187. Telegram From the United States Information Agency to All Principal United States Information Service Posts1


1. The following guidance has been transmitted to USIA media:

2. All strata of American society are shocked and horrified by the Kennedy shooting. From the President and his official family to the lowliest members of the national community, all share the deepest compassion for the Kennedy family. In the words of President Johnson, we all pray for the Senator’s recovery.2

3. It can be expected that once the initial statements of shock, horror and grief have been made, there may be a flurry of extremist and intemperate statements, statements critical of “a sick society” which can generate such assassinations. These should be used only in direct ratio to the importance of their authors.

4. As in the death of John Kennedy, many in the world again will regard today’s tragic shooting in terms of a conspiracy. We cannot and should not be in a position of adding to, or assessing in any way, this kind of theorizing. We should stick strictly with official comments by the police and other law enforcement agencies. For the time being, avoid picking up non-official comments on this subject from whatever source.

5. In view of the events surrounding the killing of President Kennedy’s assassin five years ago, we should watch for and use any details on the legal rights being afforded the man under arrest in today’s shooting. He has been offered the opportunity to have a lawyer, informed of other rights, etc.

6. On the basis of descriptions of the alleged assailant, some news items speculate that he might be a Latin American, Mexican-American, Eurasian, etc. We should not use any of these reports pending official confirmation of the man’s identity.3

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 306, General Subject Files; 1949–1970, Entry UD WW 264, Box 313, Master Copies, 1968. Limited Official Use. Drafted by Sorkin; cleared by Chernoff; approved by Ryan.
  2. Kennedy was shot after midnight on June 5 in Los Angeles and died on June 6. The actual quotation from Johnson’s official statement released after the shooting was: “All America prays for his recovery.” (Public Papers: Johnson, 1968–1969, Book I, p. 691)
  3. The individual identified as the man who assassinated Kennedy was Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, who was born in Jordan, but moved to the United States with his family and grew up in California. He was eventually tried and convicted of the killing. (Ward Just, “The Accused: A Loner Who Hated Israel” Washington Post, June 7, 1968, p. A1)