False Facts About JFK You Always Thought Were True

Though (or perhaps because) he barely lived through half of his first presidential term, there's a larger-than-life quality to John F. Kennedy and his administration, amplified by myriad conspiracy theories birthed by his assassination. But even beyond talk of espionage, king-making and other skulduggery, there are plenty of myths and urban legends about JFK most of us take for granted, which are not true at all.

JFK killed the men's hat industry

For a long time, it was assumed that John F. Kennedy single-handedly killed the men's hat. This idea has been repeated so often that you'd wonder why nobody has tied it to another assassination conspiracy theory. Some sort of nefarious haberdashery revenge killing? You heard it here first.

For those who haven't kept up with mid-20th century men's fashion choices, here's how the story goes: Before JFK, it was traditional for the president to give his inaugural address while wearing a top hat. Traditions requiring monocles remain unrecorded. Kennedy gave his speech hatless, and by the mid-1960s, public hat wearing suffered a sharp and permanent downturn.

This story of course is silly. The man wore hats. He even wore a top hat to the inauguration but simply chose not to wear it during his speech. Entirely unrelated reasons led to the fall of the mighty American hat.

What the 1960s brought, besides a young fashion-conscious president, was greater normalization of driving over taking public transportation as well as a generation looking to distinguish itself from stodgier-seeming elders. A casualty of these changes was hats, which cars left little headroom for and baby boomers rejected as "old people stuff." Times change, man.

Kennedy called himself a jelly donut in one of his speeches

On June 26, 1963, in Berlin, the legend goes, President John F. Kennedy bravely declared in front of an audience of thousands his love for, and self-identification with, fried pastry. In particular, for a type of jelly donut popular in Central Europe at the time, called "Berliners."

Well, there are a couple things wrong with that. First of all, they don't call "Berliner" donuts by that name in Berlin. It would be like asking for a "Philly Cheesesteak" when you are in Philadelphia. You'd get looked at like a rube or a tourist. They're called Pfannkuchen, which admittedly doesn't quite roll off the tongue as easily.

The reason the myth persists is Kennedy's choice to use the indefinite article "ein" when declaring himself a citizen of Berlin, supposedly an error. But here's the thing: he wasn't really from Berlin or declaring literal German citizenship. Grammatically, when expressing terms like that in a figurative sense or as a symbolic gesture, including the indefinite article is appropriate.

Still, those donuts sound pretty great.

The press coined the phrase "Camelot" for JFK's family and administration

"Camelot" has been a metaphorical stand-in for JFK's presidency for so long that many people assume it was used the whole time. It makes sense because concurrent to the presidency, a Broadway show of the same name had an extremely popular run, and everyone loves contemporary pop culture references. Netflix! Angry Birds! Twitter!

Anyway, the origin of the phrase "Camelot" used this way was a tribute piece in the December 3, 1963 issue of Life Magazine written by Theodore White, after JFK's death. The inclusion of Jacqueline Kennedy's ruminations on Camelot and her comparisons to her late husband were ridiculed as sentimental and a distortion of JFK's motivations and actions, but the metaphor stuck.

However, they weren't included based on White seeking a hook or angle, or and they weren't even particularly desired. In fact, while White was dictating his essay draft to the publisher, editors almost struck the entire passage, but Jackie Kennedy insisted on its inclusion. The posthumous rebranding was deliberate on her part to cement JFK's memory and promote a more magical, larger-than-life representation of his legacy. White himself later expressed regret for spreading the Camelot meme, but by then, it was a deeply attached to his name as anyone else's.

Hey at least it wasn't a cartoon frog.

JFK's "When I'm long gone ... " quote

An eerily prescient, ominous JFK quote has been making the rounds on the Internet the past few years, opening up with JFK supposedly musing about after he is "long gone." It advocated for the abolition of the Federal Reserve, withdrawing nuclear support for Israel, and "kicking out the secret societies, occultists, usurpers, etc" from the country, with the suggestion at the end that it's "never too late." Go on then, abolish the bank because the image macro said so!

Despite sounding more like your grandpa after he's had a little too much of his "special coffee" than the former president, the quote is still making the rounds. However, according to the JFK Presidential Library and Museum, the quote doesn't match up with anything documented that he said, or anything at all recorded before 2011. Almost like you can't just trust any random quote you find on the Internet. Gosh!

There are many similarities between Kennedy and Lincoln

Admittedly, this one is pretty fun if you don't think about it. They were elected to both Congress and the presidency exactly 100 years apart. Both names have seven letters. Both were shot in the head on a Friday. You know the drill. Spooky stuff.

Except it completely falls apart the minute you do start thinking about it. Is it so surprising that two people elected to president 100 years apart would have political trajectories that match up along the way at some point, also one hundred years apart? What about the ... every other significant date and event in their lives that doesn't match up at all? They were both shot in the head but one at point blank and the other out a window from a rifle. One was shot indoors, the other outdoors. One was near the end of the second term, the other was barely halfway through his first. One liked Taco Bell, the other was a Chipotle fan.

We may have made one of those up.

JFK used medical marijuana

This one is kinda sticky, and we're not just making an obligatory drug joke by saying so. It's well documented that Kennedy was on a lot of drugs for a lot of different ailments, and there's plenty of anecdotes (puff puff) passed around suggesting that JFK partook a time or a few.

What we know for certain, however, is that there's no evidence documented in any of his medical records that indicate chronic (ahem) use of marijuana or that it was ever taken for medicinal purposes.

JFK was kept in the dark about the Russian "Missile Gap"

One of the things hammered on in stump speeches by Kennedy on his presidential campaign was a desire to close a supposed "missile gap" between ourselves and Russia—a gap we now know is a load of crap. It has long been assumed that Kennedy was kept in the dark about the true state of the arms race at the time by intelligence agencies, leading him to push this false narrative. You know, because no president has ever misled the public while campaigning.

But recently declassified CIA histories show that the president had been briefed on all current intelligence about the arms race as early as July 1960. Of course, some uncertainties could have been exploited in tenuous good faith by Kennedy in subsequent speeches. However, so far, nobody has yet analyzed whether Kennedy's tone about ICBMs on the campaign trail was altered by the revelation of this new data. Thinkpiece time!

Dollar bills printed in Dallas bear a "K" signifying or predicting Kennedy's death

So, this is spooky. Looking in the Federal Reserve symbol of bills printed in Dallas, they all have the letter "K" in them. Like Kennedy, who was shot in Dallas. Each corner shows the number 11, the month he died. But wait, even bills printed before 1963 also have the same lettering! Ominous!

It's to the point where superstitious folks tear corners off the bill to ... something something the curse or something? Curses don't exactly make sense.

This curse is no different and is honestly not all that spooky after all. The Dallas Reserve is the headquarters of the 11th Federal Reserve District and has been since 1911 (six years before Kennedy was born). "K" is the 11th letter of the alphabet. Chill out, y'all.

Ted Cruz's father knew Lee Harvey Oswald

The 2016 election was ... tense. We'll say tense.

As the Republican nomination approached, the suggestion was floated around that candidate Ted Cruz's father Rafael had been acquainted with Lee Harvey Oswald. This was even referenced at one point by fellow candidate Donald Trump in an interview. There was alleged photo evidence to back the whole thing up. Pretty shocking if true!

Except ... that's not really how photo evidence works. The only "proof" available is a grainy newspaper photo where an unidentified man stares distinctly toward the right side of the photo. Photo-matching professionals typically need to be able to see a pair of clear, front-facing photos of both the subject and suspect to give a proper ID.

It doesn't help that this wasn't the worst accusation floating around that year. Cruz was having a pretty rough time.

JFK was dedicated to a Moon landing his whole presidency

His first year in office, Kennedy gave a rousing oration to Congress about the necessity of putting a man on the Moon before the end of the decade. It was as great an accomplishment as he hoped at the time, and the goal was made, but he did not live to see it.

Fortunately, at least for the space program, he also did not live long enough to pull the plug on it like he was desperately considering.

By 1963, the program was looking bad, and costly. Projections were making it clear that a Moon landing would not happen in his first presidential term, or maybe even his second. The Russians didn't seem to be making any better progress than us, so there was little competition, and Kennedy worried it would just end up seeming like a stunt. He considered spinning the project into national security, building some comic book-style space weapon up there to sex the whole thing up for the public wondering where all the money was going.

His public statements at the time continued to be optimistic, because he didn't really have much of a choice. America was pretty much ride or die with this whole Moon landing thing. But recently declassified recordings show a distressed, concerned leader unsure of the value of this space project and probably less likely to be played by Bill Pullman in the next Independence Day movie.

In fact, like many of these urban legends about him, peeking behind the curtain shows a much more complicated person than history typically allows him to be. Still, science won out, so that's pretty cool.