Who Killed the Kennedys? Ronald Reagan’s Answer…
Nov 22nd, 2013 @ 11:22 am › Paul G. Kengor
This year marks not only the 50th anniversary of the shooting of John F. Kennedy but also the 45th anniversary of the shooting of Robert F. Kennedy, which occurred in June 1968. Was there a common source motivating the assassins of both Kennedys—that is, Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan?
That renowned political philosopher Mick Jagger speculated on a source. “I shouted out ‘Who killed the Kennedys?’” asks the lyrics in the 1968 song by The Rolling Stones. “When, after all, it was you and me.” The song was titled, “Sympathy for the Devil.” It was, The Rolling Stones suggested, the Devil who had killed the Kennedys, along with his accomplices.
I must say I can’t disagree with that one—a rare area of agreement between me and Mick Jagger.
There is, however, a more earthly answer. And it was provided, surprisingly, by a rising political star in the immediate hours after the shooting of Bobby Kennedy. That star was the new governor of California, Ronald Reagan.
RFK was shot in Governor Reagan’s state. Reagan was no stranger to Bobby Kennedy. He had debated him a year earlier on national television, which didn’t go well for RFK, with Reagan clearly outshining him. Kennedy told his handlers to never again put him on the same stage with “that son-of-a-b—-.”
That debate occurred five years after Bobby Kennedy had intervened to get Reagan fired from his long stint as host of the top-rated GE Theatre on CBS—a fact unknown until it was revealed by Michael Reagan in his excellent book, The New Reagan Revolution. Typical of Reagan, he harbored no bitterness toward RFK. That was quite unlike Bobby Kennedy, a man who personally knew how to hold a grudge.
On June 5, 1968, Reagan was full of nothing but sympathy for RFK. He appeared on the popular television show of Joey Bishop, one of the extended members of Frank Sinatra’s Rat Pack. Bishop and Reagan were old Hollywood friends, and Bishop extended the governor a platform to address the shooting. A transcript of Reagan’s appearance on that show was grabbed by his young chief of staff, Bill Clark, who died just a few months ago. Clark shoved it in a box that ended up in the tack barn at his ranch in central California. It lay there until I, as Clark’s biographer, dug it out three decades later.
That rare surviving transcript reveals a Reagan who spoke movingly about RFK and the entire Kennedy family. Condemning the “savage act,” Reagan pleaded: “I am sure that all of us are praying not only for him but for his family and for those others who were so senselessly struck down also in the fusillade of bullets…. I believe we should go on praying, to the best of our ability.”
But particularly interesting was how Reagan unflinchingly pointed a finger of blame in the direction of Moscow. Reagan noted that Kennedy’s killer, Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian Arab and also a communist, had shot Kennedy because of his support of Israel during the Six Day War that had occurred exactly one year earlier. On that, we now know beyond dispute what Reagan knew then: That war had been shamelessly provoked by the Kremlin.
Looking to exploit divisions in the Middle East and further exacerbate America’s foreign-policy problems at the time (we were mired in Vietnam), Soviet officials cooked up false intelligence reports claiming that Israeli troops had been moved into the Golan Heights and were readying to invade Syria. They peddled the malicious, phony information to Egypt and other Arab states for the explicit purpose of creating a military confrontation with Israel. The Israeli leader, Levi Eshkol, immediately denounced the accusation, telling the Soviet ambassador to his face that there were no Israeli troops there whatsoever, and offering to personally drive him to the Golan at once. Acting on orders, the ambassador flatly refused, shouting “Nyet!” at Eshkol and storming out of the prime minister’s residence. The Egyptians, too, checked their intelligence sources and found no evidence of Israeli troops in the Golan. Nonetheless, the pieces were in motion, and one thing dangerously led to another until everything spiraled out of control. Within mere weeks, the Six Day War was on—precipitated by the Kremlin. The egregious depths of Soviet disinformation spawned a major Middle East war.
RFK supported Israel in that war. Sirhan Sirhan never forgave him for that. He killed him for that.
Again, Ronald Reagan knew about the Soviet role in instigating the conflict, which he apparently pieced together via various reports at the time. As a result, he linked Bobby Kennedy’s assassination to the USSR’s mischief in the Middle East. “The enemy sits in Moscow,” Reagan told Joey Bishop. “I call him an enemy because I believe he has proven this, by deed, in the Middle East. The actions of the enemy led to and precipitated the tragedy of last night.”
Moscow had precipitated the Six Day War in June 1967, which, in turn, had prompted RFK’s assassin in June 1968.
But Reagan wasn’t finished positioning blame where it deserved to be placed. Eight days later, on July 13, 1968, Reagan delivered a forgotten speech in Indianapolis. Both the Indianapolis News and Indianapolis Star reported on Reagan’s remarks, but the only full transcript I’ve seen was likewise located in Bill Clark’s private papers. In that speech, Reagan leveled this charge at international communism, with an earlier Kennedy assassination in mind: “Five years ago, a president was murdered by one who renounced his American citizenship to embrace the godless philosophy of communism, and it was communist violence he brought to our land. The shattering sound of his shots were still ringing in our ears when a policy decision was made to play down his communist attachment lest we provoke the Soviet Union.”
- ARTICLES ~ Who Killed the Kennedys? Ronald Reagan’s Answer… – gmail.com – Gmail (gunnyg2.wordpress.com)
- Michael Reagan, son of Ronald, talks with CBS 13 (wgme.com)
- Sirhan Sirhan, RFK’s assassin, moved to San Diego County prison (fox5sandiego.com)