JFK Museum Updates Exhibit Following Complaints by Conservative Author

Author: JFK was ‘tax-cutting, pro-growth politician’

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The John F. Kennedy museum in Dallas told the Washington Free Beacon that it is planning to "completely update and revise" its permanent exhibit after a historian accused it of falsely depicting the 35th president as a big-government liberal.

Ira Stoll, author of JFK, Conservative, called on the Sixth Floor Museum last month to revise alleged "inaccuracies" in its exhibit regarding Kennedy’s views on social programs, the federal deficit, and tax policy.

The Sixth Floor Museum chronicles Kennedy’s legacy and his assassination in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963.

Nicola Longford, executive director of the Sixth Floor Museum, said the permanent exhibit is 25 years old and in need of updating. She said the institution is planning a major overhaul after the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination next month.

"While Mr. Stoll has taken issues with the content of a few exhibit text panels, and encouraged priority attention for substantial updating and revision, it bears stating that this exhibit text is almost 25 years old," said Longford. "Clearly the world has changed dramatically during this quarter century and now half century since the assassination."

She added that the museum’s "intent has always been to completely update and revise our core exhibit post fiftieth anniversary (November 2013) and it is at this time that we will carefully review and consider all comments and recommendations."

Stoll wrote in a letter to Longford that he was "troubled by some passages of the permanent exhibit text about Kennedy and his administration that struck me as inaccurate or misleading."

He disputed the exhibit’s claim that "massive new social programs were central to Kennedy’s New Frontier philosophy," calling it "just not true."

"Kennedy was against ‘massive new social programs,’" wrote Stoll. "Kennedy described his own Medicare plan, accurately, not as ‘massive’ but rather as ‘a very modest proposal.' And, as [Arthur] Schlesinger [Jr.] noted, he chose not to fight for even that."

Stoll also took issue with a passage that refers to Kennedy’s "philosophy of using induced deficits to encourage domestic fiscal growth became a mainstay of American government under later administrations, both Democratic and Republican."

According to Stoll, "Kennedy’s recipe for growth was not a deficit; it was a tax cut that, both by changing incentives and by putting more money in the hands of the private sector, would yield growth that would ultimately narrow the deficit by increasing federal revenues."

Additionally, the exhibit discusses the positions of one of Kennedy’s liberal economic advisors, Walter Heller, without mentioning the views of Kennedy’s "more conservative Treasury Secretary, Douglas Dillon," wrote Stoll.

He said Kennedy’s own statements and actual policies hewed closer to the conservative view.

"As for the idea that Kennedy’s deficits were a ‘radical departure’ from [President Dwight] Eisenhower’s balanced budgets, that is not supported by the evidence," wrote Stoll. "Kennedy’s annual deficits—$3.3 billion in 1961, $7.1 billion in 1962, and $4.8 billion in 1963—were modest by modern standards and as a percentage of GDP."

When contacted by the Free Beacon on Friday, Stoll praised the museum’s response to his letter.

"I'm thrilled to learn that, after receiving my letter based on the research in my book, JFK, Conservative, calling inaccuracies to their attention, the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas has announced plans to revise its exhibit text panels," he said. "I hope the new exhibit text portrays JFK as closer to the real JFK I describe in my book—a tax-cutting, pro-growth politician who favored welfare reform, free trade, domestic spending restraint, and a balanced budget over the course of the business cycle."

Stoll’s book, JFK, Conservative, was released on Oct. 15. It argues that the 35th president, idolized by liberal Democrats, was actually a conservative on economic and national security issues.

Alana Goodman   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Alana Goodman is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. Prior to joining the Beacon, she was assistant online editor at Commentary. She has written for the Weekly Standard, the New York Post and the Washington Examiner. Goodman graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 2010, and lives in Washington, D.C. Her Twitter handle is @alanagoodman. Her email address is goodman@freebeacon.com.

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