Killing Kennedy (O'Reilly)

Killing Kennedy:  The End of Camelot
Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, 2012
Henry Holt
336 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780805096668

A riveting historical narrative of the shocking events surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and the follow-up to mega-bestselling author Bill O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln.

Bill O'Reilly recounts in gripping detail the brutal murder of John Fitzgerald Kennedy—and how a sequence of gunshots on a Dallas afternoon not only killed a beloved president but also sent the nation into the cataclysmic division of the Vietnam War and its culture-changing aftermath.

In January 1961, as the Cold War escalates, John F. Kennedy struggles to contain the growth of Communism while he learns the hardships, solitude, and temptations of what it means to be president of the United States. Along the way he acquires a number of formidable enemies, among them Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, and Alan Dulles, director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In addition, powerful elements of organized crime have begun to talk about targeting the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

In the midst of a 1963 campaign trip to Texas, Kennedy is gunned down by an erratic young drifter named Lee Harvey Oswald. The former Marine Corps sharpshooter escapes the scene, only to be caught and shot dead while in police custody.

The events leading up to the most notorious crime of the twentieth century are almost as shocking as the assassination itself. Killing Kennedy chronicles both the heroism and deceit of Camelot, bringing history to life in ways that will profoundly move the reader. This may well be the most talked about book of the year. (From the publisher.)

Author Bios
Bill O'Reily
Birth—September 10, 1949
Raised—Levittown (Long Island), New York, USA
Education—B.A., Marist College; M.A., Boston University;
   M.A., Harvard University
Awards—2 Emmy  Awards (Investigative Journalism); National
   Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Governors' Award
Currently—lives in Manhasset, New York

William James, Jr. is an American television host, author, syndicated columnist and political commentator. He is the host of the political commentary program The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel, which is the most watched cable news television program on American television. During the late 1970s and 1980s, he worked as a news reporter for various local television stations in the United States and eventually for CBS News and ABC News. From 1989 to 1995, he was anchor of the entertainment news program Inside Edition.

O'Reilly is widely considered a conservative commentator though some of his positions diverge from conservative orthodoxy. He is a registered "Independent" (See: Political views of Bill O'Reilly) and characterizes himself as a "traditionalist." He is the author of ten books, and hosted The Radio Factor until early 2009.

Early life and education
O'Reilly was born in New York City to parents William James, Sr., (deceased) and Winifred Angela Drake O'Reilly from Brooklyn and Teaneck, New Jersey, respectively. His ancestors on his father's side lived in County Cavan, Ireland, since the early eighteenth century, and those on his mother's side were from Northern Ireland. The O'Reilly family lived in a small apartment in Fort Lee, New Jersey, when their son was born.  In 1951 his family moved to Levittown, on Long Island. O'Reilly has a sister, Janet.

He attended St. Brigid parochial school in Westbury, and Chaminade High School, a private Catholic boys high school in Mineola. Bill O'Reilly played Little League baseball and was the goalie on the Chaminade varsity hockey team. During his high school years, O'Reilly met future pop-singer icon Billy Joel, whom O'Reilly described as a "hoodlum." O'Reilly recollected in an interview with Michael Kay on the YES Network show CenterStage that Joel...

was in the Hicksville section—the same age as me—and he was a hood. He used to slick it [his hair] back like this. And we knew him, because his guys would smoke and this and that, and we were more jocks.

After graduating from high school in 1967, O'Reilly attended Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York, his father's choice. While at Marist, O'Reilly played punter in the National Club Football Association and was also a writer for the school's newspaper, The Circle. He played semi-professional baseball during this time as a pitcher for the New York Monarchs. An honors student, he majored in history and spent his junior year of college abroad, attending Queen Mary College at the University of London. Hey received his bachelor of arts degree in history in 1971.

After graduating from Marist College at age 21, O'Reilly moved to Miami, Florida, where he taught English and history at Monsignor Pace High School from 1970 to 1972. He returned to school in 1973 and earned a Master's of Arts degree in broadcast journalism from Boston University. While attending BU, he was a reporter and columnist for various local newspapers and alternative news weeklies, including The Boston Phoenix, and did an internship in the newsroom of WBZ-TV. During his time at BU, O'Reilly also was a classmate of future radio talk show host Howard Stern, whom O'Reilly noticed because Stern was the only student on campus taller than he was. In 1995, having already established himself as a national media personality, O'Reilly was accepted to Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government; he received a Master's Degree in public administration in 1996. At Harvard, he was a student of Marvin Kalb.

Broadcasting career
O'Reilly's early television news career included reporting and anchoring positions at WNEP-TV in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where he also reported the weather. At WFAA-TV in Dallas, O'Reilly was awarded the Dallas Press Club Award for excellence in investigative reporting. He then moved to KMGH-TV in Denver, where he won a local Emmy Award for his coverage of a skyjacking. O'Reilly also worked for KATU in Portland, Oregon, WFSB in Hartford, Connecticut, and WNEV-TV (now WHDH-TV) in Boston.

In 1980 O'Reilly anchored the local news-feature program 7:30 Magazine at WCBS-TV in New York. Soon after, as a WCBS News anchor and correspondent, he won his second local Emmy, for an investigation of corrupt city marshals. In 1982 he was promoted to the network as a CBS News correspondent and covered the wars in El Salvador and the Falkland Islands from his base in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He later left CBS over a dispute concerning the uncredited use in a report by Bob Schieffer of riot footage shot by O'Reilly's crew in Buenos Aires during the Falklands conflict.

O'Reilly delivered a eulogy for his friend Joe Spencer, an ABC News correspondent who died in a helicopter crash on January 22, 1986, en route to covering the Hormel meatpacker strike that day. ABC News president Roone Arledge, who attended Spencer's funeral, decided to hire O'Reilly after hearing his eulogy. At ABC, O'Reilly hosted daytime news briefs that previewed stories to be reported on the day's World News Tonight and worked as a general assignment reporter for ABC News programs, including Good Morning America, Nightline, and World News Tonight.

O'Reilly has stated that his interest and style in media came from several CBS and ABC personalities, including Mike Wallace, Howard Cosell, Dick Snyder and Peter Jennings.

Inside Edition
In 1989 O'Reilly joined the nationally syndicated Inside Edition, a tabloid/gossip television program in competition with A Current Affair. He became the program's anchor three weeks into its run, after the termination of original anchor David Frost. In addition to being one of the first American broadcasters to cover the dismantling of the Berlin Wall, O'Reilly also obtained the first exclusive interview with murderer Joel Steinberg and was the first television host from a national current affairs program on the scene of the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

O'Reilly had expressed a desire to quit the show in July 1994, and in 1995 he enrolled at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, where he received a Master's Degree in public administration. His graduate thesis, which he researched in Singapore, was titled "Theory of Coerced Drug Rehabilitation." In his thesis, O'Reilly asserted that supervised mandatory drug rehabilitation would reduce crime, based on the rate of prison return for criminals in Alabama who enrolled in a such program.

The O'Reilly Factor
After Harvard, he was hired by Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of the then startup Fox News Channel, to anchor The O'Reilly Report in 1996. The show was renamed The O'Reilly Factor, after O'Reilly's friend and branding expert John Tantillo's remarks upon the "O'Reilly Factor" in any of the stories O'Reilly told. The program is routinely the highest-rated show of the three major U.S. 24-hour cable news television channels and began the trend toward more opinion-oriented prime-time cable news programming. The show is taped late in the afternoon at a studio in New York City and airs every weekday on the Fox News Channel at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time and is rebroadcast at 11:00 p.m.

O'Reilly's life and career have not been without controversy. Progressive media watchdog organizations such as Media Matters and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting have criticized O'Reilly's reporting on a variety of issues, accusing him of distorting facts and using misleading or erroneous statistics.

After the September 11 attacks, O'Reilly accused the United Way of America and American Red Cross of failing to deliver millions of dollars in donated money, raised by the organizations in the name of the disaster, to the families of those killed in the attacks. O'Reilly reported that the organizations misrepresented their intentions for the money being raised by not distributing all of the 9/11 relief fund to the victims. Actor George Clooney responded, accusing O'Reilly of misstating facts and harming the relief effort by inciting "panic" among potential donors.

Beginning in 2005, O'Reilly periodically denounced George Tiller, a Kansas-based physician who specialized in second- and third-trimester abortions, often referring to him as "Tiller the baby killer." Tiller was murdered on May 31, 2009, by Scott Roeder, an anti-abortion activist, and critics such as's Gabriel Winant have asserted that O'Reilly's anti-Tiller rhetoric helped to create an atmosphere of violence around the doctor. Jay Bookman of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that O'Reilly "clearly went overboard in his condemnation and demonization of Tiller" but added that it was "irresponsible to link O'Reilly" to Tiller's murder. O'Reilly has responded to the criticism by saying "no backpedaling here...every single thing we said about Tiller was true."

In early 2007, researchers from the Indiana University School of Journalism published a report that analyzed O'Reilly's "Talking Points Memo" segment. Using analysis techniques developed in the 1930s by the Institute for Propaganda Analysis, the study concluded that O'Reilly used propaganda, frequently engaged in name calling, and consistently cast non-Americans as threats and never "in the role of victim or hero." O'Reilly responded, asserting that "the terms conservative, liberal, left, right, progressive, traditional and centrist were considered name-calling if they were associated with a problem or social ill." The study's authors claimed that those terms were only considered name-calling when linked to derogatory qualifiers. Fox News producer Ron Mitchell wrote an op-ed in which he accused the study's authors of seeking to manipulate their research to fit a predetermined outcome. Mitchell argued that by using tools developed for examining propaganda, the researchers presupposed that O'Reilly propagandized.

O'Reilly is the main inspiration for comedian Stephen Colbert's satirical character on the Comedy Central show The Colbert Report, which features Colbert in a "full-dress parody" of The O'Reilly Factor. On the show, Colbert refers to O'Reilly as "Papa Bear." O'Reilly and Colbert exchanged appearances on each other's shows in January 2007.

Speaking on ABC's Good Morning America on March 18, 2003, O'Reilly promised that "[i]f the Americans go in and overthrow Saddam Hussein and it's clean [of weapons of mass destruction] ... I will apologize to the nation, and I will not trust the Bush administration again." In another appearance on the same program on February 10, 2004, O'Reilly responded to repeated requests for him to honor his pledge: "My analysis was wrong and I'm sorry. I was wrong. I'm not pleased about it at all." With regard to never again trusting the current U.S. government, he said, "I am much more skeptical of the Bush administration now than I was at that time."

On May 10, 2008, O'Reilly was presented with the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Governors' Award at an Emmy awards show dinner.

Personal life
O'Reilly was married to Maureen E. McPhilmy, a public relations executive. They met in 1992, and their wedding took place in St. Brigid Parish of Westbury on November 2, 1996. They have a daughter, Madeline (born 1998), and a son, Spencer (born 2003).

The O'Reilly couple currently reside in suburban Manhasset, New York, with each of them living in a different house. They separated in April 2, 2010, and were divorced on September 1, 2011.

The O'Reilly Factor: The Good, the Bad, and the Completely Ridiculous in American Life (2000)
The No Spin Zone (2001)
Who's Looking Out For You? (2003)
The O'Reilly Factor For Kids: A Survival Guide for America's Families (2004) with Charles Flowers
Culture Warrior (2006)
Kids Are Americans Too (2007)
A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity: A Memoir (2008)
Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama (2010)
Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever (2011) with
   Martin Dugard
Lincoln's Last Days: The Shocking Assassination that Changed America Forever (2012) with
   Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Kennedy's Last Days: The Assassination That Defined a Generation (2013)
Keep It Pithy: Useful Observations in a Tough World (2013)
Killing Jesus: A History (2013) with Martin Dugard

(Author bio adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 8/5/2013)

Book Reviews
Killing Kennedy has a momentum problem: it is lively, but not innately suspenseful. The authors combat that by packing in as much volatile language as possible.... However shameless it may be....Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Dugard...succeed in investing a familiar national tragedy with fresh anguish. Although their sources range from highly reputable... to iffy and presumptuous..., they are all brought together to form a powerful historical precis.
Janet Maslin - New York Times

All the suspense and drama of a popular thriller.
Husna Haq - Christian Science Monitor .

[A] comprehensive account of the John F. Kennedy administration and its untimely end.... [T]his is quick, gossipy and sure to please Kennedy buffs.... By paralleling the period with loner Lee Harvey Oswald's desperate attempts at recognition and his fixation on communism, it's easy to see how the assassin slipped under the radar.... [T]he constant reminders of the few years, months or hours Kennedy had left to live are tedious in the extreme.... A quick-fire, easy-to-read account of the Kennedy years, with some salacious details to spice it up.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. In the introductory Note to Readers for Killing Kennedy, co-authors Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard announce that their narrative will “go only as far as the evidence takes us.” With that in mind, discuss how this work differs from other books, articles, or fi lms you’ve previously encountered on JFK’s assassination?

2. At the outset, we see John F. Kennedy being sworn in by Chief Justice Earl Warren. What distinguished Kennedy from Dwight Eisenhower, the man who immediately preceded him as president? What set them apart? Indeed, what set Kennedy apart from every president that came before him? And what did JFK and Ike actually think of one another? (And how, for that matter, did Jackie diff er from Mamie?)

3. “Lee Harvey Oswald wants to come home,” we learn at the end of the Prologue. Why? Where had he been for the past few years? And why was he there? Do we really know?

4. Much is made of John F. Kennedy’s sexual liaisons and infi delities in these pages; his aff airs and trysts with all manner of women were, literally, far too many to number. In Chapter 2, we read: “As JFK once explained to a friend, he needed to have sex at least once a day or he would suff er awful headaches.” And later, in Chapter 5, JFK’s sexual appetite is described as “beyond the realm of most men’s moral or physical capacities. . . . Sex is [his] Achilles’ heel.” Discuss whether and how JFK’s addiction to sex (if, in fact, that’s what it was) weakened or lessened him as a president. We all have our demons, as they say, but is it fair to suppose that Kennedy would’ve been a better, more eff ective, or more successful Chief Executive if he hadn’t had this particular “need”?

5. “Jackie is assembling a team of top collectors to enhance the décor of the White House in every possible way,” we read in Chapter 2. And in Chapter 4: “Her goal is nothing less than to transform the White House from the very large home of a bureaucrat into a presidential palace.” What did you make of this devotion to all things elegant and gilded? Was it right, or apt, for Jackie to be so focused on issues of style? Who really cares, in other words, if the White House does or doesn’t convey a palatial grandeur to those who visit it? Is it ultimately shallow, or else misleading, to devote so much attention to the glittery surface of things? Explain your views. (And if you can recall seeing Jackie’s historic tour of the White House on CBS, be sure to share with others how that landmark TV special registered with you personally.)

6. In Chapter 5, we read that JFK “has known for years [that] Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy is [his] number one political asset.” When, then, did he continue to cheat on her? Why was he almost incessantly unfaithful to her? Why the aff air with Marilyn Monroe, or with so many others?

7. Discuss the bitterly acrimonious relationship had by Bobby Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. Why did these men despise one another? And describe the “shoot a gun like man” exchange, from the fall of 1959, which seems to have originated this feud. Moreover, why did JFK and LBJ likewise not get along?

8. As a group, compare/contrast how John Kennedy handled the Bay of Pigs invasion (in 1961) with how he facilitated the rescue of the crew of PT-109 (in 1943).

9. What was the “Irish Mafia”? Who were the key players in this squad, and why were they important to John Kennedy? What did they do for him?

10. Why was JFK’s decision to stay for a few days at Bing Crosby’s residence in Palm Springs, California—rather than at Frank Sinatra’s residence—so devastating? Why did this last-minute change of venue turn out to be so hurtful, so pivotal? And how did this change come about in the first place?

11. In Chapter 6, we note: “Originally, Johnson fought JFK over being used as a roving ambassador, but now he has come to love this aspect of his job.” What did such ambassadorial work consist of, and why did LBJ like doing it so much?

12. What sorts of questions did FBI Special Agent John Fain have for Lee Harvey Oswald on August 16, 1962? And how, if at all, did Oswald answer them?

13. “The president of the United States is rolling around on the bedroom floor with his children,” we read at the beginning of Chapter 7. What did you glean from Killing Kennedy about JFK as a family man? What sort of father was he?

14. During his typically eloquent, televised speech during the Cuban missile crisis, John F. Kennedy said: “Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right. Not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom—here in this hemisphere and, we hope, and around the world.” Did this remain a paramount “goal” for the U.S. in the years following the early 1960s? And is it still one of America’s primary aims today? Explain.

15. Who is (or was) Lisa Gherardini? Why is JFK so taken with her, at the start of Chapter 8? And why is Jackie, too, even more so? Why is Jackie driven to share Lisa with the whole United States?

16. Isaiah 1:18—“Come now, let us reason together”—was, as we see in Chapter 9, LBJ’s favorite biblical verse. Why?

17. “On April 10, 1963,” O’Reilly and Dugard write ominously, “Oswald decides it’s time to kill someone.” Describe what has brought him to this decision; pinpoint those events that have led up to it. Also, identify Major General Ted Walker.

18. Killing Kennedy maintains that certain Associated Press photographs significantly influenced Jack Kennedy’s ideas and feelings about both the civil rights movement and Viet Nam. Look again at these two photos, as a group, and then discuss why each image had such an impact on the president. Also, discuss how Kennedy’s views on civil rights and Viet Nam were influenced by RFK as well as LBJ.

19. Were you surprised to learn that the famous “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., at the March on Washington, was—at least, at the outset—an “unusually stiff ” and “flat” and “dull” piece of oratory? When and why did King’s speech turn the corner? And what did Jack and Bobby, and also Jackie, think of MLK? What were their respective opinions of King, and what were these opinions based on?

20. Talk about the role the City of Dallas plays in this narrative. Describe what Dallas, Texas, was like—as a place, as an American town—in the early 1960s. Why did people (several different people, actually) warn JFK not to travel there? And why did he decide, nevertheless, to do so?

21. “He doesn’t know whether he wants to be an American, a Cuban, or a Russian,” we read of Oswald in Chapter 21. “Still, he longs to be a great man. A significant man. A man whose name will not be forgotten.” And back in Chapter 10, along the same lines, we read of Oswald being “worse than a failure; he is anonymous.” How common is this thirst for lasting famousness—or if not for outright fame, at least for notoriety—among modern assassins? John Wilkes Booth comes immediately to mind, of course, but what about other examples? Discuss this matter, and if necessary, do some additional/outside research into this question.

22. After considering the ways in which Jack and Jackie Kennedy dealt with the death of their infant son, Patrick, reflect on how their marriage changed over the course of their time together in the White House. Why, for example, was JFK so jealous of Aristotle Onassis? And why, conversely, were the First Couple closer and more intimate with one another—and much closer with their two kids—in the wake of the Cuban missile crisis?

23. Having read this book, do you believe Oswald acted alone? Some folks think so, others don’t. (RFK didn’t think so, by the way, as we read in Chapter 26.) Killing Kennedy presents the assassination of JFK as though Lee Harvey Oswald committed the terrible act of and by his own accord, but the book also leaves room for the possible involvement of other events, schemes, or persons. As the authors put it: “The world will never know the answer.” Do you agree with this assertion (especially with the “never” part)? Explain and defend your view(s).

24. Why did JFK’s seated body remain more or less erect in the presidential limo, even after being hit by a bullet—the first of two separate impacts—in the back of the neck? Why didn’t the president fall forward? And what would’ve happened to Kennedy, most likely, if he had fallen forward?

25. Looking again at this book’s subtitle, and also at the last few paragraphs of Chapter 27, explain the “Camelot” allusion that Jackie passed along to journalist and author Theodore White, and that the rest of the nation (no, make that the world) was all too ready to accept as fact. Was this bright and graceful “Camelot” of a White House a mythic place, or did it—if only to some degree—truly exist?

26. Killing Kennedy boasts a memorable cast of incredible-yet-real-life characters, a rich, diverse dramatis personae that’s as colorful and compelling as any other roster in the annals of history. Therefore, reading this book’s Afterword can be a treat. Whatever happened, for instance, to George de Mohrenschildt, Allen Dulles, and Sam Giancana? And how, respectively, might’ve each man had a hand—perhaps, perchance—in the killing of JFK?

27. In the Epilogue, we find a letter that JFK wrote concerning Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Conclude your discussion by considering the traits that Kennedy and Lincoln had in common—as presidents, leaders, thinkers, statesmen, fathers, inspirational figures, tragic heroes, and American visionaries. They are sometimes regarded, Lincoln and JFK, as two sides of the same proverbial coin. Would you agree?
(Questions issued by publisher.)

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