IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

The man who killed Kennedy

The brother of Lee Harvey Oswald talks about why he believes the assassination of the 35th President of the United States was carried out by one man.
/ Source: TODAY

Despite countless conspiracy theories, the name Lee Harvey Oswald has gone down in history as President John F. Kennedy’s lone assassin. Recently, Weekend Today’s Lester Holt spoke to Lee Oswald’s brother Robert. Now in his 70s, Robert Oswald is a good family man who’s had to live with a terrible burden for the past 40 years. Holt began by asking him if he dreaded the month of November.

Robert Oswald: “I dread even before November gets here. Because I know about after Labor Day, I start getting calls and things start coming up. It’s just part of the territory now."

Lester Holt: “What does everybody want to know?”

Oswald: “Did Lee really do it.”

It is a question that has haunted Robert Oswald for 40 years. Ever since the day President John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas, Texas and a 24-year-old ex-Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald — Robert’s younger brother — was arrested and charged with one of the most notorious murders the world as ever known.

On the morning after the assassination, the two brothers faced each other in a Dallas jail cell.

Oswald: “I said, ‘How are you doing?’ I noticed the bruises. He had a cut on his face and a bruise on his face. I said, ‘Are they mistreating you or something?’ He says, ‘No, I got this one when they arrested me at the Texas Theater.’ He says, ‘They’re treating me all right.’ I said, ‘That’s good.’ I said, ‘Thanks for telling me about the new baby.’ I didn’t know the new baby had been born.”

Holt: “You were making small talk?”

Oswald: “Yeah, we were basically making small talk.”

Holt: “But the question must have been on your lips, ‘Did you kill the president? Why did you kill the president?’”

Oswald: “Finally, I said, ‘Lee, what the Sam Hill is going on?’ He says, ‘I don’t know.’ I said, ‘You don’t know?’ I said, ‘They’ve got your pistol. Got you charged with shooting a police officer. They’ve got your rifle. And they’ve got you charged with shooting the President of the United States. And you tell me you don’t know what’s going on?’”

And as I looked into his eyes, and I know I became intense. I had to be. I was very intense. I was looking for some sign then. And he just looked back at me and he says, ‘Brother, you won’t find anything there.’ And he was absolutely correct. There was no emotion. There was no flicker in the eyes.”

Holt: “Did he proclaim his innocence?”

Oswald: “No.”

Holt: “Did Lee Harvey Oswald kill the president? And if so, was he by himself?”

Oswald: “Wow. That’s right to the grits of it. Yes, he did unfortunately.”

Holt: “By himself?”

Oswald: “By himself.”

Holt: “No conspiracy?”

Oswald: “No conspiracy. No conspiracy with Lee. He made those decisions within himself. And that’s why it’s so unbelievable to even consider without just absolute concrete evidence that he was part of a conspiracy. He was not.”

Oswald says that his brother was clinically depressed, crying out for attention his whole life.

Oswald: “It seemed to me like the key factor always was our mother. She just had a way to alienate you. Everything was already her way or no way. She didn’t understand anything. You had to understand her completely. She didn’t try to really, after a number of years, keep us around. She just alienated us.”

Holt: “She put Lee in an orphanage when he was three.”

Oswald: “Barely three years old, the day after Christmas, 1942. John and I were already there. That was the second orphanage Lee, John and I had been in. If Dad had lived, we wouldn’t be having this conversation — that I’m thoroughly convinced of. If Lee had only… but we know the formative years, you know, especially three to five, it’s terrible. It’s really terrible when you don’t have any… someone who really loved you.”

Holt: “And you loved your brother.”

Oswald: “You better believe it. I just try to understand him. I’m not bitter and I don’t hate him and everything.”

Holt: “Were you ever compelled to even think about changing your name?”

Oswald: “Oh, it came up originally. As a matter of fact, one of the Secret Service agents suggested it. And no, not for one instant did I think about it. I wish it was somebody else’s problem. But then again, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. But they’ve got to stay focused and pick out what’s important. And what was important to us was the family. And we’ve stayed focused on the family. And we just let the rest of it go by.”

Oswald believes his brother’s motives were not political, that he’d long been in search of a high profile target to ensure his name would go down in history.

Oswald: “You’ve got a pattern there and it’s part of his pattern throughout his life and everything. He’s looking for attention, always looking for attention that he never got at home unfortunately. He didn’t get it from his mother.”

Holt: “So, you believe if you look at the pattern, it becomes apparent.”

Oswald: “Yes.”

Holt: “Where his life was leading.”

Oswald: “Yes.”

Holt: “If not the president…”

Oswald: “It was gonna be somebody.”