After the failure of the April 1961 Bay of Pigs intervention in Cuba, senior officials from the Kennedy administration, including the president, devoted two days to off-the-record briefings for more than 200 journalists. Although President John F. Kennedy refused to assign blame, other officials were less circumspect, disagreeing about whether the Central Intelligence Agency or another part of the government was responsible for the failure. The most notable aspect of this episode is not that senior administration personnel discussed a covert action in the presence of journalists but that the briefings subsequently remained unknown. Some newspapers briefly mentioned them, but no book on the Bay of Pigs—from the 1960s through today—has mentioned that such briefings happened or described their content. Using primary-source materials (including fragments of the briefings’ transcript) plus some newspaper accounts, this article describes the conflicting opinions voiced at the briefings and explores why and how the Kennedy administration succeeded in keeping the encounters mostly unknown.

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