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'Who Shot Kennedy?'

March 28, 1992

Oliver Stone's vituperative Feb. 29 letter (" 'Nova' and 'JFK' ") about my "Nova" documentary "Who Shot President Kennedy?" is an example of selective use or omission of facts to further the point of view that his fascinating but flawed "JFK" movie espouses.

His error-filled letter is way off when he castigates the "Nova" program, which I produced and wrote. In the program, I presented the most relevant doubts about the physical evidence that have been raised by conspiracy-oriented critics, many of them advisers for Stone's film. What Stone totally ignores is that not only did I present the arguments of those he agrees with but also responses.

Stone charges my handling of the timing question was "preposterous" and faults "Nova" for not having researched Josiah Thompson's book "Six Seconds in Dallas."

In fact, Thompson prominently appears in our documentary and presents exactly what Stone claims we left out. But, following Thompson's comments on the "magic bullet," we presented other views on the theory, views we noted had been supported by the congressional investigating committee.

Stone contends that "Nova" "shouldn't pretend to be fair and thorough" in its examination of the facts. By his lights, anything he disagrees with should not be presented; if it is presented, he rates it unfair. That could be one way of defining the sensibilities of a fiction filmmaker. But journalistic standards are different.

Stone is simply wrong when he states that our program "adopts the lone assassin/single-bullet theory." We didn't adopt that theory. We presented arguments for and against and came to a conclusion that Stone disputes.

That conclusion, as stated by narrator Walter Cronkite, holds up: " 'Nova' has explained many, but not all, questions about the assassination. The Single Bullet Theory remains intact, despite its implausible aspects. There is no irrefutable photographic or acoustic evidence of a second gunman. The President's body was so badly handled it probably can never be a source of verifiable evidence.

"To bring us closer to the truth, there could be a new rifle test, a new acoustic test, an examination of the brain if it is ever found, an analysis for traces of blood on the single bullet. Much controversy about the assassination has been political, and the ultimate solution . . . may lie outside the domain of science. But science must always set the standard of proof for any answer to the question, 'Who shot President Kennedy?' "

Stone alleges that my program has a "ridiculous premise." The premise: Modern science and technology may shed further light on the assassination. No apology need be made for that premise. On the contrary, Stone should apologize for his wrongheaded, self-serving letter.

ROBERT RICHTER, New York

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