Fareed speaks with Robert Caro, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer, historian and author of Dallas, November 22, 1963, about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Watch the full interview Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
What do you think explains both the conspiracy theories around John F. Kennedy’s death and the sense of why has this assassination loom so large in American imagination?
Well, you know, it’s almost like myth, Homeric myth – young, handsome, the athlete, dying young, at the height of his glory, you know? A beautiful man, really charming, handsome, idealistic. Murder, blood, violence, horror.
And in this – in an instant, there – this man is lying across his wife's lap, basically, in the back seat of a car with his head blown apart, blood all over her. For that reason alone, it has all the qualities of a mythic drama in the highest terms.
Then you also say, there is the whole thing that happened that you may be too young to remember. The four days of television – all the networks, there’s only one broadcast. So there's a pool broadcast.
The Nielsen ratings showed that for those four days, the television set in the average American home was on for 31.6 hours. That’s eight hours a day that virtually America is watching the same words said by the same people. And you say, I wrote in my book, you know, the funeral procession, we think of the triumphs of Rome, the triumphal processions of Rome.
This is the closest that a republic ever came to it. A procession marching up to the Capitol, with the great dome of the Capitol, columns atop columns in the sky, marching toward it. First, you have the generals, the joint chiefs of staff, the priests in their flowing robes. And then you have the matched gray horses, the caisson. Behind it, you know, a sailor, a single sailor holding a flag. Of course because Kennedy had been a naval hero, a navy lieutenant. That's the president's personal flag, the great black horse prancing there.
You just said forget politics, forget tragedy, this is a drama such as you have very few comparisons to this in all of history. And drumming it into history and drumming it into the American people is television. Everybody is watching it. The nation is united in a way, united and watching this in a way you say when did this ever happen?