Did Sirhan Sirhan assassinate Robert F. Kennedy by himself or were there others?


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Episode credited cast:
Robert F. Kennedy (as Timothy C. Furlong)
Tom Kramer ...
Karl Uecker
J.V. Martin ...


Did Sirhan Sirhan assassinate Robert F. Kennedy by himself or were there others?

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7 April 2004 (USA)  »

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Makes no bones about its point-of-view
28 January 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Spoilers may lie ahead, although I'd doubt anything of consequence.

Every documentary, no matter how much it attempts to be fair, has a point-of-view; that's only human. And it's not as though this one does not make an effort to add some credence to the possibility there was a second gunman. In addition, "Unsolved History: Robert F. Kennedy Assassination" is also somewhat off the hook for having been produced nearly a decade ago, so it cannot be accused of failing to take into account other evidence that has come into light, such as the thunderous one figured into the epilogue of "RFK Must Die (2007)" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1047517/): an audio recording has been discovered where more gunshots were fired than the accused assassin's weapon was capable of.

The problem is that "Unsolved History" went out of its way to make the case that Sirhan Sirhan must have been the one and only killer. Perhaps the producers were afraid that any other course would have opened up the possibility for criticism, since anything that challenges the established wisdom could be attacked as a conspiracy theory, and we all know such theorists are nutty as fruitcakes. (Not to say some are not.)

The basis of this documentary mainly revolved around the construction of the pantry site where RFK was assassinated. Their idea was to re-create the movements to see whether Sirhan was the lone gunman or not. There is absolutely no exploration about what Sirhan's motive could possibly have been, as was covered in-depth in the more recent documentary. In that one, we learned that Sirhan's personality was such that he would let loose the flies in the house without killing them. We learned that the authorities prevented the psychiatrist from conducting the hypnosis that would have allowed Sirhan to regress to the night in question. (The rather fantastic theory presented in "RFK Must Die" is that Sirhan was recruited by the CIA to serve as a fall guy, easily believable by the nation because of Sirhan's ethnicity -- Palestinians were depicted in the press as nothing but terroristic evil. Manchuiran Candidates appear to be the stuff of fiction, but that documentary built a very convincing case.) Despite the fact that this program cannot be faulted for excluding evidence that came to light after its production, what is its excuse for avoiding the evidence that was already solidly in place? For example, a CBS reporter, Don Schulman, was an actual eyewitness who claimed immediately after the shooting that Kennedy's "bodyguard" (for those unfamiliar with the case, the security guard -- whose gun was not confiscated by the police for examination -- is thought of as the likeliest second gunman; this program mentioned he was a "racist," as far as possible motives, but I believe the other documentary examined possible CIA connections) had either "fired back" or "inadvertently shot Kennedy three times." (CBS denied the account, and Schulman apparently was put through hell to the point of closing himself off to the matter. His is not the only example of witnesses at the scene who claimed troublesome things, and who were later intimidated by the authorities and others.)

One of the most peculiar aspects of "Unknown History" was the very amusing way in which it addressed the issue of the stains left by a firearm (on RFK's ear, according to the autopsy report) discharged at nearly point-blank range. Everyone had said Sirhan was several feet away, but the program went out of its way to try and show, by force-positioning the actor playing RFK, how it just might have been, albeit infinitesmally, possible.

LAPD Chief Darryl Gates announces off the bat that Sirhan was the one and only assailant, the view that the program appeared to side with. To its credit, the program did not ignore that the LAPD destroyed a lot of the evidence, which then makes one wonder as to why a potentially conflicted speaker as Gates would have been given so much of the spotlight.

For example, the point is stressed that the extra bullet holes found on the walls cannot mean much, as they were marked by a motorcycle cop who had no experience with such matters -- as though identifying two bullet holes next to each other in a wall would have entailed the skills of a rocket scientist. (Perhaps the holes might have been the work of very artistic termites.) Curiously, right afterwards, we are told that an FBI agent had marked these holes, and as the program interviewed the man, evidently he was the first one to have done so -- and not the motorcycle cop. The narrator tells us that this issue boils down the the word of the FBI agent vs. the word of the LAPD chief, who either minimized or denied the existence of the extra bullet holes. Tough choice, right? Who would you believe, an FBI agent who would have had no reason to lie (unless he was a nutty conspiracy theorist in disguise), or Darryl Gates, whose reputation did not come across as sterling when his department was charged with nefarious activities time and again, and the man who proposed before a Senate Committee that casual drug users be shot.

There are certainly powerful forces at work that have reasons to sustain the beliefs that both Kennedy assassinations were the work of loners, because the hell that would be unleashed, were the probable truth be known, would be too hot to handle. But one wonders why the makers of a purportedly independent documentary would go out of their way to support the "common wisdom."

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