Saturday, 9 May 2015

Lee Harvey Oswald did not have Aspergers: Correcting an Armchair Diagnosis

Lee Harvey Oswald did not have Aspergers: Correcting an Armchair Diagnosis    
Lee Harvey Oswald in Minsk with fellow factory workers

    Greg Parker, an Australian blogger with a long interest in the Kennedy assassination, conducted an armchair diagnosis on Lee Harvey Oswald.  He decided that Oswald had Aspergers, a neurobiological disorder linked to autism. He's wrong.

    Some common symptoms include the inability to show feelings for others (empathize), finding comfort in doing repetitive things, having trouble recognizing common social signals such as a frown or a hint to 'go away', and being unable to form meaningful relationships outside a range of narrow, often obsessive interests that can create expertise in a particular scientific field, such as mathematics or chemistry. 

    To begin with, as for Lee's not having the ability to empathize, let me explain that Marina Oswald, in Patricia McMillan's book Marina and Lee, which is CIA-approved, revealed that Lee (who was devoted to JFK) cried when baby Patrick,born premature to John and Jackie Kenedy, died of hyaline lung disease.

  It's also on record that Lee also cried when he got the small birthday cake Ruth Paine made for his 24th birthday (Marina and Lee, p. 474). Lee told me he cried because "That was the last birthday cake I'll ever have." Now, slips such as Lee's crying over his birthday cake shows that he could feel deep emotions, though he was a courageous man who exhibited considerable self-control when under arrest for Kennedy's murder. 

Other symptoms of Aspergers:

• Inability to listen to others

• Inflexible thinking [Parker misuses this important diagnostic benchmark]

• Repetitive routines provides feelings of security [Parker misuses this important diagnostic benchmark]

• Stress when their routine suddenly changes [Parker wrote: "Adherence to routines and schedules, and stress if expected routine is disrupted (Oswald was a prolific writer of “to do” lists)."  Fact: While there are a few 'to do" lists in Lee's busy life, try and find them.

• Inability to think in abstract ways (Parker says: "some evidence that this applied to Oswald" without citations. Lee had no problem whatsoever to think in abstract ways. For example, Lee wrote in his Historic Diary, "7.00 P.M. I decide to end it. Soak wrist in cold water to numb the pain. Than slash my left wrist. Than plaun wrist into bathtub of hot water. I think "when Rimma comes at 8. to find me dead it wil be a great shock. Somewhere a violin plays as I watch my life whirl away. I think to myself. "how easy to die" and "a sweet death, (to violins) about 8.00 Rimma finds me unconcious (bathtub water a rich red color)[spelling mostly not corrected to display his dyslexia]

• Specialised fields of interest [But this is true of many people who aren't Aspies]

  Many photos of Lee were taken by friends -- more than usual for the era.  Note how many of them show Lee smiling, or with his arms around a woman, or goofing off in the center of a batch of men, such as the famous photo of Lee in sunglasses, taken outside the factory at Minsk.

   Lee had a number of affairs and conquests before marrying Marina.  That he made a number of friends in the Marines, one of whom recently (Botelho, Santa Ana) contacted a friend of mine and who stated, for the record, that Lee was friendly, intelligent and prone to joking, who handled himself well, though he was being picked on by one of the officers unfairly. Botelho said that a lot of his testimony was cut out from what he told the Warren Commission and never got published.  However, another Marine (Felde) said Lee "kept to himself" and read "quality books" a lot.  Kerry Thornley was in between, describing Lee as friendly, but then suddenly breaking off contact with him. We need to look beyond statements made by the Marines because Lee was only a 17-year-old teen when he joined the Marines, barely of legal age. He had a lot of adjusting to do. Felde was only with Lee in Boot Camp.

  As a young adult, upon his return from the USSR to the USA, Lee had the burden of keeping Marina sufficiently isolated so she could not be accused of being a spy. Lee's CIA-connected 'best friend' in Dallas, George de Mohrenschildt, said he didn't defend Lee as he should have to the Warren Commission in his book I AM A PATSY! (HSCA), and added that Lee would not have betrayed him as he had betrayed Lee, commenting that Lee would have been a fearless and loyal friend, whereas he, de Mohrenschildt, was in comparison a craven coward.

   Lee did have dyslexia, which is common to many people, but found among males of above-average intelligence. 

   Because "Aspies" can have real problems learning how to read, some people think those with dyslexia instead have Aspergers, which is one of the errors Greg Parker makes in his blog.

   Lee had dyslexia. The reason he could often spell better was because he used a dictionary (and for some FPCC letters I was there, and he consulted me on spelling some words). 

   Note that Lee had no developmental delays, and was always a bright and cheerful child until his mother moved them to New York, where he lost his entire family support system after going to the defense of his obstrusive and rude mother, who was, according to Lee, being yelled at by John Pic's wife (Pic was out on duty at the time, I believe... Marguerite had moved herself and lee into the tiny apartment Pic and his wife shared with her parent(s) who were temporarily away. After weeks there, it was obvious Marguerite was there to stay. Lee drew apenknife on Pic's wife when, he told me, she threatened to hit his mother. At any rate, he was quite defensive of his mother and they got kicked out. It was a hard and lonely time for Lee. So, what did he do? Curl up in a corner? No. He took to riding the subways and trains, spending time in libraries, and avoiding school. He loved animals.  It's not surprising, therefore, that Lee's favorite haunt was the Bronx Zoo, where he was arrested for truancy.

  In New York, Lee avoided school, had some emotional problems in his isolation, wore the wrong (Southern style) clothes and was mocked and got into fights due to being the new kid and having a New Orleans accent, which Lee quickly erased. Unlike most Aspies, Lee had a terrific facility for learning a language --as evidenced by his ability to pick up Russian, a very difficult language, so fast that at the end of about a year and a half practicing and learning Russian, when Marina met him at a dance, she thought Lee was a Belarus native (she was new in town from Leningrad and had moved in with her uncle's family, very small and crowded apartment, so they were anxious to get her married off). The Belarus variety of Russian was not as elegant as proper Russian and Belarus-born George DeMohrenschildt said Marina chided Lee for his occasional 'errors'--which irritated George, who declared Lee had the best command of Russian he had ever known in a foreigner--and he taught Russian to college students in classes for college credit.

  So--Lee was very good at language, had some psychological issues when he was uprooted and thrust into a new world in New York, where he ended up briefly in an institution for juveniledelinquents, where, lee told me, staff and the bigger kids regularly abused newcomers, including him.

    So young Lee had some emotional problems at that key time in his life--age 11-13--when he was entering puberty--a rough time for all adolescents.

    I think he did very well, with the poor parent he had to live with.

   Here are the primary factors to consider with Aspergers.


   Asperger's syndrome, also called Asperger's disorder, is a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). PDDs are a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination.

  Greg Parker claimed that Lee "avoided eye contact' and that was evidence that he had Aspergers.  [Parker wrote: Oswald could not make eye contact with Ruanne Kloepfer on her visit to the Oswald residence in Sept, 1963.]  But Parker should have looked at Hugh Murray's report -- in his book review of Me & Lee--a little more closely, where he described this singular event.  Murray says Kloepfer also said Lee made a pass at her in the kitchen, which is why he wouldn't make eye contact with her when they returned to the living room, where her sister, mother and Marina were.  Her statement that Ruth Paine drove up in the station wagon, fresh from her trip East, just as they were leaving, cannot be true if Ruth Paine is telling the truth, because Paine testified to the Warren Commission that  "I was impressed with the role that Lee took of the general host, talking with them, looking over some slides that one of the daughters had brought of her trip, recent trip to Russia, showing sights that they recognized, I guess, in Moscow.
Mr. JENNER - That the girls recognized?
Mrs. PAINE - No; that Lee and Marina recognized of Moscow, or Lee did, at least. And he was very outgoing and warm and friendly..."

Parker says: "Hampered conversational ability (some evidence that this applied to Oswald)..."  and "Inability to manage appropriate social conduct (some evidence that this applied to Oswald)..."   Parker also says, "Even affected people who are high achieving and academically or vocationally successful have trouble negotiating the ‘hidden rules’ of courtship. Inappropriate sexual behaviour can result. (despite not being able to make eye contact with Ruanne Kleopfer, she nevertheless felt he was flirting with her – despite Marina being home at the time)..."  Parker takes the flawed statement of Ruanne Kloepfer as fact, even though her sister said that Ruanne never left the room and the event did not occur:

   "Because Marina was pregnant, Ruanne went to help Lee.  That is when Lee came on to Ruanne.  That is when she became furious.  They return to the living room.  In her email, Karol [Ruanne's mother]denies that that occurred.  She asserts that they were all in the living room for the full hour of the visit...[however] according to Karol, [Ruanne] continually berated Lee for preparing to leave his pregnant wife and child." [ -- his uncomplimentary assessment of me, here, contains numerous misinterpretations of my statements and my book, but that's for another time. ].

   Ruth Paine mentions nothing negative whatsoever in her description of how Lee was treated or how he behaved with the Kloepfers--a rare occurrence indeed. It's my opinion that Paine would have mentioned anything negative that happened if she could, for she doesn't seem to fail to mention anyone criticizing Lee elsewhere. But Parker takes the claims of Ruanne to support not one but two of his claims:

  (1)   "...a person with Asperger's syndrome aged in their 20s typically has the sexual codes of conduct befitting a teenager...[they] have trouble negotiating the ‘hidden rules’ of courtship. Inappropriate sexual behaviour can result...(2)  (despite not being able to make eye contact with Ruanne Kleopfer, she nevertheless felt he was flirting with her – despite Marina being home at the time).."

   Parker ignores Ruth Paine's WC statement that Lee Oswald was "very outgoing and warm and friendly" to the Kloepfers and that she was "impressed with the role Lee took of the general host."  He conveniently forgets that Lee was able to get Marina's promise to marry in two weeks, ignores de Mohrenschildt's description of Lee impressing the socks off a beautiful cultured Japanese musician at George's party, where  Marina was the one acting like a child, and of course denies that I ever met Lee, though I remain devoted to him.

     In an affront I cannot stomach, Parker says  "Problems with controlling feelings such as anger, depression and anxiety (some evidence that this applied to Oswald)..." as "evidence" of Aspergers, when in every instance, we find Lee's worst behavior is almost always associated with his inability to get along with Marina. Considering how common this problem is between couples from different cultures, and how opposite their personalities were, Parker should have looked elsewhere before applying this criterion, considering the fact that Lee, under considerable stress, being yelled at by reporters when under arrest, not only makes eye contact with everyone he can, but under interrogation, he remained in control of his emotions. Said Dallas Police Investigator Jim Leavelle, the man who brought Lee out double-handcuffed when Lee was shot by Jack Ruby: “He was very polite, calm and collected,” Leavelle said...“I said later that I wouldn’t want to be that cool and calm after shooting two people.”  Leavelle said he was struck by one thing that came from Oswald’s mouth: “I didn’t shoot anybody.”  []

   So, let's review:

   "...a person with Asperger’s may engage in long-winded, one-sided conversations without noticing or caring about the listener’s interest. They also often lack usual nonverbal communication skills, such as engaging in eye contact with others they’re talking to, or failing to react and empathize with other people’s stories and conversation... They may have a hard time “reading” other people or understanding humor."

    As for understanding humor, George de Mohrenschildt introduces us to Lee as a man who loved to tell jokes (they were usually wry jokes).  He recounts back-and-forth jokes between them, especially about life in the Soviet Union.  Lee had a great sense of humor and liked to tease me, as can easily be seen in Me & Lee where he wouldn't tell me the ending of the science fiction story about 'The Last Male."

    Let me stress that high intelligence and the ability to concentrate on something are attributes of many Aspies. But that's also true of many other people who are utterly normal. 

   Nevertheless, Parker faults Lee for achieving excellence in spoken Russian, writing, "When a person with Asperger’s Syndrome learns a foreign language, there can be a remarkable ability to pronounce the words as spoken by a native speaker." Well, guess what. There are thousands of people who can do the same thing who do not suffer from Asperger's.  The US Military has designed a test that identifies the best learners of language as relying on "working memory, associative memory and implicit learning" -- these abilities are found in second language learners across the spectrum.

    Lee told me his responsibility was to erase his accents, to protect his identity as working for the CIA, so he could not be traced as coming from a particular area. I've had doctoral level training in linguistics and can assure you that Lee had a natural ear for learning Russian. However, he had a harder time with Spanish and was much slower acquiring any real proficiency in it. Why? Lee wasn't motivated to learn it ahead of time because we originally planned to be living in Latin American countries for a long time. Motivation turns out to be important in attaining a new language. Hence, Lee's hard-gained fluency in Russian was not due to an Asperger's-driven compulsion, but was because he was preparing to be a dedicated Cold War operative, penetrated the Soviet Union, and there perfected, by dint of hard work, his command of the language.

   John Armstrong [Harvey and Lee, p. 11, 247, 339,etc.] erroneously says Lee spoke Russian fluently from childhood because he was born into a Hungarian family, and did not dare speak it in the USSR. He says the Russians had no record of Lee speaking Russian even though Lee's friend in Minsk, ErnstTitovets, tells us that Lee had a Russian tutor assigned to him to help him earn Russian.

Lee, to left, in Minsk. Hardly anti-social.
    This mess of a "Russian speaking Harvey" from childhood is due to Armstrong's making much ado about an anonymous phone call describing his uncle and father as communist Hungarians... apparently in Armstrong's world, all Hungarians living in the USA spoke Russian fluently, though nobody in my extensive Hungarian family did.  In 2013 and 2014, Ernst Titovets, the no-nonsense scientist that he is, stated vehemently to listeners at the JFK AssassinationConference in Arlington, Tx --and elsewhere -- that Armstrong misquoted him and numerous others in Minsk when he claimed Lee spoke no Russian while in Minsk (because he feared to reveal his fluency). Titovets got red in the face with anger and disgust as he denied that Lee "never" spoke Russian. It was a marvel to behold.

   And it weakens Parker's insistence that Lee was so fluent in Russian because "some" Aspies can learn languages easily and well without an accent.

   Lee's fluency in Russian came from study and long practice: so important were his flash cards in Russian, Spanish and English --that was to help him overcome his dyslexia--that all three boxes were found in his tiny room on Beckley Avenue. Lee used to hold a Russian flash card up so I could see what was on the back, and I would correct him if he pronounced the word incorrectly. Once Lee and I met at Tulane's music listening rooms, where he had accessed a Russian language record, which we played in one of the small private rooms. This record had the "classic" highly-cultivated kind of Russian accent that Lee preferred to the one he had learned in Minsk. By no means did Lee do this in ay obsessive manner. For example, we kissed in the relative privacy of the music listening room! )  

    As Lee entered training to become a spy and a fake defector, he had to change his ways. He stopped drinking and smoking, though he continued his sexual activities with pretty Japanese women at clubs in Tokyo, his forays there apparently subsidized by the CIA/ONI, since he was dating very expensive consorts. Lee had to get 'dirtied up' because as a "happy" Marine he had no basis for defecting. And if he had defected with a good record, including improving his shooting score as other Marines usually did, Lee could have been executed as a danger to the nation. Hence, we see Lee thrown into the brig after pouring beer over his Sergeant's head (there's that sense of humor--he had to get in trouble, so why not be silly about it?) after having previously shot himself in order to get in trouble for having an unauthorized firearm (a Derringer).
   Maybe Lee was just showing off to me about shooting himself on purpose, in a way to make it look like an accident.  
   Only weeks before he would have been discharged, Lee suddenly was basically discharged (remained in the reserves) so he could go home on a hardship basis and 'take care' of his mother, who had sustained a nose injury weeks earlier from a box of candy falling on her face at the store where she worked (Marguerite successfully sued). Lee spent no more than three days with his mother and a day or so with Robert, his brother, before going to New Orleans --the first leg of his journey as a (fake) defector. He, supposedly 'dissatisfied' with the USA (after a year of studying Russian) entered the USSR via routes known fully only to Intelligence sources (see ) after which, when his Visa wasn't renewed, this intrepid young fellow sliced his left wrist and just about killed himself (because his Soviet tour guide, Rimma, was, he told me, "about half an hour late." In his "Historic Diary" Lee says, of course, that Rimma was right on time.)

   I was surprised that Parker didn't mention the high suicide rate of Aspies as part of his thesis.  While Aspies have a high suicide rate, this necessary severing of a vein (5 stitches required, but the scar, noted in Lee's autopsy, was slight) was never intended to kill. Never again in the rest of his life did Lee ever exhibit suicidal tendencies. His ploy worked. He was soon released from the hospitals' mental ward as no threat, and it was decided it would look very bad to deport Lee Oswald after such a dramatic gesture.

   Not content with misrepresenting Lee's patriotism as some kind of obsession (ignoring the fact that Lee adulated Herbert Philbrick, of I Led Three Lives Fame, who pretended to be a communist for the FBI) Parker also says that Lee, as an Aspie, cultivated "Specialised fields of interest or hobbies. (Oswald memorised the Marine Manual at age 15 (sic) and had an ongoing special interest in political movements and learning languages)..." which he called "persistent preoccupation with parts of objects" to make it qualify as an obsession, thereby placing Lee as an Aspie [however lightly afflicted] with narrow interests and obsessive-compulsive behavior.

   Half the readers of this article, assumed intelligent, have probably "...had an ongoing special interest in political movements and learning languages..." -- "symptoms" Parker grabs to label Lee Oswald. Though "memorizing the Marine Manual" may seem obsessive to some, this was his mother's statement, not Lee's, and constitutes hearsay. (Marguerite said: "Lee, at age sixteen, read his brother Robert's Marine Manual back and forth. He knew it by heart.")

    Upon such 'evidence' Parker builds his case.

    Probably one of the outstanding things I've noticed, in one of my grandchildren who has Aspergers, is that he makes straight A's in school but is trapped in a world where repetition is important. Now, there's a difference between habit and repetition. Lee had a habit of bathing every day, which in 1963 was somewhat unusual. Repetition is another matter. My teenage grandson will play the same video game over and over. He won't stop to even eat, unless ordered to quit. He never picks up his clothes: disorder follows wherever he goes. He is a genius in engineering, but his handwriting is all but unreadable, in large letters forcefully written, sometimes making the pen go right through the paper. He loves his computer--though he is likely to step on it and ruin it because he never picks up anything.  He doesn't like to travel and avoids new things.

   Parker used the "repetition" card like this: "It was reported by the likes of Mike Paine and others that Oswald was inflexible in discussions on politics and when cornered would simply repeat the same arguments."   Oh, dear. How "Aspie" of him!

    In fact, Lee was known for his political knowledge, his lack of patience with rote thinking, and his wide range of interests, from classical music and chess to politics and travel. George de Mohrenschildt wrote that Lee savored the idea of making a long trek into the wilderness of Latin America, just asGeorge and his wife Jeanne had done.

    Since the "Aspie" fear of change or travel doesn't fit Lee that well, we will look next at Parker's charge that Lee's handwriting was "messy" in his attempt to convince us that Lee was an undiagnosed Aspie.   However, in almost every case, where there's enough writing to judge, Lee's cursive writing is largely legible and flowing, as seen in his V.T. Lee FPCC letters


  Lee Oswald's handwriting (left)compared to a typical sample from an Aspie (below) who
writes better than my teenaged grandson.

While we agree that Lee was a "unconcerned about neatness" in the Marines. His rifle was almost never well cleaned (so much for his so-called obsession with cleaning and dry-firing the Carcano in New Orleans, according to Marina, which nary a neighbor ever saw, though she said Lee did this on their screened porch at 4905 Magazine St., day after day, which porch faced a road heavy with traffic). That doesn't mean he had Aspergers.

    On the contrary, after leaving the Marines, in both the USSR and in the USA to follow, Lee was consistently described as  "clean cut" , neatly dressed, and well groomed.   In the anti-Oswald book Marina and Lee, on p. 480, Lee's landlady "...describes him as spotless. He never kept anything cluttered."

   Parker isn't finished, though. He wrote that Lee was an Aspie, since "...When the partner expresses frustration or becomes upset that they’re given no help of any kind, the person with Asperger's syndrome is typically baffled. Tension in the relationship often makes their symptoms worse. (Marina often complained he did not help enough)..."
   I'd like to know when. It was Marina who often did very little housework (People change: I do not mean to imply that Marina is like that now). Testimonies show that when Marina stayed at friends' homes in dallas/Fort Worth, because of their mutually violent relationship, where she got the worst of it, Marina neglected her baby, failed to clean up after herself, slept until noon and was "slovenly." She was a young mother and got pregnant again, so we must give her leeway, but there's no doubt that Lee helped out a great deal. He cooked meals often, washed clothes, even ironed diapers (here he is, ironing diapers):

 I was astonished to see one more accusation: that Lee was no good at just about anything having to do with being a sociable person.  We should never confuse Lee's reluctance to make friends when he returned to the US with the need for him to keep nosy people from discovering his covert tasks.  I am a living witness to the fact that Lee forged strong friendships with Dr. Mary Sherman and David Ferrie in New Orleans. See my books Me & Lee (608 pages, incl. photos and documents) and David Ferrie: Mafia Pilot (over 500 pages, the first biography ever published on Ferrie).

       But the number one way to prove that Lee did not have Aspergers is the fact that he tenderly loved little Junie and baby Rachel and was a good father. This was obvious to all. De Mohrenschildt said Lee would gaze lovingly at his little daughter and would get upset if Marina spanked her.

   Aspies usually want to learn how to get along in better in the world, but don't know how without guidance.  They often will try to improve their social skills if they understand their condition. They usually want people to like them and don't want to hurt other people's feelings, which they can do on a regular basis (One Aspie I know, when angry, would spit --without even thinking-- in other people's faces. It's not the way to win friends and influence people). Many Aspies have milder symptoms. If you think you might have Aspergers because of having difficulty understanding others, or because you recognize some of the problems discussed here, consider taking this test:

   One of the problems women married to Aspies have is their inability to remember to interact meaningfully with their children, though when aware of the problem, they will make efforts to do so because Aspies are capable of love. Stated one Aspie's wife:  "He does love us. He didn’t want the family to fall apart. [After he learned that he had Aspergers] He went right out and found a therapist who works with adults with Aspergers. He’s far from perfect but he’s honestly trying. He’s even apologized to the kids for not being more involved while they were growing up. I can’t ask for more than that.”

   Lee was so closely involved with his children that one of the last things he asked Marina to do, when she was talking to him in jail by phone and they looked at each other through glass walls, was to remember to get new shoes for Junie.

    That's not Aspergers.

    Greg Parker has done a disservice to the research community by propagating his ill-researched theory.


Information about Lee Harvey Oswald and my book, Me & Lee.

Nigel Turner

Nigel Turner
His business card shows a knight in armor on a charging warhorse....