Roger Stone has had a long and colorful career in the darker undersides of Republican politics, from working on Richard Nixon’s Committee for the Re-Election of the President, to helping bring down New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, to, more recently, laying the groundwork for Donald Trump’s aborted run for president.
Now Stone, who sports a tattoo of Nixon on his back and serves as the fashion editor for the conservative website The Daily Caller—among his must-haves for men: a seersucker three-piece suit and a velvet blazer—is working on his latest takedown, a new examination of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
In The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ, Stone lays the half-century-old murder at the feet of Kennedy’s vice president, who Stone claims “had John F. Kennedy murdered and then as president used those powers to cover up the murder.”
Among the facts Stone says he is giving a full airing for the first time are Lyndon B. Johnson’s alleged complicity in at least six other murders, including that of a Department of Agriculture official who had been investigating a close Johnson associate and that of his own sister, Josefa Johnson, who Stone says “was a fairly high-profile bisexual at the time.”
“Johnson is facing jail, ruin, and the end of his political career. He is a very desperate man,” Stone said from Miami Beach, where he lives part-time. “Johnson knows that he is about to be indicted. He knows that Life magazine is going to publish an exposé regarding his relationship with Bobby Baker [a Johnson protégé accused of bribery]. After Kennedy’s death, Life magazine spikes the story. Johnson knows that the source of the story is Bobby Kennedy, then the attorney general desperate to get Johnson off the ticket. Johnson knows that [John F.] Kennedy has told a number of people, before leaving Washington, that he will dump Johnson and take Terry Sanford, then the governor of North Carolina, for vice president. He’s got a set of hearings coming up about his relationship to Billie Sol Estes [a Johnson ally later jailed for fraud]. On top of that, the two Kennedy brothers treat him like dogshit.”
Nixon “never flatly said who was responsible [for Kennedy’s death]. But he would say, ‘Both Johnson and I wanted to be president, but the only difference was I wouldn’t kill for it.”
Still, the juiciest parts of Stone’s book may be a series of interviews he conducted with his former boss Nixon toward the end of the former president’s life. According to Stone, Nixon “never flatly said who was responsible [for Kennedy’s death]. But he would say, ‘Both Johnson and I wanted to be president, but the only difference was I wouldn’t kill for it.”
When pressed on who he thought killed Kennedy, Nixon “would shiver and say, ‘Texas,’” said Stone.
Nixon, Stone says, had a long relationship with Jack Ruby, dating back to the time Nixon served on the House Un-American Activities Committee. There, Stone says, Ruby acted as an informant at Johnson’s request.
Stone is vague when asked to lay out exactly how Johnson was able to organize a team of assassins in Dallas for Nov. 22, 1963, but said the Dallas police force and the Secret Service were complicit.
Sean Cunningham, a professor of communication studies at Texas Tech and something of an expert on Kennedy conspiracy theories, said no evidence pointed to Johnson’s involvement. But he added that it made sense for Kennedy’s vice president to be the subject of many questions surrounding Kennedy’s death.
“Johnson has been the subject of numerous conspiracy theories throughout his career, and some of them are rooted in the fact that Johnson was making friends and making deals with people throughout his career, which seems to undermine the values that he was trying to promote,” Cunningham said. “He is going to invite conspiracy theories from both liberals and conservatives because it is so hard to put your finger on who is, other than someone who will do whatever it takes to get elected.”
The professor noted that Johnson presided over a conspiracy-laden era, with the assassinations of both Kennedys, Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X, as well as the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the escalation of the Vietnam War.
“It was the era of investigative journalism, of declining credibility,” he said. “Johnson makes for a good story and is an easy way to explain things.”
As for Stone, the new book marks the first in a series he intends to produce for Skyhorse Publishing, an independent publisher in Manhattan. Also in the pipeline are a memoir-advice book for would-be political operatives and what Stone says is a look at Ronald Reagan’s plans to run for president in 1968. Ever the showman, the colorful Stone is planning a book tour that will include a stop in front of the Johnson presidential library in Austin, Texas, and a possible demonstration in front of the Manhattan home of former Johnson aide and public television broadcaster Bill Moyers.
For much of the past year, Stone, who once took a New Yorker writer to his favorite swingers’ club in Miami, has been toying with the idea of a libertarian run for governor in Florida on a platform that calls for legalizing same-sex marriage and liberalizing marijuana laws.
But Stone told The Daily Beast that he probably won’t run, focusing instead on getting a medicinal marijuana ballot measure passed and, of course, on his newfound publishing career.
“I have tossed around the idea, but it is unlikely I will do it in the end,” he said. “I am not really candidate material anyway.”