“Assassination-conspiracy theorist” is a relatively recent addition to Paul Kuntzler’s résumé. For much longer, he has been one of Washington, DC’s most prominent gay firebrands. Over the phone following a lunch meeting near his Capitol Hill–area office, he pinpoints the important moments of his activist career as if flipping through a mental calendar.
“On the first Tuesday in April, 1962, I was elected to the Mattachine Society executive board,” he says, referring to the oldest homophile group in America. “On Saturday, April 17, 1965, I was a participant in the world’s first demonstration for gay civil rights in front of the White House. In January of 1966, the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club” — the still-extant mouthpiece for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Democrats in DC — “was founded in my living room.”
In March of 1971, Kuntzler managed the congressional campaign of Mattachine president Franklin E. Kameny — the first openly gay candidate running for Congress — who was seeking a non-voting seat representing the District of Columbia. In April of that year, he helped found another equal-rights group, DC’s Gay & Lesbian Activists Alliance (GLAA), the US’s oldest continuously active gay and lesbian civil-rights organization.
Kuntzler, 65, has near-total recall of the momentous dates in his life. (Within three minutes of meeting him at his office, he’s told me the date and day of the week of his birth, and the Grosse Pointe, Michigan, hospital in which he was born. Later, navigating the wide avenues around Capitol Hill, he tells me that he first arrived in DC two days after his 20th birthday, on Thursday, December 28, 1961. And that he met Stephen Brent Miller, his late partner of 42 years, “on Friday, March 28, 1962, at 11 o’clock pm.”)
But in recent years, Paul Kuntzler has been fixated on another point in time: 12:30 pm, November 22, 1963 — the moment President John F. Kennedy was mortally wounded by gunshot in Dallas, Texas. For the past year and half, the long-time gay-rights activist has been waging a one-man, self-financed campaign to publicize what he believes was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy, as well as the media’s complicity in covering it up.
In a four-page letter sent last April to Washington Post chairman Donald E. Graham — and subsequently reprinted in its entirety as a four-page ad, purchased for $4000, in the LGBT weekly the Washington Blade — Kuntzler laid out his sweeping, Byzantine theory.
“President John Fitzgerald Kennedy,” he contends, “was murdered by Vice President Lyndon Baines Johnson in a widespread, incredibly complex and brilliantly planned conspiracy that involved the Federal Bureau of Investigations directed by J. Edgar Hoover, the Central Intelligence Agency directed by David Atlee Phillips, the Secret Service, the United States Navy, General Curtis LeMay of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Ford Motor Company, the Dallas Police including Dallas mayor Earle Cabell, big oil of Texas, the Texas political establishment, the mafia, and the anti-Castro Cubans.”
Since May 2005, in a ceaseless flurry of typed letters, scrawled faxes, printed e-mails, and underlined photocopies sent not just to Graham but to New York Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., Kuntzler has lobbied to get his theory some ink in the country’s two most important newspapers. His crusade so far has been met, perhaps predictably, with almost deafening silence.