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Rob Reiner on His Podcast ‘Who Killed JFK?’: ‘It’s the Greatest Murder Mystery in American History’

The filmmaker offers evidence he says points to a conspiracy


spinner image President John F. Kennedy riding in a motorcade from the Dallas airport into the city.
Bettmann/Getty Images

For the 60th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s Nov. 22 death, Rob Reiner, 76, and Soledad O’Brien, 57, interviewed experts and witnesses for their new podcast Who Killed JFK?, an event which Reiner calls “the greatest murder mystery in American history.” His real-life whodunit relies on new facts that came to light since the 1963 Warren Commission called Lee Oswald the lone gunman and from the 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations, which said a conspiracy of unknown gunmen “probably” killed JFK.

Reiner tells AARP what he learned in making Who Killed JFK?

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Do you think the CIA duped the Warren Commission with a phony story that Lee Oswald was JFK’s lone assassin?

There are 21 witnesses who say the bullet came from the front [not the back, as the lone-gunman theory claimed].  

On our podcast Robert Blakey, lead attorney for the 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations, says he didn’t know then that the gatekeeper assigned to that investigation, George Joannides, was a former CIA agent who headed a counterintelligence program that developed assets for the CIA. [“Assets” are civilians who aren’t CIA agents, but do secret spy work for the agency.] And one of the assets was Lee Harvey Oswald.

What do you think the CIA wanted?

To infiltrate pro-Castro groups to disrupt them. They told Oswald, “You’re gonna open a chapter of the Fair Play for Cuba committee in New Orleans.” The reality is, there wasn’t any. He was the only member in New Orleans.

Fair Play for Cuba really was targeted for destruction by the CIA. Did Oswald know he’d be used to spark an invasion of Cuba?

I do believe he thought he was involved in something, but I don’t think he knew exactly what it was. He got the job at the Book Depository overlooking the motorcade route weeks before, through a woman who was a CIA asset. Her sister or aunt or somebody was a mistress to CIA chief Allen Dulles. This is totally conjecture, but I think Oswald might have let somebody into the Depository that day.

spinner image The mugshots of Lee Harvey Oswald
The Dallas Police Department's mugshots of Lee Harvey Oswald following his arrest for the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
National Archives - JFK/Corbis via Getty Images

You interviewed people who saw Oswald on Nov. 22. Where was he when the shooting began?

In the second-floor lunchroom.

So not the sixth floor, where he’s supposed to have shot JFK, then sprinted down the stairs to the second floor, where cops found him.

Two women who ran down the stairs after the shots didn’t see anyone else there. The cop who came in 30 seconds after the shooting found him completely calm and quiet, sitting drinking a Coke on the second floor.

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As one does after killing a president.

Yeah — Relax, enjoy yourself! I forget what the Coca Cola slogan was back then.

“Things Go Better With Coke.” What did Oswald do then?

When cops came in, he realized something was going wrong. He went out the back, went home, got his gun and went to the Texas Theater. There’s like 20 people there. And he sat down right next to somebody, after a minute or two he gets up and sits next to somebody else, then somebody else.

Why?

The best we can figure is, he was looking for his contact. They arrest him, take him to the Dallas police station, he makes a phone call to a guy named John Hurt in North Carolina — best we can figure, he was trying to call his [CIA] handler, because he did do some training in North Carolina.

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Isn’t it odd that the Dallas Police homicide chief didn’t record his interview with Oswald, nor hire a stenographer?

The Warren Commission also didn’t interview any of the Secret Service agents who saw the shooting.  We have one on the podcast, Paul Landis. He helped Jackie Kennedy out of the limo, and saw this bullet on the back seat. The bullet is now in evidence in the National Archives. It’s pristine.

Strangely intact, since the Warren Commission claimed that bullet caused seven wounds in JFK and John Connally — who, like Jackie, disbelieved the single-bullet theory. If Oswald didn’t kill JFK, who might have?

The best explanation I got was from former CIA agent Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. He said it has all the earmarks of a rogue CIA operation. The CIA was involved in a lot of extrajudicial killings — in the Dominican Republic, Vietnam — and he told me this is how it was done: Off book, you could never trace it back to any kind of an official program. And oddly enough, Rolf identified a shooter he was sure was involved, and it was exactly a shooter that we [Reiner’s research team] had identified separately.

We bring that out in the podcast, along with three other shooters in Dallas that day. One was connected to the mob, one was connected to the Cuban exiles, and one had done a number of these jobs for the CIA and military.

Who would have a motive to kill JFK?

Three major groups. Cuban exiles working with the CIA, who wanted to get back into Cuba after Castro and were furious at Kennedy because he didn’t send air support for the Bay of Pigs invasion.

The second group was the Mafia, mad because they wanted their hotels and casinos back that they lost in the Cuban revolution. And Attorney General Robert Kennedy, JFK’s brother, was putting them behind bars. The CIA worked closely with the Mafia to try to assassinate Castro [who died of natural causes at 90 in 2016].

The third group were hardliners in the CIA and the military, furious that Kennedy didn’t take an opportunity during the Cuban Missile Crisis to go after the Soviet Union.

There’s no question about it: It was a conspiracy.

spinner image The cover art for the "Who Killed JFK?" podcast with Rob Reiner and Soledad O'Brien and filmmaker and podcast host Rob Reiner
The podcast cover art for "Who Killed JFK" (left) and filmmaker/podcast co-host Rob Reiner.
iHeartMedia; Sean Zanni/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

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