On the Education Forum, there are a few posts that demonstrate a misunderstanding about the use of humor in my father’s 1964 exchange with Léo Sauvage. Two forum participants show that misunderstanding in the short thread on Leo Sauvage, and in the thread “Thomas Buchanan: Did he solve the JFK case?” John Simkin wrote:
“Buchanan’s article (letter), In Defense of a Theory was published in the New Leader on 9th November, 1964. Buchanan points out that the article was not written by Savage [sic] at all. It was in fact written by his brother, K. O. Savage, who worked for the U.S. Information Service. Why did they use Leo Savage’s name? Because he was a well respected journalist (he worked for Le Figaro) who was one of the leading critics of the official explanation of JFK’s death. In fact, Buchanan acknowledges in his book that he has used some of this research in his own investigation.
K.O Savage, on the other hand, was a journalist for hire and probably a CIA asset. His attack is based on the articles that appeared in L’Express. Buchanan admits that some mistakes were made (based on information that appeared in the US newspapers at the time) and that these were corrected by the time they appeared in book form (the version I read). “
I didn’t respond to this post right away when I first came across the thread, because I wanted to verify my facts first. John Simkin’s statements confused me into wondering if maybe he had factual information that I didn’t. However, I now have confirmation from Léo Sauvage’s son, Pierre Sauvage, that Léo did NOT have a brother named K.O., and that my understanding of my father’s letter-to-the-editor was accurate. So I’d like to explain it here for John and anyone else who may have misunderstood the humor and taken the reference to “K.O. Sauvage” literally.
The piece that started the exchange was an article by Léo Sauvage called “Thomas Buchanan, Detective” which was published in the Thinking Aloud column of The New Leader on September 28th, 1964. This wasn’t a dispassionate explanation of why Sauvage disagreed with my father’s methods of research, way of reasoning, and theories about what might have really happened. Although it addressed some of the points of disagreement, it was expressed in a derisive way that was a personal attack on my father’s abilities and character.
In response, my father wrote a letter to the editor, titled “In Defense of a Theory,” in which he used humor to take Sauvage’s attack on him lightly while still getting his own points across. The tongue-in-cheek allegation was that the reader had been duped into believing this was the real Léo Sauvage when (so my father feigned believing) it couldn’t possibly be, since the article’s lowered quality of journalism and focus on attempting to disparage my father would seem to be a departure from the respectability of Léo’s usual work and more in line with the tactics of the US Information Service.* And so, the mock accusation goes, this must point to it being “his brother” K.O. instead — which I take to mean “knock-off” as in imitation, or “knock-out” as in someone throwing punches in a boxing match, or the other kind of “knock-out” as in the kind of alteration of behavior that lab mice suffer when they’ve had certain genes “knocked out.”
* (FBI files obtained much later do confirm that the USIS was seeking information from the FBI for the purposes of discrediting my father so that his writings on the Kennedy assassination would be dismissed by the public.)
In the title of his article, Sauvage’s use of the epithet “detective” was derisive. My father had never claimed to conduct any detective work, merely a logical analysis of the contradictory reports made by his colleagues in the media. In response to being given the mock designation, my father played along by appending it again to his name in his signature, and saying that, “in [his] capacity as criminal investigator,” he had detected a “crime” – which was basically that Sauvage was behaving like an impostor of his more reputable self.
I’m told by several readers that the humor was easy for them to detect. However, given that this was not the case for all who read the piece, I thought it best to clarify that the allegations were not to be taken literally. This will hopefully allow those who missed the point to re-read with a fresh perspective, and also set the record straight for the sake of historical accuracy about both my own father and the father of Pierre Sauvage.
P.S. It may be of interest to note that some of the other Warren Report critics, who had met Sauvage and had had some correspondence with my father, felt a distaste for this exchange, even when they agreed with Sauvage’s position on the assassination. In a letter to Maggie Field in July 1965,** Sylvia Meagher wrote: “I decided against inviting Sauvage to see the photographs at this juncture; […] Furthermore, he made some very disparaging and unfair remarks about Mark Lane, which saddened me, as did his gratuitous published insults of Buchanan. So I continue to hesitate…” And in a letter to Sylvia Meagher in August 1965,** Maggie Field wrote: “Léo Sauvage has, somehow, seemed to me, at all times, to be the most responsible, the most logical and the most unemotional of the critics. […] But I must quarrel, nevertheless, with Sauvage on a few counts. To wit: I wish he would refrain from attacking Buchanan publicly, however much he may have cause to, and from lashing out at Lane, too. Surely, he should comprehend the folly of such pursuits and the harm he does not only to the very cause he seeks to champion but to all the rest of us who support his position.”
** source: John Kelin, author of Praise From a Future Generation.