"Shane O'Sullivan's work on the RFK case is a joke. With his reliance on repudiated evidence and imaginary conspirators, he has done nothing more than create yet another paranoid's paradise." — Dan E. Moldea
July 3, 2008
TO: Mel Ayton and anyone else interested
FROM: Dan Moldea
SUBJECT: SOS’s comments about my work
Below is my response to the false and misleading statements made about me by Shane O’Sullivan in his recent letter to Rick Shenkman, the editor of History News Network. Keep up the great work, Mel!
1. O'Sullivan alleged: "After an impressive investigation that lays out a compelling case for conspiracy, Moldea's book features one of the most unconvincing U-turns in the history of non-fiction."
Moldea replies: Following suit with many other respected publications, the New York Times lauded my U-turn, publishing not one but two favorable reviews of my 1995 work on the RFK case. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, the Times top book critic, wrote on May 25, 1995, that my work was:Carefully reasoned . . . ultimately persuasive . . . dramatic. . . . The author meticulously dissects how the various disputes arose and how critics were drawn into the orbit of the case. . . . The cleverness of [Moldea's] strategy in the book lies in his playing so effectively the part of devil's advocate. . . . His book should be read, not so much for the irrefutability of its conclusions as for the way the author has brought order out of a chaotic tale and turned an appalling tatter of history into an emblem of our misshapen times.In the second review that appeared in the New York Times Book Review on June 18, 1995, the reviewer, Gerald Posner—a well-known critic of JFK conspiracy theorists—wrote:In The Killing of Robert F. Kennedy, a persuasive reexamination of the assassination, Mr. Moldea does what many journalists would lack the courage for—admit that his earlier work was wrong. . . . His new conclusion . . . is amply supported by prodigious research, including many first-time interviews with dozens of police officers involved in the investigation.For excerpts of other reviews of my book, please see: Reviews and essays.
This book presents a remarkable turnaround for a writer who had partly staked his reputation on the existence of a second shooter. But because of the honesty and logic with which he approaches his study, Mr. Moldea's journalistic instincts have never looked sharper.
If students of the assassination or fans of Mr. Moldea's earlier work think that this less sensational resolution of the case is not as interesting as a conspiracy theory, they're mistaken. . . . How Mr. Moldea separates good leads from bogus ones, how he eliminates key suspects, and his climactic prison confrontation with Mr. Sirhan in 1994 make for far more interesting reading than any conspiracy theory based on hearsay and speculation.
Beyond presenting what is likely to be the best understanding of what actually happened on June 5, 1968, Mr. Moldea is stinging in his criticism of shoddy work by the Los Angeles Police Department. . . . [T]his is the best written of his books, finished in a clear and easy style.
Notably, in its June 6, 2008, review of Shane O’Sullivan’s documentary about the RFK case, the New York Times stated:Like a dog unleashed in a field full of rabbits, [O’Sullivan] chases one shard of ‘evidence’ after another—a second gunman, a girl in a polka-dot dress—without bothering to arrange them in any coherent pattern.2. O'Sullivan alleged: "Moldea hasn't had a book commissioned since."
Moldea replies: In January 1997—two years after the release of my book about the RFK murder—I published my sixth book, Evidence Dismissed: The Inside Story of the Police Investigation of O.J. Simpson, which I wrote with Tom Lange and Philip Vannatter, the two lead detectives on the Simpson case. That book made every major bestseller list in the country, rising to #5 on the New York Times list. Then, the following year, I published my seventh "commissioned" book, A Washington Tragedy: How the Death of Vincent Foster Ignited a Political Firestorm. (See: The Hunting of the President: The Movie.)
O'Sullivan's false claim that my career as an author ended in 1995 with the publication of my RFK book—a very easy fact to check—is indicative of the poor quality of his research, as well as his obvious penchant to defame at will.
3.O’Sullivan alleged: “Moldea pays a last visit to Sirhan and shamelessly goads him by asking if he'll come clean and remember the shooting after his mother dies. Moldea then has the painfully contrived epiphany that Sirhan acted alone.”
Moldea replies: This dramatic moment, which O’Sullivan has unfairly characterized, came near the end of my third and final interview with Sirhan—after it became clear that he had been lying during the fourteen hours that I had spent with him. Like the New York Times, Newsweek, among many other publications, respected my interviews with Sirhan, saying in its own news story:[T]he dramatic first two thirds of Moldea's book describes disconcerting inconsistencies in testimony and evidence; bullets that didn't match, and the conspicuous absence of key police records. But through interviews with police officers involved in the original investigation--some of whom had never talked about the case before--Moldea shows that simple (and sometimes hilarious) human error explain these suspicious coincidences. . . .4. O'Sullivan alleged: "Moldea's conclusion includes an extremely dubious 'confession' Sirhan allegedly gave chief defense investigator Michael McCowan during the trial."
If this reporting doesn't seal the case, Moldea's chilling prison interviews with Sirhan do.
Moldea replies: During my investigation, I received information that led to the following passage in my book—after I had published a letter from Sirhan, in which he arguably took credit for killing Senator Kennedy. (See: Sirhan's "Hey Punk" letter.)Michael McCowan . . . told me a similar story, indicating Sirhan’s clear knowledge of his crime. During a prison visitation, McCowan tried to reconstruct the murder with Sirhan.In short, I believe McCowan—who has been the target of conspiracy theorists and Sirhan's apologists, like O'Sullivan, ever since. (See: Sirhan's stooge and Moldea responds to "The Curious Case of Dan Moldea.".)
Suddenly, in the midst of their conversation, Sirhan started to explain the moment when his eyes met Kennedy’s just before he shot him.
Shocked by what Sirhan had just admitted, McCowan asked, 'Then why, Sirhan, didn't you shoot him between the eyes?'
With no hesitation and no apparent remorse, Sirhan replied, "Because that son of a bitch turned his head at the last second." (See: McCowan's statement.)
5. O’Sullivan alleged: “Moldea also declares security guard Thane Eugene Cesar innocent of any involvement in the shooting after he passes a polygraph test 25 years after the fact. Given the LAPD's abuse of the polygraph in this case and the ease with which you can ‘fool’ a polygraph, this seems an absurd way to determine Cesar's innocence.”
Moldea replies: As I wrote in my book, I—as an independent journalist—was in the midst of spending an enormous amount of time and money investigating Cesar. Consequently, I needed some test or measurement to determine how much more time and money I was going to spend on him in the future. When Cesar agreed either to be hypnotized or polygraphed, I went to a friend in the law-enforcement community. Essentially, he advised me that hypnotizing Cesar “could be tantamount to tampering with a potential witness.” Thus, he suggested that I have Cesar polygraphed.
I found the best polygraph operator in Los Angeles and paid him top dollar for his work. As I accurately reported, Cesar’s lie-detector test indicated no deception. In fact, as I chronicled in considerable detail in my book, Cesar “passed with flying colors.”
If Cesar had failed that test, I would’ve spent every waking hour and every cent I had pursuing him.
In the end, my interviews with Sirhan—not the polygraph test—convinced me that Cesar was an innocent man who for many years had been wrongly accused of murder.
Conspiracy theorists, like O'Sullivan, may continue to suggest that Gene Cesar is a murderer. But that suggestion is totally untrue and completely unfair.
6. O’Sullivan alleged: “When I contacted Moldea to see if I could interview Cesar for my film, Moldea told me it could be arranged for $50,000. An interview with Moldea would cost $2,500.”
Moldea replies: Since 1995, I have received many calls and letters about the RFK case. Most of those who contact me are people I have never heard of, like Shane O’Sullivan. And I have learned from a series of harsh experiences that if they haven't been referred by someone I know, then I don't trust them or their motives. To be sure, almost all of them want to talk with Cesar, who is simply tired of this nonsense and has told me that if anyone wants to waste his time, it will cost $50,000. That’s what I told O’Sullivan's producers at BBC.
With regard to the proposed $2,500 for my participation in the BBC documentary, in my written response to a separate interview request from one of those BBC producers on November 17, 2006, I replied:As I told Shane, I always ask to be paid for filmed reports—usually because my best insights wind up in the narrator's script. But I will do a live interview . . . for free. If you want me to appear on any other live interviews in the future, I will be pleased to participate.In other words, if I'm going to be used as an unwitting research assistant for taped-and-edited film documentaries—and that's what usually happens in these situations—then I expect to get paid for that task. And the fee I usually ask for and receive is $2,500—unless I’m doing a favor for a friend and/or someone I respect.
Live interviews are different. I always do them for free—because they are not edited. I own my words and information, and I am credited for what I say.
7. O’Sullivan alleged: “My BBC colleagues chuckled at Moldea's exaggerated sense of his own worth and Moldea confided that he was godfather to one of Cesar's children.”
Moldea replies: Considering how much ridicule the BBC has received for its 2006 presentation of O’Sullivan’s embarrassing work—especially his bogus claim of the presence of nefarious CIA agents at the RFK crime scene, which was widely discredited prior to the release of his 2008 film and book—I am certainly enjoying the last laugh.
O'Sullivan's work on the RFK case is a joke. With his reliance on repudiated evidence and imaginary cconspirators, he has done nothing more than create yet another paranoid's paradise.
With regard to the “godfather” issue, Cesar was so grateful to me for clearing him in my 1995 book that he asked me to be the godfather of his youngest child in 1999. Knowing that I was never going to write another book about Senator Kennedy's murder, I accepted this honor from the Cesar family without any fear of a conflict of interest.
I am always very candid about this relationship with Cesar when dealing with other reporters—and even with people I’ve never heard of, like O’Sullivan, who is now desperately flailing away because he isn't getting very much respect for his work, which was already discredited before its release.
When it comes to being shameless, the hapless Shane O’Sullivan is peerless.
Copyright © 2008 by Dan E. Moldea
"If Van Praag is wrong, then the already self-destructive O’Sullivan will go down in flames once again, forcing him to twist and torture the English language in order to justify his horrific mistakes—just as he did in his reply to my response to his gratuitous assault against me." - Dan E. Moldea
July 9, 2008
TO: Rick Shenkman, HNN Editor
FROM: Dan Moldea
CC: Mel Ayton
SUBJECT: Response to SOS’s reply to my first response to SOS’s unprovoked attack against me
Please consider publishing my second response to that moron who has dragged me kicking and screaming back into this fight while I was sitting here, minding my own business.
Frankly, I couldn’t care less about Shane O’Sullivan’s dead-on-arrival book and/or film. My trusted friend on the RFK case, Mel Ayton, has already wiped up the floor with O’Sullivan’s dishonest work in his devastating HNN reviews. In self-defense, I chose only to respond to O’Sullivan’s unprovoked and fact-challenged personal attack against me.
To all intents and purposes, I have tried to stay out of the fray over the latest crop of pro-conspiracy RFK books—one of which was written by a long-time colleague of mine, Bob Joling. Indeed, I showed up at Bob’s February 21 press conference in Washington, D.C. because I respect him. I just wanted to say hello and wish him luck, even though he and I disagree on the facts of the case.
Joling’s co-author, Phil Van Praag, a very nice guy, was also present. In my informed opinion, Van Praag’s controversial sound test—supposedly showing that thirteen shots were fired at the crime scene—is flat-out wrong. And I politely told him so in private when Bob introduced us after the press conference. Joling and Van Praag both predicted vindication.
During the five months since, I have yet to hear of any credible acoustics expert who has successfully repeated Van Praag’s experiment and achieved anywhere near the same result. And, in my opinion, no one ever will.
Significantly, O’Sullivan now appears to embrace Van Praag’s thirteen-shot scenario with the same enthusiasm as when he falsely claimed on his 2006 BBC program that three murderous CIA agents were at the RFK crime scene. If Van Praag is wrong, then the already self-destructive O’Sullivan will go down in flames once again, forcing him to twist and torture the English language in order to justify his horrific mistakes—just as he did in his reply to my response to his gratuitous assault against me.
Of course, I still believe that only eight shots were fired, and that they were all fired by Sirhan Sirhan, who repeatedly lied during my three interviews with him. Until someone proves that a ninth shot was fired—and no one has in 40 years—all of O’Sullivan’s questions and false accusations about Gene Cesar are moot. And I don’t feel obliged to reply to someone who has publicly mishandled source information as badly as the irresponsible O’Sullivan has. If someone I respect—like Bob Joling, Bob Kaiser, or even Paul Schrade—asks me the same questions, I will be happy to provide the answers.
However, I will say this: I have never paid Cesar—in money or favors—for anything, even for the long final session that I videotaped with him. O’Sullivan’s reckless and malicious suggestion that I paid off a source is a further indication of his poor-reporting skills and remarkably-impaired judgment, as well as his never-ending proclivity for defamation.
As he has proven yet again, when it comes to being shameless, the hapless Shane O’Sullivan is peerless.
Copyright © 2008 by Dan E. Moldea