Smith: Finding strange bedfellows among JFK conspiracy fans

Santa Rosa's Ruth Paine spoke of her experience living with Lee Harvey Oswald and his wife to a group in Rincon Valley Wednesday.|

Ruth Paine knows something about highly literate, violence-averse progressives often leery of the federal government.

God knows, she is one.

The Santa Rosan also is somebody with a unique perspective on Lee Harvey Oswald. As such, Paine is troubled to see so many liberal people continue to embrace scenarios that portray Oswald as a patsy of the true assassins of President John F. Kennedy, shadowy figures from the CIA, Havana, Moscow, the mob or some other snake-nest of conspiracy.

“It’s been more than 50 years,” the 84-year-old Paine told a clutch of neighbors Tuesday evening in the library at the Friends House retirement community in Rincon Valley. The Quaker and retired teacher said she’d hoped it would have become evident long ago, certainly to open and analytical minds, “that Oswald did it.”

For months before the president was killed in Texas in 1963, Paine, then a young mother of two, allowed Oswald into her home in the Dallas suburb of Irving. She had befriended and was trying to be helpful to Oswald’s Russian wife, Marina.

Even on the night before President Kennedy was shot in a motorcade, the same night Paine discovered that Oswald had gone into her garage for some reason, she had no reason to believe he was a potential killer. She realized later that he’d gone into the garage to retrieve something he’d hidden there: a rifle.

Paine saw a fair amount of Oswald in 1963 and she cites several reasons for believing that he planned the assassination abruptly and he acted alone. Since the murder of JFK, she has testified before the Warren Commission, been interviewed numerous times and tried to counteract what she views as the untruths and errors contained within the various conspiracy theories.

“I hate having truth besmirched,” she told the several dozen Friends House residents.

Paine is well aware that almost 54 years after the assassination, conspiracy narratives continue to attract new adherents. A Stanford grad, Max Good, works currently on a documentary film that examines allegations that when Paine invited the Oswalds into her home, she was answering to the Central Intelligence Agency.

She said to her fellow Friends House residents, “Did you know I worked for the CIA?”

She holds that for liberal-minded people to subscribe to who-killed-JFK narratives is especially regrettable because she accepts the assertion that five decades ago the Soviet Union’s KGB security agency fueled conspiracy mongering by spreading misinformation that implicated the CIA in the assassination.

“Russia is still planting things,” she told her neighbors, “because we still read it.”


THERE FOR MR. BURT: Elsie Allen High students with lives changed by Rob Burt invite us to join them Friday afternoon to celebrate the naming of the campus performing arts theater in his honor.

Burt retired last year after 35 years in education, the past 22 as the sensational head of visual and performing arts at Elsie Allen. The free festivities in the school theater begin at 4:30 p.m. and will last about an hour.

Burt’s wife, Charya, will perform a Cambodian dance, and Elsie Allen singers, musicians, actors and dancers will express their gratitude to a teacher they’re happy for but were so sorry to see go.

Chris Smith is at 707-521-5211 and

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.