20: Effects on Our Lives
I Am a Patsy! by George de Mohrenschildt
The publication of the Warren Commission Report brought an immediate and drastic change in our lives in Haiti. Only the close and true friends understood the real resons of our involvement with the “presumed assassin” of the generally beloved President Kennedy. In this manner the phony friends were weeded out of our lives but still too many people, in addition to the publicity caused by the Report, were contacted by the FBI agents at various times asking imbecilic and insulting questions, implying grimly the worst suspicions about us. The same thing happened to Jeanne. A good friend recalls that an FBI agent asked for the whole day of his precious time just to talk about us. Discussing Jeanne’s background in China, the agent asked our friend: “is she loyal to the United States?”
Our friend answered without hesitation: “yes, she is, in my opinion.”
“Whom are you kidding?” said sarcastically the FBI agent.
Insulting and stupid articles appeared in the newspapers and in the magazines all over the world, and still do, about Jeanne and I, calling us “mysterious associates of Lee Harvey Oswald.”
Just a few months ago Chicago Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle published articles implying that I had received a consederable amount of money in Bahamas just to keep quiet about the mystery of Kennedy’s assassination. A shyster in Washington by the name of Fensterwald assured a European newspaperman of similar monetary operation.
I should have probably sued the authors of such vicious allegations, but this would have added additional publicity.
Even a nice and fair book by Gerald Ford, Portrait of the Assassin, in which he mentions us very favorably, had disastrous effects on our lives: “Oh! you were mentioned in that book about the assassin …”
Money was offered for interviews, which we refused to accept. Overseas telephone service in Haiti was inadequate — very few people had private telephones — I happened to be one of the few with the telephone in my office, but not at home. This office telephone dept buzzing for months: some unknown voices asking me insidious questions: “what was your relationship with Oswald? What did you think of him? Did you have the same convictions as he did? Did he kill Kennedy? Why are you hiding in Haiti?”
Some man called me from Hong–Kong just to ask me a single question: “who are you?”
And this was so false, because I had been working on my contract in Haiti a year before we met the Oswalds and we arrived in this island nine months before all hell broke loose in Dallas — and we were living there without interruption all during this time.
And so after a few particulary insisting reporters kept on calling me, and spending their evil money, I would hang–up.
But the worst was the attitude of the Ambassador Timmon, the chargé d’affaires Curtis and all the other sycophants. But more on that subject later.
NBC’s The Warren Report
Then came an offer for us to appear on a televised interview for the NBC’s The Warren Report. The reporter’s name was George McMillan and he asked if he could come all the way to Haiti to visit us. He sounded like an intelligent man and was provided with a good recommendation by a mutual friend. I did not commit myself to a televised interview but told McMillan that he was welcome to visit us in Haiti.
A gruesome incident took place the day of his arrival at the old Port–au–Prince airport. After a season full of invasions – a group landed from cuba and made havoc all over Easter Haiti. They were well armed, familiar with the terrain and murdered indiscriminately. Eventually all of them were executed by the faithful tontons macoutes, TN’s as we used to call them. One of the invaders was brought in to Port–au–Prince, publicly executed to show the Haitian populace that it wouldn’t pay to attack Papa Doc and his government: the dead body was the exhibited on the plaza near the airport with all the suppplies and ammunition. The exhibit was attached to the chair and the swarm of flies around him was like a funeral smoke.
When McMillan, an experienced newsman arrived, he saw the commotion and the crowds surrounding the body. I did not want him to see the gruesome [sic] and drove around it at full speed without comment. Later in the evening, however, around the drinks, he began to talk about it.
Incidentally when we invited McMillan we were not sure whether he wanted to talk to us about Oswald or about the situation in Haiti, which was the center of attention at the time. Since I was in charge of the geological Survey and the only American working independently in Haiti at that time, I thought that McMillan wanted an interview with me. And I certainly knew the situation well, and it was different from what the American press had described. In my opinion Dr. Duvalier was an advocate of the poor Blacks against the rich, French–educated Mulattoes.
This was a simplified version of the situation but better than the full condemnation of the Duvalier regime in Graham Green’s The Comedians.
Anyway, I didn’t want him to see that dead man attached to the chair without giving him some facts surrounding the execution. What an impact his report would have on the public in USA if he would start it with the statement about the dead body and the flies.
We brought McMillan to our house because he seemed as a very pleasant individual. He had told us that he defended Blacks’ equal rights and that somewhere in the Carolinas, where he lived, KKK burned crosses on his lawn and forced him to leave. Anyway he wanted all our friends who came to visit us in Haiti to know the true facts about the regime – the good and the bad.
Later on when we sat on our terrace to the sounds of the delicate tinkling of “anolis” — small lizzards — and looking at the fantasitc view of the city and the dark bay, McMillan mused aloud: “why didn’t you want me to see the cadaver?” He stopped suddenly as a huge tarantula moved slowly on its long legs close to him, he shuddered. “Don’t worry,” I reassured him, “these big ones are not dangerous, only the small ones.”
“Very simple, I didn’t want you to see the dead guerrilla, without telling you the facts surrounding his death first.” I esplained. “After all, papa Doc is my employer.”
But instead of listening to me, or even answering, McMillan launched into the diatribe about the great program NBC were preparing about Warren Report, that we would be the main personalities in it etc. He even offered to bring in the whole TV crew, if we accepted. But sick of all this unwanted publicity, we refused firmly.
Fortunately George McMillan turned out to be interesting and pleasant, a good tennis player. He did not waste his time altogether and we, being boycotted by the Americans in Haiti, were glad to have with us a liberal, independent person. He left Haiti two days later asking us to re–consider our decision and mentioned a substantial fee.
I asked several friends for advice regarding this TV matter and they all answered that remaining silent and invisible would harm us. “You are the only ones who could say a few kinds words about Oswald,” wrote one of my best friends who had met Lee and wasn’t entirely convinced of his guilt. “This national TV appearance would dispel the dangerous aura of mystery in your relationship with Lee,” wrote another.
And so, after battling it between us back and forth, we reconsidered our decision. I called McMillan and arrangements were made immediately by NBC to bring us and our faithful pooches to New York City.
The weather was stormy, we had circled for two hours over the city, but the ordeal was over and we landed safely. NBC reserved for us an apartment at the Plaza Hotel and the next day we spent the whole afternoon in front of the cameras.
Misrepresentation by NBC
And again, as the interview progressed, it became obvious that the producer and McMillan tried to make me say something derogatory about Lee and to drag out of me insidiously some damaging comment to his memory. To them he was definitely the assassin and we, possibly, the conspirators or his secret advisers. As Jeanne and I were positive in our non–sensational statements, the whole interview did not make any sense. We were invited to New York on wrong premises that either we would produce some inside information or would prove to millions of Americans who would watch the show that Lee was the only assassin.
Since the Warren Commission, slanted as it was, could never find any reason in Lee’s involvement in this crime “of the century”, the promoters of the NBC show hoped that I, as his best friend, would finally explain his insane action. And that was the reason why we were brought in to New York.
And to Jeanne and I, who did not have any more information than anyone reading newspapers and magazines, Lee remained the same person we knew — eccentric, interesting, warm, close friend and we never considered him seriously as President Kennedy’s assassin.
Of course, insanity is a possibility but all the previous incidents and conversations with Lee did not sugest impending insanity. Nor was he ever to us a poor loser, a stupid high–school dropout, a bookthirsty revolutionary nor a person jealous of other people’s success and money. Such people are met every day on the streets of any American city in groves.
The enclosed picture of Lee with the rifle and Marina’s inscription would indicate that he might have been considering hunting fascists — and in his mind General Walker was one — but certainly not our President Kennedy.
A few days later, while still in New York, I saw a complete 40–minute preview of our appearance, and again we saw what a poor job we did trying to present Lee’s side. And later, the worse parts of this forty–minute interview were used for an hour show, called The Warren Report, that so many millions saw.
It was like a McCarthy era, the time of the government’s witchhunt against the “leftists”. This was a general hunt, government’s and media’s, against a defenseless dead man.
Upon return to Haiti we knew immediately that something went awry with our relationship with the Haitian government. Usually, we used to go through customs first, cheerfully greeted by Mr. Jolicoeur, a clownlike charming public relations man for Papa Doc. This time our luggage was searched surreptitiously while militia examined our papers in a different part of the building. When our luggage and we were reunited — the bulk of maps and information I had carried with me were missing.
Since they were my property, I lodged a strong protest with our Embassy and the Duvalier’s cabinet. Both parties laughed at me … What maps? What search? Where were you? How naive can you be …