False Witness

It’s the anniversary of the Lincoln Assassination. I saved this Knoxville newspaper’s article for today. Despite its poor research and even poorer writing, I thought it worth discussing.

The story trumpets a letter inherited by a local man from his great-great-grandfather. There’s no indication of whether he’s connected to the writer or the addressee, but as the following is transcribed without question, I suppose investigative reporting is not this paper’s strong suit:

Ohio Congressman James Morris is in the audience watching as Abraham Lincoln is shot. He documented that night through a detailed letter to a Senator friend…

Morris explained.”I saw the assassin, as he proved to be, in the President’s box making for the front. when he had reached it he placed his hand on the banister and cried out sic semper tyrannis and leaping over alighted on the stage bringing down with him some of the drapery surrounding the box. The President fell or leaned forward, and I think his head rested on the banister front.”

If there’s one thing the eyewitnesses agreed on that night, it’s that they couldn’t agree on anything. I’d picked up the book We Saw Lincoln Shot a few years ago, and it was an interesting insight into the fallacy of memory. 100 eyewitness accounts, with myriad subtle (and just as many enormous) changes between each telling.

The story recounted in this “news” item makes me wonder if the writer was there at all. It reeks of an attention-seeker trying to impress a superior. Sadly, were this modern day, I get the feeling the paper would’ve printed it with as little care for the truth as they did here.


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