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Jim Lehrer Recalls JFK Assassination: ‘I Went Right to Oswald. Did You Kill the President?’

JFKCBSThe Daily Beast talks to a handful of reporters, including Jim Lehrer and Bob Schieffer, about their memories from the day JFK was assassinated. Lehrer, a reporter for the Dallas Times-Herald at the time, recalls interacting with the President’s assassin at the police station — and the mistake he almost made covering the story:

Jim Lehrer’s story on the security surrounding the president’s visit had featured a map of the motorcade route and had run on the first page of the Dallas Times-Herald that morning. A copy was later found among Oswald’s effects. Lehrer, then a young reporter, recalled now the informality in the police station, where they were moving Oswald from one office to another, “and I went right to Oswald. ‘Did you kill the president?’ ‘I didn’t kill anybody,’” he replied. “I wrote that down,” Lehrer said. Asked if he believed him, Lehrer said, “Not my job to be judge and jury.”

The police brought Oswald out “so people could see they weren’t beating him up. He had some scars from when they arrested him. They wanted to show there were no new scars,” Lehrer recounted. “I stood next to Jack Ruby. I didn’t even know who he was.” The Dallas Times-Herald was putting out new editions every 60 or 70 minutes, and Lehrer got a tip from an FBI agent that a Secret Service agent had been killed along with Kennedy. He called it in, but the tip turned out to be wrong, a mistake that bothers Lehrer to this day. “In today’s world, that would have gone out like that,” he says. A Rewrite man on his own spiked the story after talking to Parkland. “I saved your ass and your job,” he told Lehrer.

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