Renowned forensic pathologist and legal expert, Dr. Cyril Wecht, heads the Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. He was the founding president of the Coalition on Political Assassinations in 1994 and he speaks at our annual regional conferences regularly.
Wecht on cover of tabloid, to his surprise
By Michael A. Fuoco / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
May 3, 2012 1:36 pm
Cyril H. Wecht is a voracious news consumer, reading five daily newspapers, not a supermarket tabloid among them.
“I don’t read tabloids. I can’t afford $4 for a newspaper,” he quipped.
That’s why he was surprised to learn from a reporter that he was the cover story for the April 30 edition of the National Examiner.
Thankfully, the Examiner didn’t purport to have learned the renowned forensic pathologist was a “Missing Kardashian Sister!” or that he had a hand in a “Brad and Angelina Split!”
Still, the headline was a little jarring: “Top coroner demands: DIG UP JFK!” A subhead proclaimed “New Autopsy Will Finger Real Killers!”
Anyone who doesn’t live in a cave, who reads a newspaper, watches TV or listens to the radio knows Dr. Wecht is anything but media shy. He’s the media’s go-to expert on all manner of death, dying and crime. He is a nationally acclaimed forensic pathologist, an attorney, a medical-legal consultant, a professor of medicine and of law.
He is accommodating to local, national and international outlets alike. Indeed, while customers checking out at supermarkets and drug stores Saturday stared at his photograph on the tabloid cover, he was appearing on the CBS news show “48 Hours,” discussing a New York murder case.
Still, for all his media accessibility, he was stumped by the story’s origin even though the subject wasn’t a surprise. Perhaps the harshest critic of the Warren Commission’s finding that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Wecht has contended for more than four decades that a new autopsy could show there were two shooters.
But he said he wasn’t on a current campaign in that regard, had never “demanded” an exhumation and noted that a new autopsy wouldn’t “finger the real killers.”
Most surprisingly, he said he never spoke to the writer of the two-page story, Gregory Michaels, but didn’t dispute quotes attributed to him.
“I’m surprised because I never spoke with the man, but I’m not surprised with the fact it is attributed to me, because I’ve been saying this for 47 years,” Dr. Wecht said.
As it turns out, the story was an apparent rewrite of one published in the March 19 edition of the Examiner’s sister publication The Globe that was written by Dawna Kaufmann, Dr. Wecht’s co-author of two books.
Ms. Kaufmann, of Los Angeles, said she wrote the story for The Globe after rereading Dr. Wecht’s 1993 book, “Cause of Death,” that included his views on the JFK assassination, and subsequently interviewing him. She said over her objection Globe editors insisted on saying that Dr. Wecht demanded an exhumation. Not only didn’t she know the story would be recycled as an Examiner cover story, she did not know Mr. Michaels. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
Dr. Wecht was more bemused than annoyed by his tabloid treatment and his sharing the cover with headlines proclaiming “COUNTRY MUSIC WARS!” “Man drives across America–ON 2 GALLONS OF GAS!” and “Whitney’s DISTURBING AUTOPSY REPORT!”
“I’ve been in tabloids over the years, such as in the case of O.J. [Simpson] and JonBenet [Ramsey], but I don’t know if I ever made the cover. I’m always willing to talk to them. I’m not going to be snooty.”
The Examiner story wasn’t the first time Dr. Wecht has been front-page news regarding the JFK assassination. In August 1972, he was given permission to examine the Warren Commission’s evidence and discovered the president’s brain, supposedly preserved for examination, was missing. Dr. Wecht’s discovery was a front-page story the next morning in The New York Times with a headline that had a dash of tabloid journalism in it — “Mystery Cloaks Fate of Brain of Kennedy.”
He said he still believes, after all of these years, that an examination of Kennedy’s skull, even without the brain, could answer once and for all whether Oswald acted alone.
“Do I believe this is going to occur? Absolutely not. There’s no way it’s going to occur. I’m not on any kind of campaign for that.”
But might Caroline Kennedy consider an exhumation if she sees the National Examiner cover in a supermarket?
He chuckled. “Caroline Kennedy will be in a supermarket when I grow hair on my head.”