How the B.B.C. Upheld Free Speech

by Mark Lane

By permission B.R.P.F. 1998

Summary: 'How the BBG Gagged Me' was the shortest summary of this piece - Rae West. [Note added 2013: This piece is reproduced verbatim. There is of course no discussion of Jewish aspects in the piece].
Mark Lane is the New York attorney whose best-selling book “Rush to Judgment” is the definitive destruction of the credibility of the Warren Commission's report on the assassination of President Kennedy.
Three years ago [i.e. 1967 - Rae West] the BBC televised a programme on the assassination of President Kennedy, which hinged around a parcellised showing of Mark Lane's film “Rush to Judgment”. Lane's book of the same title produced considerable problems for the American establishment, because it demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the Warren Commission Report on the assassination was a completely unsatisfactory document. The film was subjected to extraordinary treatment by the BBC, and at the time there was a storm of protest against the sharply biassed manner in which Mark Lane's testimony was handled. Now Lane sets the record straight, in a detailed description of what happened behind the scenes at the BBC. This account is also now published in a book which treats on many of Lane's critics: “A Citizen's Dissent”. It is printed here by kind permission of the author.

The film made its world premiere on British television.
1 De Antonio had arranged for its showing there, and I was requested by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) to be present for the debut. I was also told that a debate with two Commission lawyers would follow the showing of the film.
      If you were in England viewing BBC2 for almost five hours on January 29, 1967, you should have been informed that the distortion was not caused by a faulty television set. It originated at BBC's Lime Grove studio. It was, in fact, planned that way.
      On January 17 I drove to a college in Philadelphia in anticipation of a debate with Arlen Specter, one of the most inventive of the Warren Commission's lawyers. Mr. Specter had been a young Democrat, given an assignment as an assistant district attorney by the Democratic District Attorney of Philadelphia. His employer permitted him to serve as a Commission lawyer, an extra-curricular bit of activity that enhanced both his reputation and his finances. Specter returned from Washington, changed his political party, announced his candidacy for the office of District Attorney, and evidently the prestige that his work for the President's Commission brought enabled him to defeat his former friend and supporter. On the very afternoon of my arrival in Philadelphia, the leading newspaper announced that Specter would be the Republican candidate for Mayor.
      You may well imagine my desire to meet so famous a person in public debate in his own city. But it was not to be. Specter's office announced that he must retire early that night (the debate was set for 7.30 p.m.), for he was required to catch an early plane for London the next day in order to debate with me -- twelve days later. (In the interim before flying to London I flew to California, appeared on radio and television programmes there and debated another Warren Commission lawyer at the University of California at Los Angeles.)
      However, as the reader will discover, perhaps to his amusement, and, as I discovered, much to my regret, my absence from London was apparently an error, for I missed the BBC rehearsals for the extemporaneous-debate programme. In retrospect,I must add that I am not now sure that my mere presence in London would have ensured my knowledge of the rehearsal schedule or an invitation to the preparations.
      It seemed just a bit odd to me that Specter, an American politician, would refuse to debate with me in America -- the major networks and leading universities had sought to arrange such debates on many occasions, but Specter was adamant in his rejection of every such invitation -- and so quickly agree to cross the ocean for the encounter. One less naive might have taken this as a clue that the BBC had somehow made the confrontation most attractive to the Commission's representatives. I confess to having speculated about the matter with myself for a moment or two. I concluded that the suites at the luxurious Connaught, the expense account, the trip to London for the lawyers -- and presumably their wives or associates -- and perhaps even the fee might have tipped the balance.
      The programme's format was soon to become the question of the day. This being so, let me trace my association with it from the outset. The film's director, Emile de Antonio, bore the burden of the original negotiation with the BBC officials. He told me that the BBC had agreed to show the film on January 29 and that it would be followed by a general discussion in which it was hoped that I would participate. I agreed at once. The BBC insisted that I sign a document in which I agreed not to appear on any other radio or television programme to be broadcast in England prior to January 29. This effort at the creation of a very small monopoly hardly seemed appropriate, but as it was the condition for the showing of the film, and as I did not plan to be in London much before that date anyway, I executed the document and it was submitted to the BBC. Subsequently, the BBC officials signed the contract purchasing the film for one showing.
      My first direct contact with a BBC representative took place when I was in Los Angeles. A call came from London and a very correct and polite English voice informed me that it was owned by one Peter Pagamenta, who was the assistant director of the programme, which had been named “The Death of Kennedy.” He called to find out when I would arrive and to be sure that I understood the approach that the director had taken to the programme.
      I would arrive on the twenty-eighth, I said, and I should like to hear the director's approach. He explained that the showing of the film would constitute the opening statement of “your case,” as he put it. Then the Commission lawyers would be permitted to make comments. Didn't I think it fair that they should speak next? I did indeed. “And then you will rebut and the debate will proceed.” It all sounded fine, I said, but weren't there to be two other participants? “Oh, yes. Lord Devlin -- you know who he is?” I did. “Well, he and a Professor Bickel will speak later in the programme.”
      “In other words,” I said, “you will have four Commission supporters present the Commission's case and I alone will speak for the critics?”
      “In a sense you might say that,” he replied, “but Lord Devlin and Professor Bickel are not Commission personnel.”
      I said I would like to suggest that Professor Hugh Trevor-Roper be invited. Among his credentials to qualify as a participant was the fact that he had read the twenty-six volumes, and his writings on the subject seemed to demonstrate that he was almost the only person in England to have bothered to examine the evidence. Certainly Lord Devlin gave no sign of such an acquaintance with the facts. The answer was that Professor Trevor-Roper was not to be a participant. And now that's out of the way, what hotel would you like to stay at? I said I did not care and that any would do. “Well, then,” came the reply, “we'll make a reservation for you at the Grosvenor House, and if there is any change we'll have a message waiting for you when you arrive at the airport. Please cable Dick Francis the time of your arrival and contact Paul Fox after you're settled in your hotel in London.”
      The cable was sent: “arrive January 28th 7:00 a.m.” And that was the first and last word regarding the format of the programme before my several-thousand-mile journey from Los Angeles to London in reliance upon that conversation.
      I arrived at 7:00 a.m. and it was raining. I was tired from the trip from New York to Los Angeles, a busy schedule on the West Coast, the flight to London from Los Angeles and the thought of flying back to New York in three days for two days there before flying back to Paris. But this was an important programme and well worth the effort. By worth the effort, I did not mean that it would be financially rewarding, for since I was not paid a farthing for the programme, and in fact was compelled to cancel speaking engagements for which I was to have been paid, the programme was, in that sense, to be worse than a total loss.
      But the chance to meet the imaginative creator of the single-bullet theory in an open, no-holds-barred encounter, before some seven million viewers, with the knowledge that it would be fully reported in my own country, was worth any sacrifice of time or money. Still, I was tired. I cleared immigration quickly with a greeting from the clerk. He said he'd be watching the programme. Customs too was fast and pleasant. There was no message waiting.
      I called the Grosvenor House to find that there was no reservation. Since de Antonio had told me that the Commission lawyers, Specter, who has already been introduced, and David Belin from Iowa, were to stay in rather luxurious quarters at the Connaught, I called there as well. No reservation for me. I called the BBC. A gentleman, obviously a nighttime receptionist hoping the early morning would pass without the kind of problem I was about to present, answered. He said he had no authority: “Of course Mr. Fox is not in, and he won't be for hours, and, sir, no one is in, except me, and I know nothing about hotels; perhaps you might call back in a couple of hours.”
      Two hours passed rather slowly in the drafty terminal building. I was almost nine and I had left New York the evening before and had not yet been to sleep. In due course, a responsible and concerned young lady at the BBC was located and a reservation made at a hotel. I was too tired to care that the hotel was undergoing noisy renovation and that the lobby resembled a bombed-out village or that the room was dark and musty.
      Before I left the United States, de Antonio had told me that the BBC had constructed a most elaborate model of Dealey Plaza and that it was hoped, by the BBC, that instead of aerial photographs of the area which appeared in out film, live on-camera shots of the model might be substituted. De Antonio agreed to the substitution upon my agreement that the model was accurate.
      I took a shower, shaved and called Paul Fox. The operator at the BBC cut me off. I called again. He was not in but would call back. He never did. I called Peter Pagamenta. He was at a meeting, and his office would switch me to the meeting room. We were cut off again. I called back. Mr. Pagamenta will call you in a minute. He didn't.
      I called back in fifteen minutes and reached him. I said that I would like to see the model. He said, sorry about the renovation at the hotel; hope it hasn't disturbed you. I said that it was quite all right, thinking that if he knew about it he might have booked a room at some other hotel.
      “I would like to see the model,” I said.
      He said, “How would tomorrow do?”
      “Not too well,” I said, “for if any changes have to be made you may need some time and to-morrow is the day of the programme.”
      “Well, let's see what time might be convenient for us for you to arrive,” he considered. He said he'd call back.
      The phone rang and it was Per Hanghoj, a journalist for the Danish afternoon newspaper, Ekstrabladet. I asked him if he would like to see the BBC model and meet some BBC officials. He said he would like to, and we took a taxicab to the BBC Lime Grove studio. There we met Pagamenta, who permitted us to see the model. It was breathtaking in detail. And in each crucial respect it was inaccurate.
      One of the participants, Bickel, in an effort to prove that no shots could have come from behind the wooden fence, the area from which some of the shots originated, had written in Commentary that “people were milling about this area and looking down on it from the railroad bridge over the underpass, and no one saw an armed man.”2 Bickel's argument obviously rests upon the allegation that one can observe the area behind the wooden fence from the railroad bridge, which is above it. His ignorance of the geography of the area can probably be explained by his failure to visit the location, but should not have formed the basis for his curious theory. The railroad bridge is on a level with the base of the five-foot fence, not about it, and the fence area is heavily landscaped with bushes and trees so dense that it is absolutely impossible to see anyone behind the fence from the bridge.
      Yet the BBC model seemed almost designed to accommodate Bickel's false impression, although I felt quite certain that slovenly supervision, not mischievousness, was responsible for the model, which placed the bridge well above the fence and removed all the bushes and most of the trees from the area, thus giving the model witnesses a view which the real witnesses could never have secured.
      In its Report the Commission had said that a most important witness, S. M. Holland, was living proof that no shots came from behind the fence, since he ran to the area behind the fence from the railroad bridge “immediately” after the shots were fired.3 In the film Holland answered that incorrect conclusion by stating that it took him two or two and a half minutes to get to the fence, since the area between him and that destination was “a sea of cars.” He said they were so tightly packed, bumper to bumper, that he had to climb over them. Again the BBC model accommodated the Commission rather than the facts. There was no “sea of cars,” just a few scattered models that would not have prevented Holland from speeding to the fence.
      Pagamenta resisted my suggestions for changes in the model. I suggested that we compare the model to photographs. “We don't have any photographs here at the studio,” was the reply. “How could you construct a detailed model without photographs?” I asked, but, interrupting myself, I said, “Never mind, I have some at the hotel and I'll fetch them now.”
      Before I left to get them, I observed the remainder of the set. On the far left, appearing almost as if it were in a hole, was a small table, at which I was told I would sit during the programme. A larger table, raised as is a judge's bench, stood in the centre, and it was this that created the impression that my table sat in a hole in the ground. To the right was another larger table for two, and still further along the set still another for the impartial moderator, Kenneth Harris.
      “Why the elevated table?” I asked.
      “For the two judges or assessors, as we call them,” was the reply.
      “And who might they be?”
      “As I told you before, Lord Devlin and Professor Bickel,” was the reply.
      I observed, “I thought that they were participants in the debate.”
      “Well, they will participate as judges; that is, they will give their verdict at the end of the programme, and as to the debate it will not really be a debate. That is, you will be given a chance to speak when you are personally attacked.”
      “When,” not “if,” I thought. He makes it sound as if it is already set.
      “Surely,” I said, “I didn't come all this way to defend myself. I came to discuss the facts surrounding the death of the President. Isn't that the name of your programme?”
      “Well, you had better talk with Mr. Fox about this,” was the answer.
      Hanghoj and I were ushered into a small downstairs room to await Fox. In time he appeared with Kenneth Harris. We were offered a drink, as is the custom at the BBC. I accepted. The whiskey arrived almost at once with ice and water, as all Americans presumably like it, although I had said I would prefer it straight. Harris' gin arrived just as we began to depart.
      Fox seemed irritated. “I understand you have some problems,” he said. I explained them all. The model was not accurate. How could two Warren Commission apologists be judges? Lord Devlin had served as the almost official salesman for the Warren Report in England for more than two years. He had endorsed the Report before the evidence was published, and since the publication of the twenty-six volumes he had betrayed no trace of having examined them. Bickel, on a smaller scale, had tried to serve the Establishment in his own country in much the same way. How could Fox suggest that they be judges?
      Fox said, “After all, we are showing your two-hour film, so there is no need for everyone on the panel to agree with you.” I submitted that he had not understood my point. If he desired, he could have a dozen Warren Commission spokesmen on the programme and I would not object. What was unsatisfactory was the idea that the BBC sought to establish two such spokesmen as judges.
      Fox, now aided by the moderator, said that they could hardly be expected to withdraw the invitation to Lord Devlin or Professor Bickel. I did not expect or hope that would be done. I merely suggested that they be stripped of their black robes and made mortals like the rest of us. “Cannot be done,” said Fox.
      I then suggested that they be introduced properly. That is, let the audience know that they had written in support of the Commission's central conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin. “Surely,” said Fox, “you don't doubt the integrity of two such important men in public life. Surely you believe that they can be swayed by the evidence if it proves that their previously held position was wrong.” Their integrity was irrelevant to the discussion, their prejudice central, I offered. Harris resolved the problem by stating that he would introduce them as two men who had supported the Commission's view. He added that if I wanted to discuss my objections to them on the air, I would be given every opportunity to do so. I said that I would do so.
      Then we approached the crux of the matter -- my role in the debate. It was set, it could not be changed, I could only respond to personal attacks, said Harris and Fox in one voice and several times. “I doubt that the audience cares much for hearing personal attacks made or defended against,” I said. I thought that perhaps they would like to hear about the death of the President, which might be why they would turn to the programme called “The Death of Kennedy.”
      “If you want to do another programme, called 'Mark Lane Attacked and Defended.' I will come back for it, but I do not suppose that anyone will care to watch it,” I added.
      “The format is set. If cannot be changed. The film will be presented in four segments. The Commission lawyers will attack each portion and if, in doing so, they make any personal attacks upon you, you will be permitted some time to respond. In addition, as we have agreed, you will be given ample time to point out what you consider to be weaknesses in the programme's format and in its choice of assessors.”
      “In four segments?” I asked. “The film was the result of two years of investigatory endeavour. We sacrificed to make it. This is its world premiere. Why do you intend to chop it up into four pieces? Let it be seen as it was made, and then let your critics say what they will. The film has an integrity and an identity of its own. Do not destroy that.”
      Fox said that according to the contract that de Antonio signed “we have the right to show the film in segments and we intend to do it that way.” I wrung but one concession from the BBC. Harris and Fox both agreed -- both gave solemn commitments -- that I would be given ample time at the outset of the programme to dissent from the format, to explain my objection to the judges, to explain that the film could not encompass the entire case against the Report but only those portions which were filmic and that in my view the BBC formula defeated a genuine exchange of the facts. We shook hands and were about to depart when Hanghoj, as journalists will do, asked a few questions of Harris.

Q. Don't you write for The Observer?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. What is The Observer's position on the assassination?
A. We don't have one.
Q. You don't have one?
A. No.
Q. Don't you think that the subject is sufficiently important for you to think about it and take a position?
A. Well, we did do that when the Report came out.
Q. Yes?
A. Well, we supported the Commission.
Q. Have you taken another position since then?
A. No, we haven't.
Q. Then The Observer's position is in support of the Warren Commission?
A. Well, you might say that.
Q. Wouldn't you say that?
A. Yes, I suppose so.
Q. You will be the moderator tonight?
A. Yes.

      I arrived back at the studio one hour and a half before air time. The parties were well separated. I was placed in a small cubicle, lavishly furnished with food, liquor and excellent wine. Some doors, away were Specter and Belin and the visiting BBC brass, all of whom, we were told in whispers, had arrived for the programme -- the longest live studio production in British history.
      Just before air time, I asked what was to be done about makeup. A veteran of several hundred appearances in America, I had expected that matter to disposed of in a dressing room long before then. “It will be taken care of in the studio.” Makeup was applied to some, but not to me.
      Of serious concern was the fact that there was but one set of the twenty-six volumes and these were given to Belin and Specter and placed far out of my reach. As the programme began, it became clear that Harris was working from a script and that both Belin and Specter had copies of it. I had none; and, in fact, I had thought that the spontaneous programme which had been described to us would preclude the use of one.
      The London Times reported on its front page that the BBC switchboard had been jammed with viewers complaining that the programme was unfair. The Daily Mirror said, “Chairman Kenneth Harris officiously and, for me, embarrassingly clumsily silenced Mr. Lane whenever he tried to cross verbal swords with the rival lawyers.” The Daily Sketch said that Harris conducted the programme “far too brusquely.” The Daily Express headlined its 'story, “Viewers Protest 'Unfair' During TV Marathon,” and added, “Harris did appear to behave pompously.” In a story headed “Verdict on Harris,” the “Londoner's Diary” in the Evening Standard evidently found Harris guilty of being “nervous,” “too abrupt” and “fairly childish.”
      On the facts, the Times pointed out that many witnesses did insist that the shots came from behind a fence on a grassy knoll, and the Guardian, an early and strong supporter of the Commission, did a complete turnabout: “Mark Lane seems now to have won his case, or Oswald's case.” And: “Now it seems clear to almost everyone but the Warren Commission that it was indeed a rush to judgment.”
      Could one bullet have hit both the President and Governor Connally? Said the Daily Mirror, “It just doesn't seem possible.” If not, there were at least two assassins.
      The next day the Times of London ran a fairly lengthy and scrupulously fair and accurate story presenting some of my objections and the BBC reply. By combining that reply with the Kenneth Harris statement to the Standard the day before, the definitive Establishment position can be ascertained.
      After the witnesses in the film said that they heard shots come from behind the fence and saw a puff of smoke come from that location as well, Cliff Michelmore, not waiting for the Belin-Specter response, said for the BBC that the whole of Dealey Plaza is bowlshaped and that the area behind the fence is crisscrossed with steam pipes thereby accounting for the “smoke.” Ignorance, Bickel's only excuse, cannot be brought forward in defence of that false allegation, since the BBC had sent Michelmore to Dallas to look about. The area behind the fence is not crisscrossed with steam pipes. There is but one pipe anywhere in the entire area and it runs in a straight line from the overpass and not behind the fence. Did Michelmore believe that a man who had spent forty-one years working that section of the railroad yards, as in the case of Holland, would state that he saw smoke, that he knew that it came from a weapon and be totally unaware of the presence of steam pipes that the clever Michelmore found on his first trip there? I mention Michelmore's crisscrossed pipes because it was unfortunately typical of several false statements that he made -- all of which conformed to the Commission's case if not to the facts.
      While the film was playing, the debate in the studio flourished, only to die under Harris' heavy hand when the live broadcast, so to speak, commenced. An example: During an early segment of the programme, Harris began questioning Belin, asking him in effect if he had been engaged in any correspondence with me regarding the make of the film. Belin, it seems, had film aspirations and felt that de Antonio should provide a camera, film, a crew and an opportunity for him to speak in the film for a minimum of thirty minutes. Belin was well prepared for the leading questions put to him. He had the correspondence in question spread out before him even before the first question was asked, which, I must confess, raised some question in my normally unsuspicious mind regarding the possibility that the area had been explored before the programme began.
      I quickly put that thought aside, but it recurred in a more persistent form shortly thereafter when, for a moment, Harris forgot what he was about and departed from the script. Harris, perhaps to establish his own identity, asked Specter about a glaring inconsistency that the BBC had tracked down in the Warren Report. The FBI agent, Robert Frazier, had testified that an examination of the President's shirt did not prove that a shot came from the rear but only that it was “possible” that a shot came from the rear. In the Report, the word “possible” was escalated into “probable.” Despite Harris' sheepish grin at this discovery, it must be said that he appeared to have been fishing in shark water and to have hooked a baby minnow.
      Specter, who had no answer at first for this deviation from the script, began to stutter and wander. Then Belin handed him the wrong page of the volume, after I had volunteered the correct one, and there the word “probable” did appear but in another context. Specter read “probable” with his booming district attorney voice, and thus the matter was settled. That is, almost settled. I asked if I might comment upon that for just a moment. The answer from Harris, who had now regained his composure and commitment, was a stern “no.” The matter was settled. But it was not forgotten. Soon a portion of the film was shown.
      This generally would herald an immediate period of relaxation, but this time when the cameras in the studio went off, the tension began to build. Specter scowled and raised his voice, registering in menacing tones. His anger was directed at a crumbling Harris. “Why did you ask that question? We never went over that. If you do that again -- well, you'd better not. I'm not fooling now.” And then the prosecuting attorney gestured toward me while still addressing Harris. “And you'd better shut that guy up too -- I'm telling you now.” I had spoken but a few words; mostly, they were, “May I say something now?”
      Harris apologized. He promised to depart from the prearranged script no further. I left my little table and casually approached Harris. “Sir,” I said,“I have the feeling that I have missed something by not arriving a week ago. Have you been having rehearsals in my absence?” Harris said that they had gone over the general area of the questions with the Commission lawyers. “Yes, we have.” I suggested that it appeared that even some specifics had been agreed upon, based upon Specter's anger regarding one question and Harris' agreement to stray never again. Harris replied that “Mr. Specter only meant that if he was not prepared for a specific question then he would be placed in the embarrassing position of having to fumble for papers,” and, added Harris, “Mr. Specter was certainly more than half right about that.”
      I observed that Harris had never even discussed general areas with me. I then asked Harris if I might have a copy of the script. He said that there were but three -- his, Belin's and Specter's. Of course I could not doubt his word, but it seemed unusual that the BBC would mimeograph just three copies of a document, and it was that which prevented me from fully accepting his answer. During the next four hours I made fifteen requests to four different BBC representatives for a copy of the script.
      At about 11:00 p.m. I found Fox and told him that he had made a solemn commitment to me the day before -- that it had been agreed that at the outset of the programme I might register a dissent from the programme's format and choice of judges. Fox said that I would be able to have time at 11:30. While that did not meet my conception of the programme's outset, I agreed. Closer to midnight than eleven, Harris said I could have a few minutes. I began by saving that the BBC had rendered a disservice to the truth when Harris stopped me and then picked up his phone to converse with the powers that be at the BBC.
      On camera, silence. Then Harris spoke. I could almost have sympathized with him had he appeared torn between his commitment to his word of honour and the word from above. But that conflict evidently did not confront him. He said, “You may not discuss that subject at all.” I then began to discuss the single-bullet theory. At this moment, Specter, who invented the whole thing, left his seat and charged over to Harris, telling him quite loudly, and now on camera, that I should not be allowed to trifle with his theory. I presume that since it had contributed to making him a district attorney and a candidate for the mayoralty, it was not to be fooled with. Harris supinely yielded once again, saying that I could only discuss subjects that came up in the second part of the programme. I asked him to tell me what to talk about and I promised to discuss any subject he wished to hear, when he informed me that my time was up.
      During a studio intermission, it had become plain that Bickel had a surprise in store. He was going to depart somewhat from his previously published position and say that he was not quite satisfied with the single-bullet theory and that if the single-bullet theory failed, there might be two assassins. Specter was livid. The fixed jury was not longer under control. Specter demanded an opportunity to answer Bickel, who had uttered hardly a word for almost five hours.
      Harris indicated that Specter would be permitted to answer Bickel after he rendered his verdict. They must have wild court scenes in Philadelphia, I kept thinking. Bickel seemed a bit put out. Harris was insistent, at last showing the stern stuff he was made of, and Bickel evidently yielded.
      After Bickel spoke briefly, Harris, as if the thought had just struck him, turned to Specter and said, sir, would you like to comment on that. Well, as long as he was asked, Specter was willing. It did occur to me during this exchange that this was the very subject that I was prevented from discussing because it was not in the “second part of the programme” -- whatever that meant. Surely, now that it had been introduced twice more, I would not be denied my first comment on the subject. Waiting until Specter concluded, I addressed a rather brief request to our chairman. “May I comment upon that?” The reply was “no.”
      The evening ended on an unmistakably light note. Lord Devlin summed up. He wanted us to let President Kennedy's soul rest in peace -- anyway, suppose there was another assassin; no one had proved that he was a subversive, and if he wasn't subversive, what difference did it make? I was about to ask Lord Devlin for a definition of the word “subversive” that does not include one who kills his own President, but I decided not to.
      The BBC officials invited me to wine and dine in my cubicle below. I was somehow neither hungry nor thirsty, just anxious to say a few words. Reporters from two London daily papers were there. They asked for an interview. I agreed. A young BBC official approached. He said no rooms were available for a press conference. It was not much before one in the morning, and I found it difficult to believe that the BBC could not scare up one empty room. “Oh, it's not that,” the young man replied, “but we cannot permit you to talk with the press here.” I said that the BBC had made a room available to me and that I wished to utilize it for a conference. He said that “it cannot be done.”
      The reporters were incredulous. We began to pack our belongings for a trip back to my hotel for the conference when the BBC relented and permitted it to take place there. I said, “The programme had been rigged by the BBC to protect the Warren Commission lawyers from debate.” I added that “we never ran into that sort of trouble in countries, France as one example, whose economies are not entirely dependent upon the United States. The Socialist government, indeed. Lenin must be twirling in his tomb.”
      I left BBC's Lime Grove studio to find a few citizens waiting outside. One offered his hand and his sympathy and said that “BBC does not speak for the English people, not this disgraceful night it doesn't.” Others agreed.
      At my hotel, a delegation of three, sent by twenty who had watched the programme, expressed similar views but in stronger language. At Oxford University the next day, the students made their views known also. Hundreds of letters of support, sent by barristers, law students, the Royal Shakespeare Company and most often just be ordinary viewers, reached me in the next few days.
      Harris told the Evening Standard, “I don't think Mark Lane has any grounds for complaint. He was here for one purpose, and one purpose only. As it was stated weeks ago, he was invited to attend so that if anybody made charges against him personally -- for example, he was just interested in making money out of the whole business or that he was a Communist -- he could answer the charges against him.” Harris added that if he had permitted me to debate with Specter or Belin, “I should have had trouble with the two lawyers. They only came on the basis of this agreement.” Harris added that if he had allowed me to enter the debate, the two Commission lawyers “would have walked off.”
      I have never refused a debate on equal grounds with Commission personnel. One must wonder what the two lawyers know about their own case which would cause them to walk away rather than debate.
      The BBC told the Evening Standard, “We arranged a viewing session for a number of representatives from foreign TV networks, and they all made a point of saying how impressed they were by Mr. Harris' handling of the programme.” That statement appears to be untrue. I spoke with just one representative, Klaus Toksvig, of Danish TV. He told me that he was the only representative present from a foreign television network and that he believed the BBC programme to have been extremely unfair.
      The BBC spokesman concluded, “We arranged a press conference for Mr. Lane after the programme ended.”
      As I prepared to leave London, a BBC programme announced that Barrow and Southampton had tied, 2-2. I just knew that I couldn't be sure unless I read it in the London Times the next morning.

1. “The Death of Kennedy,” BBC2, January 29, 1967. Back to text
2. Commentary, October 1966. Back to text
3. WCR, 76. Back to text
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