This article was last modified on June 18, 2017.


Did the Mafia Kill JFK?

(Please note: This is by no means a thorough examination of the question. Millions of pages have been written on the JFK assassination, and it is not something I am especially knowledgeable on. But I am familiar with the Mafia, and think some aspects of their alleged involvement deserve looking into.)

Some people are positive Oswald killed Kennedy. Some say it was the Cubans. Some say it was the CIA. Some say it was a lone gunman other than Oswald, such as James Files or Woody Harrelson’s dad. This will not be looking at any of those. Some people, like Teamster official Allen Friedman, was positive it was the Mafia. “That the Mafia had a contract on Kennedy and would like to take claim for the actual shooting is undisputed,” he said. “Rumors of mob involvement in the murder are undoubtedly accurate on the basis of the interviews that have been conducted and the documents that have become available.” But is there evidence of a contract? And even if there was, was it carried out?

The “official mythology” was laid out by Bill Bonanno, a mobster who is not well-known for his honesty. He explains that Joseph Kennedy (JFK’s father) was a bootlegging partner with the Mafia during Prohibition. This made Kennedy rich. Then, in 1960, he called in a favor from Chicago and got the Mafia there to stuff the ballot boxes, giving JFK the state and therefore the election. But Jack made his brother Bobby the Attorney General and he focused on crushing the Mafia, which they saw as a betrayal. So JFK became a target, knowing that if Lyndon Johnson became president, Bobby would be replaced. Makes sense, right?

Except that it does not add up. Joseph Kennedy did have a partnership with the mob during Prohibition, but it was relatively minor. He would has been a millionaire with or without the alcohol sales. There is no evidence that the Chicago Outfit stuffed the ballot boxes in 1960. A study from John Binder found that even if they had, it did not alter the election results. But one could argue that even if these are untrue, it only matters if the Mafia BELIEVED them to be true in order to act on them. And that’s fair. But even the next step is doubtful, because Bobby Kennedy came down hard on the Mafia (and Teamsters) during the McClellan Committee (1957-1960), which was actually before JFK was elected. Those called to testify easily evaded trouble by pleading the Fifth. So now we are left to wonder: was Bobby a bigger threat before or after the JFK election? I would argue before, which then even calls into question why they would help elect a Kennedy at all. And wouldn’t it make more sense to just kill Bobby directly rather than killing a president? Had they been caught, the “heat” would have crushed the mob.

But despite these doubts on the groundwork, let’s explore some more specific claims…

544 Camp Street

The CIA-Mafia Link

Sources

Friedman, Allen. Power and Greed: Inside the Teamsters Empire of Corruption. Franklin Watts, 1989.

Posner, Gerald. Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK. Anchor Books, 1993.

Also try another article under Organized Crime
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

2 Responses to “Did the Mafia Kill JFK?”

  1. Drew Hunkins Says:

    You must peruse the sections in Vincent Bugliosi’s magnum opus ‘Reclaiming History’ that deal with the mob’s supposed involvement in killing Kennedy. Bugliosi shreds any notion that organized crime was involved in any conspiracy to rub out JFK.

    Prior to reading Bugliosi’s magnificent ‘Reclaiming History’ I was convinced that JFK was assassinated by a cabal of rightwingers, military-industrial-complex operatives and covert intelligence players. After devouring his book I now know for sure that Oswald acted alone and wasn’t a part of any conspiracy involving the mafia, military-industrial-complex or CIA.

    Bugliosi’s ‘Reclaiming History’ is one of the best non-fiction books published in the last 15 years, it’s absolutely stunning in the manner in which it dissects the entire JFK assassination. It took him over 20 years to research and write it. (It came out ca. 2008)

    Also, in Jimmy Fratianno’s book ‘The Last Mafioso’ there are enthralling passages in which Johnny Roselli exclaims that a person would have to be a lunatic to think the mafia would plan anything with two clowns like Ruby or Oswald.

  2. gavin Says:

    Drew, sounds like you’ve summed this up very nicely. That is more or less where I stand on the matter. There is no doubt that Jack Ruby had connections to the mob and the Teamsters, and there are some connections between Kennedy and the Chicago Outfit. But I never thought it added up, because the key would be either to prove a second gunman (which is almost impossible) or link Oswald to the mob (which people seem to ignore). And it all comes down to whether they would even do such a thing. There was a great panic when a mobster (I think it was Dutch Schultz) was planning to kill prosecutor Thomas Dewey, and he was stopped. They said the Mafia doesn’t kill police, prosecutors, politicians. And this would be even more true with JFK — if caught, the heat from such an act would have crushed the organization. Why bother risking that?

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