because he wanted to do the same. And they did it with an actual magic bullet; an SCP official points the gun under her chin and fires, and a D-class personnel member's head explodes.
- They used to have the bullet that killed JFK (and was used in many other historic shootings, like Lexington), but the page has since been removed.
- This video claims (as a joke, probably) that Kennedy was killed by a then two-year-old Barack Obama.
- In 100th Video Spectacular! (MEGA COLLAB)! by Matt Santoro, Zak says that Matt, who was only 28 at the time of the video, helped kill John F. Kennedy.
- Dilbert "The Assistant": The company that Dilbert works for had Kennedy killed, as a marketing stunt to draw attention to their line of pillbox hats. It continues to have "unforseen repercussions".
- Subverted on Duckman. Coming face to face with the leader of a conspiracy, the leader explains all the 20th Century events they're responsible for. When asked about JFK, he just says that was a lone gunman.
- Family Guy
Brian: That joke's not in bad taste, is it?
- Parodied in a cutaway implying that Lee Harvey Oswald was a poor marksman; Oswald is cheering for Kennedy from the sixth story window when he sees a shooter on the grassy knoll about to fire on the president. Drawing a rifle, he takes aim and says "Alright, Lee, time to become an American hero!"
- Also parodied in yet another cutaway when Brian and Stewie travel to a parallel universe in which, quoth, "Frank Sinatra never used his influence to get Kennedy elected, which led to Nixon botching the Cuban Missile Crisis", resulting in a completely vaporized Quahog. When Brian asks who Lee Harvey Oswald shot, Stewie casually replies "Mayor McCheese".
Stewie: Oh who cares, he's a cheeseburger!
- Parodied in Robot Chicken, in which a mongoose with a sniper rifle does the job.
- In Justice League Unlimited, Conspiracy Theorist super-hero The Question is being tortured for information after he stole computer files from a secret government organization plotting against the superheroes of the world. When questioned with "What do you know?" he responds with this gem: "There was a magic bullet. It was forged by Illuminati mystics to prevent us from learning the truth!"
- Dale on King of the Hill is obsessed with basically all conspiracy theories, so it's no shock that this is one of his favorites. He calls the Warren Commission Report his favorite fairy tale, and reads it to his son as a bedtime story. But, one fateful day, when he looks over his detailed scale model and finds he reversed a direction, he comes to a horrific realization: it all makes sense. The Warren Commission Report, what he had previously believed to be laughably impossible, makes perfect, logical, consistent sense. This triggers a bout of depression, a trip to Dallas to see for himself, a run in with a helpful and polite policeman, and a reversal of his seething anti-government views — until Hank needs his paranoid knowledge of local officials and their private details to fix a troubling bureaucracy snafu. Apparently, Dale had been confusing East and West his entire life. Going from that point of view, the Warren Commission's report does in-fact make perfect sense, so it's hard to imagine how Dale ever believed the conspiracy in the first place. Maybe he just likes repeating what he hears.
- Dale at one point mentions to Boomhauer that he didn't think he needed a compass with him to read the report, then asks Boomhauer what direction he is standing in and Boomhauer is unable to respond.
- The Simpsons
- Spoofed when Homer and Marge are said to be looking for "their own mystery", and cuts to the two going through books with a sign saying "Who really shot JFK?". Homer's conclusion? "Lee Harvey Oswald was trying to steal the Jack Ruby!". He's very disappointed when he learns that Jack Ruby was actually a man.
- In another episode, Professor Frink attempts to implicate Marge in the assassination, showing a courtroom a film of the assassination and pausing on a frame when what appears to be Marge's distinctive hairdo can be seen in the background.
- In "Today I Am A Clown", Homer replaces Krusty while the latter studies for his Bar Mitzvah and turns it into a talk show. Lisa mentions that he now has great power to put to good use, as he imagines himself saving Lincoln from the attack at the theater. He's forced to go back to reality, to continue the conversation... and once he said what he had to, he returned to his fantasies: now there is a man aiming at JFK, and both Homer and Lincoln appear in the scene to give him a beating.