Tag Archives: 1968

Of Kennedys and Kings: Remembering 1968

* On the 40th anniversary of the MLK Assassination last year, our founding editor New Frontier wrote this remembrance of the tragic events which took place this week in 1968. We wanted to share it with you again today.

MLK and RFK

RFK and MLK

MARCH 31-APRIL 4, 1968 - A WEEK THAT CHANGED AMERICA

“Even in our sleep,
pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.”

 

– Aeschylus, as quoted by Robert Kennedy upon the death of MLK

Φ

40 years ago this week brought us to a critical turning point in the American experience.

By March of `68, with the peace movement rapidly growing and anti-war sentiment at its’ peak, it seemed that things might finally be turning around for the better. Robert F. Kennedy had just entered the presidential race opposing the war. There was a brewing sense of hope that a Kennedy presidency would be restored five years after the death of JFK.

Little did America suspect that the era known as “Camelot” was not to rise again. On the contrary, it was about to come to an abrupt, ironic, tragic, and bloody end.

Over the course of just five short days, we watched in shock as President Lyndon B. Johnson stepped aside and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was brutally murdered. We saw race riots erupt in the streets of our cities, and wondered if the whole world just might burn. We heard one of the most stirring pleas for peace and unity ever spoken by any politician when Robert F. Kennedy delivered the news of Dr. King’s assassination in the heart of an Indianapolis ghetto.

Looking back with the hindsight of history, we can now fully comprehend the importance of this pivotal moment. Those who lived through it will never be able to shake the memory. For for the ones who weren’t old enough to remember or had not been born yet, the events of that week still fascinate, even when experienced secondhand through books or grainy old news footage.

It’s a tale of stunning upsets, unimaginable horrors and stark contrasts: of presidents and peace, of war and love, of confusion and clarity, of Kennedys and Kings. Of pain which cannot forget – even after forty years.

LBJ GETS OUT OF THE WAY

The first jolt came on March 31, President Lyndon B. Johnson stunned the nation with the surprise announcement that he would not seek re-election to the presidency in 1968.

Appearing on TV at 9 p.m. that evening, LBJ first announced that he was taking steps to limit the war in Vietnam. He outlined his plan at some length; then, in what seemed almost an afterthought, dropped this unexpected bombshell:

“Fifty-two months and 10 days ago, in a moment of tragedy and trauma, the duties of this office fell upon me. I asked then for your help and God’s, that we might continue America on its course, binding up our wounds, healing our history, moving forward in new unity, to clear the American agenda and to keep the American commitment for all of our people.

United we have kept that commitment. United we have enlarged that commitment.

Through all time to come, I think America will be a stronger nation, a more just society, and a land of greater opportunity and fulfillment because of what we have all done together in these years of unparalleled achievement.

Our reward will come in the life of freedom, peace, and hope that our children will enjoy through ages ahead.

What we won when all of our people united just must not now be lost in suspicion, distrust, selfishness, and politics among any of our people.

Believing this as I do, I have concluded that I should not permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing in this political year.

With America’s sons in the fields far away, with America’s future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world’s hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office–the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President.”

LBJ's address to the nation, March 31, 1968

President Johnson addresses the nation on television – March 31, 1968 

At that exact moment, Kennedy (who had just announced his intention to run for the presidency two weeks earlier) was coming in for a landing at La Guardia airport. The New York State Democratic chairman, John Burns, raced aboard the plane and breathlessly told Kennedy, “The president is not going to run.”

Kennedy just stared at him. “You’re kidding,” he said.

On the drive in from the airport, RFK seemed lost in thought. Finally, he said, “I wonder if he (LBJ) would have done this if I hadn’t come in.”

MLK ASSASSINATED

Bobby wouldn’t have much time to ponder Johnson’s motivations. While on the campaign trail four days later — again on an airplane — he recieved word that Martin Luther King had just been shot and killed by a sniper in Memphis.

Kennedy “sagged. His eyes went blank,” said New York Times reporter Johnny Apple, who delivered the news to RFK.

By the time Bobby arrived in Indianapolis, King had been reported dead. Fearing a race riot, the chief of police advised Kennedy to cancel his scheduled appearance in a mostly black neighborhood. Ignoring the warnings, RFK arrived at the speech site – a wind-blown lot surrounded by tenements – in his brother’s old overcoat with the collar turned up.

About a thousand people were gathered there, rallying and cheering for Bobby with all the usual excitment generated at his campaign stops. The crowd awaited his speech, happily oblivious to the news that Dr. King had been shot down. 

Throwing out his prepared remarks, Bobby pulled from his pocket a crumpled piece of paper with his own hastily scribbled notes and began to speak in quiet, reverent tones, his voice occasionally cracking with nervous emotion:

“Ladies and Gentlemen – I’m only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because…

I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.

(Audible gasps and cries of “No! No!” can be heard from the crowd)

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it’s perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.

For those of you who are black – considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible – you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.

We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization – black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.

 

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.

But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: “Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.”

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.

(Interrupted by applause)

So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love – a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it’s not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.

(Interrupted by applause)

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much.”

 
Listen to the entire speech 6:12

The murder of MLK, Lorraine motel, Memphis
(The murder of MLK. Lorraine Motel, Memphis, TN. April 4, 1968.) 

PAIN WHICH CANNOT FORGET

Late that night, a sleepless, restless Kennedy was seen wandering the halls of his hotel alone. At 3 a.m., he knocked on the door of Joan Braden, an old friend who had also worked on JFK’s 1960 campaign. Bobby confided to her the true source of his agony.

“Joanie,” he said, “that could have been me.”

Two months later to the day Robert Kennedy was gunned down during a celebration following his victory in the California primary, June 4, 1968. He would die 26 hours later.

While it would be easy to look back after 40 years and dwell on 1968′s sorrows, its’ crippling series of tragedies, perhaps we should instead remember and take to heart Bobby Kennedy’s advice:

“Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

“And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land.

I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!”

 

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final sermon.

 Memphis, TN, April 3, 1968

 

 

Copyright RFKJrforPresident.com

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RFK June Issue of Vanity Fair Stirs `68 Memories

Vanity Fair June 2008 RFK cover

The June issue of Vanity Fair, commemorating 40 years since we lost Bobby Kennedy, is on newstands now, and it’s hard to miss.

A striking closeup of RFK’s face adorns the cover, a photograph so crisp and evocative it will stop you in your tracks. You can’t just breeze past it at the supermarket. This remarkable photo simply grabs you and won’t let go. You have to stop and take a closer look.

Inside, the issue is packed with rare photographs of Kennedy’s 1968 campaign, many never-before seen or published . We are also treated to a preview of Thurston Clarke’s new book, Robert Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, released this week by Henry Holt.

Here’s an excerpt below, just to whet your appetite for more. But you’ll definitely want to buy a copy before they’re all gone. This one’s a keeper!

Excerpt

The Last Good Campaign

Increasingly opposed to the Vietnam War, Robert F. Kennedy struggled over whether he should challenge his party’s incumbent president, Lyndon Johnson, in 1968. His younger brother, Teddy, was against it. His wife, Ethel, urged him on. Many feared he would be assassinated, like the older brother he mourned.

by Thurston Clarke June 2008

 

RFK in Indianapolis, 1968

Bobby Kennedy campaigns in Indianapolis during May of 1968, with various aides and friends, including (behind and left of Kennedy) former prizefighter Tony Zale and (right of Kennedy) N.F.L. stars Lamar Lundy, Rosey Grier, and Deacon Jones. Photographs by Bill Eppridge.

Text excerpted from by Thurston Clarke, to be published this month by Henry Holt and Company, L.L.C.; © 2008 by the author.The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America,

Photographs excerpted from photographs and text by Bill Eppridge; introduction by Pete Hamill; to be published this month by Abrams; © 2008 by Bill Eppridge.A Time It Was: Bobby Kennedy in the Sixties;

Two months after John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Robert Kennedy traveled to Asia on an itinerary that had originally been planned for J.F.K. During the trip, he visited a girls’ school in the Philippines where the students sang a song they had composed to honor his brother. As he drove away with CBS cameraman Walter Dombrow, he clenched his hands so tightly that they turned white, and tears rolled down his cheeks. He shook his head, signaling that Dombrow should remain silent. Finally he said in a choked voice, “They would have loved my brother.” Dombrow put his arm around him and said, “Bob, you’re going to have to carry on for him.” Kennedy stared straight ahead for half a minute before turning to Dombrow and nodding. It was then, Dombrow said, that he knew Bobby would run for president and realized how much he loved him.

A deep, black grief gripped Robert Kennedy in the months following his brother’s assassination. He lost weight, fell into melancholy silences, wore his brother’s clothes, smoked the cigars his brother had liked, and imitated his mannerisms. Eventually his grief went underground, but it sometimes erupted in geysers of tears, as had happened in the Philippines. He wept after seeing a photograph of his late brother in the office of a former aide, wept when asked to comment on the Warren Commission Report, and wept after eulogizing J.F.K. at the 1964 Democratic convention with a quotation from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “When he shall die, take him and cut him out in little stars, and he shall make the face of heaven so fine that all the world will be in love with night and pay no worship to the garish sun.”

 

View more of Bill Eppridge’s photos of RFK.

Kennedy was still mourning his brother and endeavoring to live for him when he ran for the U.S. Senate from New York in the autumn of 1964, telling a friend that he wanted to ensure that the hopes J.F.K. had kindled around the world would not die, and saying in his victory statement that he had won “an overwhelming mandate to continue the policies” of President Kennedy. And at first it appeared that his 1968 presidential campaign—challenging his brother’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, for the Democratic Party’s nomination—would be another homage to J.F.K. Bobby announced his candidacy on March 16 in the caucus room of the Old Senate Office Building, the room that his brother had used for the same purpose. He stood in the same spot and began with the same sentence: “I am announcing today my candidacy for the presidency of the United States.” After saying that he was running to “close the gaps that now exist between black and white, between rich and poor, between young and old,” he concluded with a passage that made him sound like his brother, perhaps because it had been contributed in part by Ted Sorensen, who had been his brother’s speechwriter: “I do not lightly dismiss the dangers and the difficulties of challenging an incumbent President. But these are not ordinary times and this is not an ordinary election. At stake is not simply the leadership of our party and even our country. It is our right to the moral leadership of this planet.”

Some advisers had urged him to excise this passage from his speech, arguing that it represented the kind of New Frontier hubris that had ensnared America in the Vietnam War, which Kennedy now fervently opposed. Washington Post reporter David Broder would disparage the speech’s reliance on “the nostalgic rhetoric of the earlier Kennedy era.” But Bobby’s “right to the moral leadership of this planet” line turned out to be closer to the truth than even he, or Ted Sorensen, realized at the time. At stake was not so much Americans’ moral leadership as their belief that they were worthy of such leadership.

In 1968, America was a wounded nation. The wounds were moral ones; the Vietnam War and three summers of inner-city riots had inflicted them on the national soul, challenging Americans’ belief that they were a uniquely noble and honorable people. Americans saw news footage from South Vietnam, such as the 1965 film of U.S. Marines setting fire to thatched huts in the village of Cam Ne with cigarette lighters and flamethrowers, and realized that they were capable of committing atrocities once considered the province of their enemies. They saw federal troops patrolling the streets of American cities and asked themselves how this could be happening in their City upon a Hill.

Nevertheless, on the day that Kennedy announced his candidacy, it was by no means obvious that 1968 would become a watershed year. Most of the year’s momentous events would occur after Kennedy’s March 16 announcement, with many of the most shocking ones unfolding during his campaign. Had you told anyone in the Senate caucus room that morning that during the next 82 days President Johnson would decline to seek a second term, Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy would both be assassinated, and America would suffer its worst racial disturbances since the Civil War, they might have believed that one or two of those things might happen, but not all, nor in such quick succession.

After concluding his announcement, Kennedy took questions ranging from skeptical to hostile. But as he left the Capitol, supporters screaming his name grabbed at his clothes and leapt in the air to see him, much as his brother’s supporters had in 1960. Anyone witnessing this and hearing the New Frontier echoes in his announcement would have been justified in assuming that his campaign would indeed be an extended tribute to his brother. Instead, March 16 would be the end rather than the beginning of such a tribute, and during the next three months he would run on issues his brother had seldom raised and in a manner, at times, his brother would have found undignified.

Richard Nixon, who had lost the presidency to J.F.K. in 1960, watched Kennedy’s announcement from a hotel room in Portland, Oregon. John Ehrlichman, one of several aides in the room with Nixon, later wrote, “When it was over and the hotel-room TV was turned off, Nixon sat and looked at the blank screen for a long time, saying nothing. Finally, he shook his head slowly. ‘We’ve just seen some very terrible forces unleashed,’ he said. ‘Something bad is going to come of this.’ He pointed at the screen, ‘God knows where this is going to lead.’ ” Meanwhile, by one account, Kennedy was telling Nicole Salinger, the wife of J.F.K.’s press secretary Pierre Salinger, “I’m sleeping well for the first time in months. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but at least I’m at peace with myself.”

 

 

(…More at Vanity Fair.com.)

 

 

 

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The “Fearless” Kennedy

(No caption necessary. This photo speaks for itself.)

THE “FEARLESS” KENNEDY

If RFK was the so-called “ruthless” Kennedy, you could call his second son the “fearless” Kennedy.

Considering what the conversation on this blog has been centered on for the past couple of weeks (freedom from fear), our readers may find this week’s Huffington Post article about RFK Jr. particularly interesting.

Reading over this and other coverage around the blogosphere lately, it seems like we’re all basically wrestling with the same questions and thinking the same thoughts that people in 1968 did. There’s plenty of frustration, anger and bitterness to go around this election year, too. Demands for dramatic, sweeping change. Talk of revolution in the air.

Perhaps we experienced some kind of collective “A-ha!” moment when the 40th anniversary of MLK’s murder came around recently (did we suddenly remember what a real hero was?). 

Could it be that Americans are finally starting to realize that we must make a choice – to fear or to fight — and that we can’t have it both ways?

Like any good soldier will tell you, nobody can fight worth a damn if they are consumed by fear. Nor can one feel afraid when they have the courage of their convictions. 

When you’ve been to the mountaintop, you’re not fearing any man. You know the difference between fighting and violence, and that “peaceful revolution” is not an oxymoron.

It’s time for us to lose the fear which has held us back for far too long and to get mentally, physically and spiritually prepared for the fight of our lives. Because we’re in it now, and there’s no turning the other cheek this time. We must understand that We, the American People, are in a defensive (NOT offensive) position – we’ve been pushed to the wall and have no choice but to fight our way out of this.

If we don’t fight now, it simply means we have decided that America is no longer worth fighting for.

I refuse to accept that. And I doubt that Mr. Kennedy would ever choose defeat by default, either.

It’s time for all of us to make that critical choice — and soon! — to choose courage over cowardice; patriotism over partisanship; duty over dissuasion; information over infotainment. It’s time to choose bravery over Britney, and America over apathy.

– Ed.

AMERICA THE ENTERTAINED: ROBERT F. KENNEDY JR. AND THE STATE OF DEMOCRACY

By Alison Rose-Levy

“Most Americans know more about Britney Spears than we do about global warming,” Robert F. Kennedy told the thousands people gathered at last weekend’s annual Being Fearless conference, hosted by the Omega Institute.

Forty years ago when the boomer generation saw its heroes gunned down one-two-three (JFK, MLK, RFK), many hung up the marching shoes and turned towards the inner journey. If we couldn’t face a scary world, at least we could control our own minds. Like Big Sur’s Esalen, the Omega Institute served as a safe place to escape the modern maelstrom, find community, and rediscover inner resources.

But as third generation self-help advice proliferates on the internet, many maturing seekers recognize the it’s not enough to heal ourselves, we have to face the fear, and take action to heal the world that is.

“This is the worst administration in American history–it’s put the worst polluters in charge of all areas of government” Robert F. Kennedy Jr told the conference attendees. As Kennedy, Valerie Plame Wilson, and others modeled a caring, balanced, and integral activism, they nudged the self-help movement out of its chrysalis and into the us-in-action movement. The recurring message was: “You have to speak truth to power. You must act.”

Back in my parent’s day, Kennedys in their prime were entrusted to lead, due to their rare ability to marry hope with competency and offer an accurate diagnosis and cure for our national ills.

In today’s harsh world, the Kennedy warrior of this generation is critiqued, maligned, ridiculed, and often censured by the mainstream news media when he offers an accurate (though discomfiting) analysis of environmental rollbacks, public health care policy, and their attendant health impacts. When Kennedy gave New York Times’ editors an array of DNA, animal, epidemiological, and biological studies that document the link between mercury and neurological disorders, they were so “hostile and antagonistic it was like talking to a brick wall,” Kennedy reported. In the past, the news media looked for investigative pieces. Today they look the other way, uncritically accepting government studies.

“The US has privatized safety research and by extension, the regulation of toxins. Expecting objectivity under these conditions is naïve at best,” says Kennedy, one of the few to connect the dots as:

• Campaign contributors are given posts in oversight of the industries they represent, where they
• Rewrite governmental regulations to protect their industry rather than the public good, resulting in:
• Environmental pollution, misuse of resources, and health care polices harmful to childhood and adult health

“We need to protect the environment not because we love trees–but because we love people,” Kennedy points out. A believing Catholic he questions those who thump the bible, and go on to plunder and pollute the Creation for cash.

“MISINFORMATION UNDERMINES DEMOCRACY” – RFK JR.

The multiple crises we face all occur because vested media conglomerates have replaced a watchdog press, Kennedy says.

Goodbye to investigative journalism, foreign news bureaus, and fair reporting. Hello to misinformation, one-sided spins and cheap entertainment, appealing to the reptilian brain.

What happened? As part of the right to use public airwaves, network television was formerly mandated to provide news coverage even at an economic loss, Kennedy reminds us. But that ended in 1988, when Ronald Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine, which permitted broadcasters to cut back their news divisions and abdicate their responsibility to inform. Today, the CBS news bureau which formerly boasted Edward R. Murrow and others, is rumored to be seeking to outsource its reporting to CNN.

“We’re the most entertained, and least well informed country on earth.” Kennedy told the crowd. “Misinformation undermines democracy,” as 30% of Americans get their information from biased talk radio.

The boomer generation has to face facts: on our watch, this country took a very bad turn. The time has come to second activists like Kennedy and make our numbers count. In the allied areas of the organic food movement, integrative health care, health care policy reform, environmental activism, food and agricultural policy, media reform, election and judicial activism and other key arenas, many are carrying the meditation cushion into activism.

 

Story from The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alison-rose-levy/america-the-entertained-r_b_97000.html

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Experts: RFK Not Killed By Lone Assassin

RFK at the Ambassador hotel los Angeles

(Kennedy speaks to a packed ballroom after winning the California primary. Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, June 4, 1968.)   

YOU KNEW IT ALL ALONG

Here’s a recent story you might have missed: a bombshell new report that Sirhan Sirhan was not the lone shooter in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy.

Kennedy was gunned down on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. A gunman identified as Sirhan Sirhan was wrestled to the ground and later convicted as the man solely responsible for Kennedy’s murder.

Forensic scientists met at a conference in Connecticut last week to discuss their independent findings that cast serious doubt on the Kennedy assassination. Sirhan Sirhan is serving a life sentence in Kennedy’s death, but the conference presenters argue he could not have fired the fatal shot that killed Kennedy.

One investigator, Dr. Robert Joling, has studied the Kennedy assassination for nearly four decades. He determined the fatal shot came from behind Kennedy, while Sirhan was four to six feet in front of the senator and never got close enough to shoot him from behind, an NBC affiliate reports.

13 SHOTS FIRED AT KENNEDY 

Analysis by another forensics engineer, Philip Van Praag, of a Canadian journalists tape recording, known as the Pruszynski recording, determined that 13 shots were fired while Kennedy was killed, although Sirhan’s gun only held eight bullets, according to the NBC reporter. This suggests that a second shooter was involved in the assassination.

Van Praag’s analysis led him to conclude that a second gun that was fired matched a type owned by one of the security guards in Kennedy’s entourage.

“When that security guard was asked about owning that gun at first he admitted, ‘Yes I owned that kind of gun but I got rid of it two months before the assassination.’” correspondent Amy Parmenter said on MSNBC Wednesday. “It turns out upon further investigation, in fact, he did not get rid of that gun until five months after the shooting. Of course, you can see where we’re going with this. … That security guard, was in fact behind Senator Kennedy when the fatal shot was fired.”

Because we choose not to publish graphic images of the Kennedy assassinations on this website, you may watch the video of the MSNBC News Live broadcast of March 26, 2008 here.

The CIA Killed RFK 

ROUND UP THE USUAL SUSPECTS 

Who did pull triggers that night? A 2006 BBC Newsnight investigation gets closer to the answer – and the killers’ names (all three were known CIA operatives, now deceased) – than any mainstream media outlet ever has. You can watch the BBC report online here.

Almost 40 years after his murder, only now are the true facts about the RFK assassination finally coming to light.

But you really knew it all along, didn’t you?

 

 

Copyright RFKin2008.com.

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