Outrage at the History Channel for Running a Documentary that Claims LBJ Killed JFK

Roundup: Talking About History

From an interview on CNBC (Feb. 5, 2004):

ALAN MURRAY, co-host: Welcome back to CAPITAL REPORT. Former aides to President Lyndon Johnson are demanding an investigation of a controversial documentary that aired on The History Channel called "The Guilty Men." It aired in November. It suggests that Lyndon Johnson was involved in the assassination of President Kennedy. Joining us now is one of those former aides to President Johnson: Jack Valenti, chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Where did this film come from?

Mr. JACK VALENTI (Motion Picture Association of America): Well, it emerged from the gravel pits of a book written by a fellow that, when we read the book, we'd say it was nonsense, 'we' meaning former aides to Johnson, because nobody was going to read it. It was so reprehensible and so stupid. But some British producer made a documentary out of this book, and The History Channel aired it. It is total garbage. And I make a correction to you, Alan. They didn't suggest.

MURRAY: They said it.

Mr. VALENTI: The author of the book gets on this documentary and says flatly, 'Lyndon Johnson killed...'


Mr. VALENTI: '...John Kennedy and ordered the murder of eight other people.'

MURRAY: Here's my understanding of what he's saying. He says that on the night of November 21st, 1963, Lyndon Johnson met with Richard Nixon...

Mr. VALENTI: And J. Edgar Hoover.

MURRAY: ...and J. Edgar Hoover at the Dallas home of Clint Murchison and plotted the murder.

Mr. VALENTI: Absolutely. And then Johnson supposedly comes out of a conference room and whispers in the ear of some bimbo that says, 'We're going to get that guy, Kennedy, tomorrow.' So if you were going to kill somebody, you want to tell some gal.


Mr. VALENTI: Now here is one of the reasons why we went to see The History Channel and laid this out. On the evening of November 21st, Lyndon Johnson was in Houston, Texas, with President Kennedy on the last night that he lived honoring Congressman Albert Thomas. I was the chairman of the dinner. At 11...

MURRAY: You were with them both that night?

Mr. VALENTI: Oh, I was with them both. I was right back of the dais. And then after the dinner was over, about 11, I got in the car with Vice President Johnson. We got on Air Force Two, flew to Ft. Worth, went to the Texas Hotel. And he and I and Liz Carpenter and others in his entourage stayed up till about 1 in the morning chatting. Early the next morning we had our breakfast with President and Mrs. Kennedy. So here...

MURRAY: Not a lot of time to slip out and go to Dallas and meet with Richard Nixon.

Mr. VALENTI: Not a lot. Not a lot of time. And, of course, the Secret Service, in the Secret Service logs--it's all there. So this is indicative of the reprehensible quality of this. We are not after the producer or the author of this book, though they were pretty bad, too. But we said to The History Channel, 'This should have been checked.' And...

MURRAY: I should point out to our viewers that the author of the book is the father of President Bush's spokesperson, Scott McClellan, and the father of the head of the FDA, Mark McClellan.

Mr. VALENTI: I knew that. I just didn't want to mention it on the air. I'll let you do that.

MURRAY: But that is a fact.

Mr. VALENTI: That is a fact.

MURRAY: And my understanding is they've had no comment on the book, or they sort of avoid commenting on it.

Mr. VALENTI: I have not seen anything that they have said at all.

MURRAY: What is it you want The History Channel to do, having (unintelligible)?

Mr. VALENTI: Bill Moyers and I and Tom Johnson, the former head of CNN, and Larry Temple, former special counsel to the president--we said, 'We want you to pick--you pick--an objective commission of respected journalists, researchers, historians. Let them examine this,' as the BBC had to examine their assertions about Tony Blair and were found wanting. And then whatever their conclusions are, we don't want to know about them, put them on the air, and let the public see...

MURRAY: Will they do it?

Mr. VALENTI: Well, they said to us--they listened to us courteously and said, 'We'll get back to you. We'll consider this and be back in a reasonable point of time.'

MURRAY: I got to ask you before I let you go, this controversial movie by Mel Gibson, "The Passion of the Christ," is coming out in a few weeks. I know you've seen the movie. Does it deserve all the controversy that surrounds it? Is it anti-Semitic?

Mr. VALENTI: Well, I don't comment on any movie before it's darkened the inside of a theater.

MURRAY: 'Cause you get to see them all early.

Mr. VALENTI: I get to see them, and I did see that with Mel Gibson. But I think the public will have to make that decision. The critics will make that decision. And I think the movie's coming out shortly. It's being released by Newmarket, and we'll see.

MURRAY: Yeah. All right. Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America, always great to have you on CAPITAL REPORT.

Mr. VALENTI: Thank you, Alan.

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