Dr. Cyril H. Wecht, CAPA’s chairman, reprimanded his hometown Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper for besmirching the late comedian Dick Gregory as a “sucker for conspiracy theories” in an otherwise generally favorable editorial published on Aug. 25 assessing Gregory’s life and legacy.
Wecht, shown at right in a photo taken in his Pittsburgh lab, used the letter to remind the newspaper’s editors and readers that mainstream media use the term “conspiracy” theory to obscure how their outlets rarely cover the solid evidence in several of the nation’s major 1960s assassinations.
Yet public opinion polls show, he continued, that Americans are wary of official reports on the assassinations, particularly the Warren Commission’s findings placing all blame for the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy on accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald.
Thus, Wecht argued, the newspaper’s language trivializing further study and alternative conclusions in effect insults the American public, not just Gregory.
The letter is part of CAPA’s ongoing outreach to encourage both American thought leaders and the general public to learn more about the facts of political assassinations that helped shape current affairs. That campaign includes also planning for a mock trial in Houston Nov. 16 and 17 using modern forensic analysis to reassess Oswald’s alleged culpability in the Kennedy murder.
Wecht’s letter to the editor is reprinted below, as is the P-G editorial:
I was delighted to read the editorial (His pointed humor: Dick Gregory’s biting comedy was serious at core) regarding Dick Gregory. Several years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Gregory and participating with him on some programs dealing with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Indeed, he was a very serious advocate and outspoken supporter of matters pertaining to civil rights and social justice. His great talent as a comedian enabled him to educate his audiences and stimulate their active interest in various important sociopolitical issues.
Regrettably, your statement “On the darker side Mr. Gregory was a sucker for conspiracy theories from the Kennedy assassination to…..” was quite insulting, dismissive, and invalid as a matter of accurate historical reflection.
Every national poll conducted since the JFK assassination on November 23, 1963, has indicated that a significant majority of Americans (ranging from 65 to as high as 82%) do not accept the conclusions of the Warren Commission Report (“WCR,” Fall, 1964), namely, that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone gunman and nobody else had any involvement with JFK’s brutal murder. Despite all the efforts of the major news media establishment to support the WCR, and rebuff or simply ignore, all the forensic scientific and other physical investigative evidence to the contrary, two thirds to three fourths of US citizens have continued to reject that absurd, forensic scientifically invalid conclusion.
Pray tell, do all these people live “on the darker side”? Is the rejection of the WCR some kind of personal “idiosyncrasy” shared by millions of people?
Some day, the P-G may deign to write an obituary about me. Obviously, you will state whatever you wish. I have only one small request. Please refer to me as having been a long time, loud-mouthed leader of the idiosyncratic dark-sided population that believes the WCR is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated by our government.
Very truly yours,
Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, His pointed humor: Dick Gregory’s biting comedy was serious at core, Editorial Board, Aug. 25, 2017. In the parlance of the 1960s, it would be safe to say that the comedian and activist Dick Gregory was “out there.” Known for his biting comedy, activism and penchant for conspiracy theories in recent decades, Mr. Gregory died Saturday at age 84.
Mr. Gregory (shown in a file photo) rose to fame as a comedian whose stage act owed more to astute observations about being black in America than it did to expounding on the foibles of the human condition, the territory of most successful comics. That’s not to say Mr. Gregory wasn’t funny. He was a very funny man whose humor bit down hard on whatever subject caught his fancy, but race in America fascinated him more than anything else.
Mr. Gregory’s humor was rooted in a political sensibility that boldly questioned the Establishment. He was part of the comedy revolution that emerged in the late 1950s and included such rebels as Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce. He came of age at a time when being a comedian included the possibility of being arrested.
For his part, Mr. Gregory was arrested dozens of times over the years, usually supporting civil rights and equal rights for women and denouncing the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons.
Though he was later eclipsed by younger comedians such as Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, Mr. Gregory held on to a devoted following. He was especially revered by comedy aficionados on both coasts and his fellow comedians who appreciated the way he told stories. The civil rights movement had given Mr. Gregory the kind of exposure and goodwill that paid dividends for decades.
At the height of his fame and notoriety, Mr. Gregory ran for mayor of Chicago and for president of the United States on top of the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. He got a lot of write-in votes in both cases and was one of the first entertainers to demonstrate the power of celebrity in the political realm. While his runs for political office were obvious stunts, Mr. Gregory was serious about the issues.
Mr. Gregory was also obsessed with health. He incorporated regular fasting into his regimen along with running and other exercises. He wanted America to face the fact that it had a problem with obesity and deal with it. In fact, he stopped performing in nightclubs in the 1970s because smoking and drinking were allowed — putting his values above earning potential.
On the darker side, Mr. Gregory was a sucker for conspiracy theories from the Kennedy assassination to 9/11. It was an idiosyncrasy that often colored his humor, but didn’t dominate it. Mr. Gregory was an American original who never lost his love of comedy or politics. He was always striving to be the kind of comedian all Americans could laugh with, regardless of their background. He succeeded masterfully.