Robert Kennedy Struggled With JFK's Assassination

ByABC News
August 30, 2004, 2:45 PM

Nov. 20 -- Journalist Evan Thomas says as attorney general, Robert Kennedy feared he had somehow gotten his own brother, President John F. Kennedy, killed.

Author of a biography of Robert Kennedy, Thomas describes his role in the Kennedy administration and his involvement in the investigation.

The following is an excerpt of ABCNEWS' interview with Thomas:

ABCNEWS: Can you describe the fears in America in the minutes and hours right after President Kennedy's assassination?

Thomas: This is the height of the Cold War. And the idea that a sneak attack from the Russians was very much on people's minds. So naturally the fear is that this was the first step in a general attack by the Soviet Union. Not just ordinary people, but at the top of government, that's the first thing that they're wondering about. Is this an attack to decapitate our leader, so they can come in and nuke us?

We had scared the hell out of each other in the Cuban Missile Crisis the year before. We have to remember that memory of that near miss was still fresh in people's minds.

ABCNEWS: How did the leaders and agencies of our government respond to the Kennedy asssassination?

Thomas: I think the most important thing the United States government wanted to do was reassure the public that there was not some plot, not some Russian attack, not some Cuban attack. It was to calm and soothe fears, real fears, that this was somehow some nefarious Communist plot. And that the number one goal throughout the upper levels of the government was to calm that fear, and bring a sense of reassurance that this really was the work of a lone gunman.

Lost Faith in Government

ABCNEWS: Was there any price that was paid for that?

Thomas: The price was not readily apparent. There was a price to that reassurance, to that soothing, because there was a bit of dissembling. And the bill did not come due until later.