Problems with Pamela McElwain-Brown's conclusions taken from the Discovery Channel's JFK: Inside the Target Car

The following post from Pamela McElwain-Brown appears as part of an extensive thread on the John Simkin Educational Forum. It concerns the Discovery Channel's presentation of JFK: Inside the Target Car. I have numbered each allegation for further comment.

1] “The tests proved nothing 'conclusively' except to those unaware of the fallacy of false alternatives. In addition, from the manner of bullying going on about the press release and the secrecy of this test, it is evident that the test is not supposed to be open to scrutiny. That is also a very weak position.”

"Here are only a smidgen of the numerous issues:"

2] “The tests were staged to give a desired effect -- the 'wind' was deliberately designed to encourage splatter. The claim was that a 25 mph wind was needed to simulate the actual wind plus movement of the car is false. The car was not going 10 mps at Z313, it had slowed nearly to a stop.”

3] “As far as the GK shot is concerned, what was proven is that a high-powered rifle did not fire the fatal headshot from that position. But then, whoever said it did? The Z312 position was misrepresented in the re-enactment. There is simply no excuse for that. Had Jackie and JFK been in the Z312 position and the gun a handgun or one with low power, the result would have been different.

[3a] "Of course, Jackie was nearly killed by the fatal bullet. That's why she climbed out the back of the car.” 

 Before placing blame on others for fallacy, false alternatives, and weak positions Ms. Brown should do a little fact checking of her own claims. For clarity my comments related to her allegations are out of order hence the numbering system.

2]  To understand the problems with Ms. Brown's assertions we need to see the actual transcript and not her selective interpertation of it. Here is Mr. Mack’s commentary about wind speed.

“We have the weather bureau data which was taken from just a few miles away. The wind was coming straight at the car at 15 miles per hour gusting to 20 miles an hour. The limousine had slowed down to somewhere between 7 and 8, 8 1/2 miles an hour. So we’ve got a total of somewhere between 20 and 25 miles per hour. We want to see how the matter that goes up in the air from that fatal shot. What happens to it? That’s why we have a fan.”

Ms. Brown - “The claim was that a 25 mph wind was needed to simulate the actual wind plus movement of the car is false.”

Weather bureau reports are often used in homicide investigations to prove or disprove a theory. Such was the case here. Ms. Brown alleges that the wind speed was “needed” to prove something. Wrong - It was used to show what would happen. And after reading the transcript I challenge her to show where Mack provided the viewers with only the high end wind speed of 25 mph.

Additionally, Mr. Mack was using a House Select Committee on Assassinations report  for the experiment. He was referencing Addendum A: Weather Bureau - Love Field Report., November 22, 1963. It was prepared by Daniel Mitchell the then Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. You can find the report in  HSCA Hearings Volume # 8 starting on page 173.

Ms. Brown - “The car was not going 10 mps at Z313, it had slowed nearly to a stop.”

I will give her the benefit of the doubt about the error of the limousine traveling at “10 mps.” She surely meant mph (miles per hour) instead of meters per second.

In this case instead of Ms. Brown’s unsupported allegation I would prefer to use the limousine speed study done for the House Select Committee on Assassinations by Noble prize winning Physicist Luis W. Alvarez.

In his report he disagreed with the original FBI conclusion of the vehicle slowing to 12 mph by Zapruder frame 299.  Alvarez felt it was more likely to be 8 mph. The complete Alvarez study is available on the Internet. It appears in HSCA Hearings Volume # 1 starting on page 428. The document is entitled “A physicist examines the Kennedy assassination film.” Mr. Alvarez's study countering Ms. Brown’s claim that the limousine “had slowed nearly to a stop” is found on page 440.

3] Ms. Brown - “As far as the GK (Grassy Knoll) shot is concerned, what was proven is that a high-powered rifle did not fire the fatal headshot from that position. But then, whoever said it did?”

At least twelve individuals have assured us they, others they know, or “researchers” have claimed they know who fired high powered weapons from the Grassy Knoll.

Ricky White and the three managers, J. Gary Shaw, Larry Howard and Larry Ray Harris, of the now defunct JFK Information Center claimed Ricky's father, Roscoe White, fired the fatal shot from the Grassy Knoll with a high powered rifle. The JFK Assassination Information Center during an August 1990 press conference displayed a high powered rifle claimed to be similar to the purported rifle White used.

Wim Dankbaar has supported James Files’ “confession” in which Files indicates he killed Kennedy firing a shot from the Grassy Knoll using a re-chambered Remington XP-100. The XP-100 was modified to accept a .222 mercury round to increase the muzzle velocity to match that of a high powered rifle.

Others who named shooters with assorted high powered weapons firing from the area of the Grassy Knoll are:





    Steve Rivele  

    Lucien Sarti

    The Men Who Killed Kennedy,1988 ~ Part 4

    Robert Russell   

    "The Second Man"

    All American Mafioso ~  p. 248

    John Craig   

    Charles Rogers

    The Man On the Grassy Knoll ~ Back cover

    Sheldon Inkol   

    Jack Lawrence   

    The Third Decade, July 1991, pp.1-17

    Joe West and J. Gary Shaw

    Charles Nicoletti

    Press Conference, May 1990

[3a] Ms. Brown - “Of course, Jackie was nearly killed by the fatal bullet. That's why she climbed out the back of the car.”

The historical record shows Ms. Brown to be in error. The fatal head shot damaged the upper right side of Kennedy’s head. Jackie was seated to the president's left. Jackie told the Warren Commission she had no recollection of the event. She later told Theodore White of Life magazine that she climbed onto the trunk “to get help for her husband.”

1]Ms. Brown mentions the fallacy of false alternatives but never informs the reader of the definition. The Philosophical Society web site defines the fallacy of false alternatives as "A fallacy occurring when the number of alternatives is said to be fewer/less than the actual number." For some like Ms. Brown this works well when attacking the Oswald acted alone proponents. However, when you consider that Win Dankbaar asserts Files was the lone assassin. Ricky White claimed his father shot Kennedy. Jim Garrison fingered Clay Shaw. Madeleine Brown and Barr McClellan said it was Lyndon Johnson. Using the definition it would seem anyone who makes a claim that any person is responsible is guilty of producing a fallacy of false alternatives!

Ms. Brown also accuses the Discovery Channel of  bullying, using secret testing, deliberately designing and staging the tests, and secrecy.

In my view this is an exaggeration. I think I have shown three instances where Ms Brown is doing nothing more than providing her own interpretation of events. And in all three instances her "facts" are not supported by the investigations, statements, and reports of others including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the House Select Committee on Assassinations, Luis W. Alvarez, and Jacqueline Kennedy.

What the Discovery Channel producers attempted to do was to scientifically test a couple of theories and present the results of those theories. When other scientists or researchers dispute a theory they form a research group and do their own testing. If their results contradict what was proposed they make their findings public to counter the original theory.


If the Discovery Channel’s findings can be refuted then most likely a competing network or organization would be more than happy to air the results. To those who complain about the cost of such a venture that argument is not valid. I know of at least two individuals who have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote their own pet theory as to who the shooter was as opposed to attempting to show how the assassination took place.

If a new proposal appears even remotely to have merit then competitors will rush to air it. This is exactly what happened when Nigel Turner made his pitch, with little proof of his and other “researchers” accusations, to the History Channel. His new programs aired in 2003 as the latest installments of The Men Who Killed Kennedy series.

Ms. Brown and those who disagree with the results of JFK: Inside the Target Car or any of the other Discovery Channel’s programs concerning the assassination should stop fault-finding and begin their own scientific testing. Let them refute the theories presented. And when doing so they should use facts as opposed to misrepresentation.

During my review of the Discovery Channel's presentation and much to my surprise I noticed Ms. Brown’s name in the credits.

"Special thanks to: Pamela Brown, The Henry Ford [Museum], The City of Dallas, Tx."

If she found the show’s content so distressing I wonder:

Can she post on the Simkin Forum her letter to the producers or the Discovery Channel showing her displeasure with the content? If she can't then I must assume grandstanding to her fellow malcontents on the forum takes precedence over taking a proactive stance.

Has she demanded that her name be removed from the credits? This would be something difficult to do but at least putting the producer and Discovery Channel on notice of her displeasure would further support her argument.

Was she paid for her work? And if so did she return the check or reimburse the producers in protest?

Dave Perry

December 3, 2008