Inside ‘The Irishman’s’ Gonzo Theory That the Mob Killed JFK
The conspiracy, popularized by Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman,’ holds that the mob orchestrated JFK’s murder in revenge for his attorney general brother targeting their ranks.
In early 2018, Vulture ran an interview with then 85-year-old composer and producer Quincy Jones. The exchange stretched beyond the typical bounds of celebrity-reporter lunch chatter, expanding, almost immediately, into a semi-fantastical realm, as Jones lobbed assessments on everything from Michael Jackson to Big Pharma to astrology to the Clintons within the first few paragraphs alone. At one point, interviewer David Marchese asked: What’s something you wish you didn’t know? Jones answered: “Who killed Kennedy.”
When Marchese pressed the producer, he singled out Sam Giancana, a Chicago gangster whose name has floated around Kennedy conspiracy circles for decades. Jones was hinting at a well-trod conspiracy theory that the mob had helped elect John F. Kennedy in 1960; that they had turned on him after Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy began targeting their ranks; and that they orchestrated JFK’s murder in revenge. “The connection was there between Sinatra and the Mafia and Kennedy,” Jones said. “Joe Kennedy—he was a bad man—he came to Frank to have him talk to Giancana about getting votes.” And, in a recent interview with The Daily Beast, Robert De Niro lent credence to the theory, saying, “Maybe there was something to the mob being connected to it somehow? Maybe there was? Frank Sheeran touches on it through things that he was asked to do that connected it, in a way. My feeling is always that it’s got to come out somehow but it hasn’t so far, though these types of things are always released later, so maybe someday we’ll get some kind of answer.”
In the wake of Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, which hit theaters Nov. 1 and comes to Netflix Nov. 27, Jones’ theory has gotten renewed life. Scorsese’s three-hour epic, based on investigator Charles Brandt’s 2004 book I Heard You Paint Houses, tells the story of Frank Sheeran (De Niro), an Irish truck driver turned hitman, who gets roped into the Italian Bufalino crime family, headed by Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), and winds up involved in one of the most mysterious disappearances of the 1970s: the death of Teamster union boss Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). When Bufalino sends Sheeran to work for Hoffa, the union boss takes him under his wing, befriends his wife and daughters, and even encourages him to run for union leadership. The movie follows the three mob men across decades, from the first inklings of friendship to Sheeran’s final reveal: that after Hoffa lost favor with the Teamsters, the Irishman buckled to pressure and shot his friend in the back.