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"Do you still say that you don't accept the testimony about President Kennedy because Peter Lawford and Judith Exner are not considered to be 'reliable sources'? How about the latest from a fellow journalist, Seymour Hirsch?"

The above words were thrown at me by an acquaintance three weeks ago. And my answer was, "Wait until I find if that lawyer's son is a good source." And so I found myself in the unusual position of defending President Kennedy's reputation.

The lawyer's son supposedly found some letters from his deceased father that linked the late actor Marilyn Monroe with the late President Kennedy. And that revelation gave new impetus to an old rumor.

As noted before, I refused to accept the testimony of Lawford and Exner, a gangster's moll with an eye for the fast buck availble to any "insider" in today's publishing field.

In the same exercise I deplored the acceptance of a story about J. Edgar Hoover based on the testimony of a woman with, to be kind, a very poor track record. That story is now accepted as gospel and is in frequent monologues by Jay Leno and David Letterman.

Now, I knew that I was a voice crying in the wilderness about Hoover. I knew that when I called a person involved in staging a reunion of FBI agents near the airport and ran into bewilderment from the person.

The "reliable sources" like to deal with dead celebrities, and in that direction we can expect all sorts of "hidden letters." I am surprised to see that hidden missives from Princess Di have not surfaced, but they'll be coming soon.

ABC-TV was going to do a big show on the Monroe-Kennedy link, but left out that chapter when the book did. It seems that the "reliable source" wasn't all that reliable.

Among other matters, the source had changed his resume when he was married. He said that he had attended Harvard and New York University, and authorities at those schools said there was no record of his matriculation at either place.

Of course, some sneered that many of us have padded a resume. But then the deceased lawyer's colleagues said the lawyer had not done JFK's legal work and had no connection to the late president.

Not long after Kennedy was assassinated (the first time, that is), a reputable publisher published a book called "Conversations With Kennedy." Its author was Ben Bradlee, head editorial honcho at the Washington Post, who is now retired.

After the first Exner reports appeared, Bradlee was asked about Kennedy's "horizontal gymnastics." And Bradlee, who had been a neighbor of Kennedy's during the president's early married life, said he had not been aware of same.

So that leaves us with the two original sources, Lawford and Exner.

Reliable? What do you say?

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