Dumbest Error I’ve Seen Published About Me This Year

IN her error-riddled, largely incoherent and insufferably snide piece in The New Republic about the recent Jeffrey MacDonald hearing in Wilmington, NC (I’ll deal with it in slightly more detail–though it doesn’t deserve much–in my upcoming Byliner Original to be called “The Last Word on Jeffrey MacDonald”) Margo Howard, who is even older than I am, and no less portly, and who also has been married more times, and who–I’m reliably informed–fell asleep and snored during the hearing–writes this:

“But in 1975 [MacDonald’s] formerly supportive father-in-law, with an assist from the writer Joe McGinniss (who was soon to publish a book arguing MacDonald’s guilt) succeeded in getting MacDonald indicted in a civilian court.”

I have occasionally been credited for accomplishments that were not mine (though not nearly as often as I’ve been blamed for things I didn’t do, say, or write) but never on a scale such as this:  I, a mere writer, could have enough clout with the Department of Justice to help get a man indicted on three counts of murder by a federal grand jury?

Wow.  What planet is Ms. Howard living on?

Not to mention that I never met MacDonald’s ex-father-in-law until the  1980s, and that I knew nothing about MacDonald or his indictment until 1979, when I first met him.  And my book, Fatal Vision, was not published until 1983, more than four years after the arguments about MacDonald’s guilt had been settled by a jury in Raleigh, NC, and more than eight years after his indictment.

I recently wrote an Op-Ed piece for The New York Times about the MacDonald hearing (at which I testified, under Justice Department subpoena).  I spent five times more time with Times fact-checkers than I spent writing the piece.

Apparently, The New Republic no longer has fact-checkers.

p.s.  personal to Ms. Howard:  there was nothing improper about my giving interviews or tweeting before I testified.  I received permission to do so from the Department of Justice, as long as I did not discuss my pending testimony.  And regarding #Fatal Vision:  do you know the function of a hashtag on Twitter.  No slip, Freudian or otherwise, involved.




15 Responses to “Dumbest Error I’ve Seen Published About Me This Year”

  • Ivyfree:

    I’ve never understood why people have such a hard time believing in MacDonald’s guilt. Why has it become such a big issue with some people? His story never sounded real, and he was a Green Beret, wasn’t he? He couldn’t fight off any of the alleged killers? He had one minor chest wound, wasn’t it- that wouldn’t have caused him unconsciousness- he couldn’t even run out of the house to the neighbors and call the police? Three killers stomping around with candles, chanting and stabbing two adults and two children- and no evidence? I grant you that analysis of trace evidence has improved in the last 40 years, but you’d think there’d be SOME evidence of three killers besides the dead bodies.

  • Caroll Thompson:

    I don’t see the folks from the Innocence Project rushing in to save Jeffrey MacDonald. All the evidence points to his guilt and his appeals have all been in vain. The verdict has never been overturned because the facts of the case are not on Mr. MacDonald’s side.

    People would be better served to think of his victims. His pregnant wife Colette, his five year old daughter Kimberley and his two year old daughter Kristen.

  • Ottoline:

    Thanks for clarifying the reality, Joe. To me, the MacDonald case is dead, over. But Sarah Palin’s BabyHoax is still alive and well, although on the way way back burner now. I wish you would consider a future book with the topic something like

    Lying Is the New Political Normal: Why Bloggers Could Not Expose the Palin BabyHoax and its On-Going Cover-Up

    My view is that Palin’s hoax and her high-level GOP enablers are just part of the new GOP approach of lying, lying, lying — seemingly as a strategy that works pretty well, as we are seeing. I wonder whether the baby hoax served to test the waters: how low could politically advantageous lying/hoaxing go? And how long could the GOP VIPs keep a lid on it in terms of the MSM? Answer: really low, really long.

    I sure hope that this “new normal” does not cost President Obama the election. Please consider delving into this, Joe.

  • deennaa:

    When I read Fatal Vision the first time, I was not so informed about psychopath’s and their behaviors. I still do not think the average citizen has a good comprehension of the scope and depth of what exactly is a psychopath. Except for those people whose lives have been directly touched or involved with them. After reading your book on Jeffrey MacDonald’s crime, I researched everything I could about psychopath’s. They don’t always kill, but the ones that do, are in their own category. I’ve met a few in my life. Unless you were really paying attention, had some knowledge about their pathology, let your own ego out of the way, observe objectively, and have your intuition’s on high alert, you would be fooled easily. Even then, you might miss it. So many people are absolutely fooled by the charm – for those who USE that charm. Some experts have even called them charismatic. I won’t go that far because I hold no human being on a pedestal. Still, charisma gets your attention. In retrospect, and from the in-depth presentation of Fatal Vision, I believe Jeffrey MacDonald is a true psychopath. And a monster. Like all the psychopath’s of his category – the violent, raging, coldly brutal, yet seemingly charming kind who also had the luck to be good looking. That woman Margo apparently slept and snored through all the key information. I don’t know. Maybe she’s jealous she didn’t write Fatal Vision. Don’t know why people do not do their research and then try to tear down the one who HAS done their research. I intuit quite a few things about that and a messed up ego is at the top of the list. Sounds like there’s a few other nasty character traits to go along with that. Liars and besmircher’s: a despicable lot.

  • Jim, you’re right, this one sentence is inaccurate. But, Jim, are you pointing this out because of factual errors, or because Ms. Howard exposed your total assholery?

    “THAT ARGUMENT HOWEVER is not helped by the appearance of the journalist Joe McGinniss at the hearing. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that it was his book, Fatal Vision, that has served as the government’s narrative for this case. Disclosure: I, unlike McGinniss himself, hold him in very low regard. I was reminded why when I noticed he was sending out promotional Tweets in the run-up to his testimony at the hearing. . . . This testimony energized Keith Williams, one of the defense lawyers. The first thing Williams did on cross-examination was to chide McGinniss’ tweeting: as a sequestered witness one is not supposed to be giving interviews or flogging a book.”

    Oh, sorry, I forgot that the only talent you have is telling half the truth. Actually “half the truth” is giving you a benefit of the doubt that you really don’t deserve. You’re nothing more than a self-promoter–that’s all you’ve ever been, and nowadays? That insecure weakness shines though in ways you’re not even aware of. Sorry, but you’re kind of awful.

  • Shughes2853:

    It’s interesting that so many lies have been printed about your influence in this trial. I researched so much about this horrifying event that I’m left with one thought – he did it. And I’ve always believed he had a psychotic reaction from the diet pills. Being a psychopath wasn’t his only curse. The mixture of pills and mental illness created the perfect storm that terrible, cold and chilling night.

    I can’t imagine the horror Collette, Kim and Kristie went through – the defense wounds Collette suffered were heart wrenching. The injuries on Collette and Kim were inflicted by someone in a redhot, insane rage – But it was different with Kristie.

    And anyone reading my post that wants to know why Kristie’s injuries were different should read Joe’s book. It’ll make you cry.

    Your book tells the truth. Your book is based on the facts.

  • Robert Stevenson:

    As the brother of slain Colette Stevenson and her children, I want you all to know that having lived through it all and that having read Fatal vision several times , been to the supreme Court of the United States, the hearings etc., I find the book to be completely accurate and Mr. McGuiness is to be congratulated for having written it so honestly.

    MacDoonald is a brutal murderer whos true psychopathy can be measured by merely considering the amount of time he has spent in prison……… and f his objective was to be a free man again he could confess and ask for a parole which I believe would be granted given his acceptance of his guilt and some form of penitant statements or behavior…. but no, this true “sociopathic psychopath” continues to use his prison married wife opportunistically (he uses her as a public relations manager – she by the way has her own major issues obviously in marrying a prison inmate at all as well as minor criminality in her past ) and MacDonald will spend the rest of his life behind bars because of his rufusal to accept his guilt.

    Robert Stevenson

  • Christine:

    As Brian Murtagh so famously quoted, “the blood doesn’t lie but people do.” All that blood led back to the one and only killer, Dr. Jeffrey R. MacDonald, con artist, psychopath, baby killer. Well done Joe, you keep the truth out there and you keep the memories of beautiful Colette and her two precious girls alive.

  • Jane:

    Honestly, Mr. McGinniss… I hope you can’t sleep at night. You know full well that Jeffrey McDonald did not receive a fair trial. You manipulated the data and evidence to serve your own needs and sell poorly written books. It’s truly disgusting.

  • Christine:

    Carroll Thompson: Actually, the folks from the Innocence Project have rushed in on behalf of MacDonald. Here is the amicus brief, which can also be found on IP’s web site:

  • tara patricia:

    I like the passage in Fatal Justice “Joe McGinniss isn’t a nice guy and Jeffrey MacDonald is not the asshole McGinniss made him out to be!” So true! Joe McGinniss and Christina Masewicz and Bob Stevenson don’t know the truth from a hole in the ground and James Blackburn and Brian Murtagh helped send an innocent man to prison. Isn’t it interesting Stevenson is never mentioned in any books–what kind of a brother and uncle was he (or did he share Freddy Kassab’s viewpoint about Dr. MacDonald’s innocence) and Kassab’s feeling “If I had another daughter I’d want the same son-in-law?” The Army twisted evidence around so Kassab ended up believing Dr. MacDonald was guilty and his stepson is spewing the same garbage. Helena Stoeckley was never truly investigated about her actions on the murder night and the Kassabs got mad at Dr. MacDonald for trying to have some kind of life after this tragedy.

  • In Fatal Justice Gunderson says “McGinniss isn’t a nice guy and MacDonald isn’t the asshole McGinniss made him out to be!” Hopefully, someday the public will see the truth. Dr. MacDonald got railroaded by the army, had prosecutors hiding evidence that pointed to intruders in the home, and had a judge related to a former prosecutor. It’s funny–all the people who think Dr. MacDonald stab wound was self-inflicted aren’t doctors themselves, (and I don’t think a physician would do such a thing and believe he would survive it) and everyone who says MacDonald is a psychopath or sociopath aren’t psychiatrists themselves. (And don’t realize Dr. MacDonald was examined by 5 psychiatrists–3 army ones–in 1970 who said he was not imbalanced, crazy, etc.) People have believed so many errors about this case and McGinniss got a lot of fame and money just like Blackburn and Murtagh for sending an innocent man to jail. Bob Stevenson is a fool to endorse McGinniss’s book and taking part in Christina Masewicz. Obviously, all he cares about is protecting his families reputation and doesn’t want the truth about how the army bulldozed Freddy Kassab into believing a lie. The truth will come out but only if Dr. MacDonald gets an impartial judge. And if Joe McGinniss and Bob Stevenson are truly honorable men they would want the truth to come out also, regardless if it’s comfortable or convenient for them.

  • TBruce:

    It’s funny–all the people who think Dr. MacDonald stab wound was self-inflicted aren’t doctors themselves, (and I don’t think a physician would do such a thing and believe he would survive it)

    Well, I’m a doctor who is sure that Mac’s chest wound was self-inflicted. He made a small incision on the right side of the chest, well away from the heart and major blood vessels. There was a small puncture of the pleura, enough to cause a partial collapse of one lung. He asked for a chest tube when the ambulance crew arrived, so he knew exactly what had happened. This was an injury requiring hospital treatment, but was in no way life-threatening. He only had a few other marks of injury, all of which were superficial and minor. He could easily have done this to himself with his medical knowledge, especially since he had ambitions to be a surgeon and would have paid attention to such subjects.
    I remember the quote from one of the investigators when comparing Mac’s injuries to his family’s:
    “He’s either lying, or he’s the biggest pussy in the world”.

  • tarapatricia:

    What kind of fight would there be–three assailants against one? Plus Dr. MacDonald was at a disadvantage (he was sleeping) and the attackers had weapons. So of course the living room wouldn’t be disturbed very much and it wouldn’t take much to subdue one individual. Thank God for the Innocence Project, lawyers that protect the innocent, authors like Errol Morris to disprove the fakes like Joe McGinniss and Christine Masewicz and people who have come forward and verified Dr. MacDonald’s descriptions of the suspects. Too bad Helena Stoeckley’s attorney, Jerry Leonard didn’t come forward when Helena died and told that she had confessed to him. But with a judge like Dupree it wouldn’t have mattered, he was intent on giving Dr. MacDonald the most unfair trial in history. Kudos for the Katie show highlighting Michael Morrison and recently released convicts who were unfairly convicted. Criminal charges should be against all prosecutors like Blackburn and Murtagh who knowing hide evidence from a defendant. And how can Bob Stevenson or anyone really believe Joe McGinniss’s lies and incredibility? I guess the truth about the dysfunctional Stevenson/Kassab families is something he doesn’t want anyone to know. And if anyone is going to say the lung wound was self-inflicted, why not say all the injuries were? No motive for Dr. MacDonald to kill his family, no matter what lies are told.

  • Carol Thomas:

    It is absolutely amazing how supposedly intelligent people can be so stupid about some things (i.e., OJ being innocent). BLOOD EVIDENCE CANNOT LIE. No evidence of. ONE intruder, much less FOUR. The proof for me? The one he called “the prettiest of us all” only had superficial pick wounds.