Why the History Channel Had to Apologize for the Documentary that Blamed LBJ for JFK's Murder

tags: LBJ, JFK, JFK assassination, Kennedys

Mr. Kutler is the author of The Wars of Watergate. He was one of three historians selected by the History Channel to review the "documentary," "The Guilty Men," which was broadcast in November 2003.

The History Channel recently observed the fortieth anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination with a series of films, "The Men who Killed Kennedy." The most widely-viewed hour, "The Guilty Men," cast Lyndon Baines Johnson in a starring role for ordering the assassination. The film was offered without fear, and without evidence.

LBJ's family and friends heatedly protested the program. Finally, after former President Gerald Ford weighed in with his objections, the History Channel engaged several of us to evaluate the program, and provided air time to discuss our findings and conclusions. Let us hope that is not the end of the matter.

The Kennedy assassination has been fertile, enduring territory for conspiracy theories. But if such elaborate notions are your cup of tea, put no hope in the scurrilous book by Barr McClellan, a onetime associate who worked in Johnson's personal attorney's office, and British film maker Nigel Turner's farcical film rendering of McClellan's musings, which the History Channel broadcast. Their work is a parody of assassination theories and beliefs; surely, this is history as a joke the living play on the dead. Such programs reflect our desperate desire to embrace a conspiracy rather than the crucial question of truth.

McClellan's wild charges involve characters across the political spectrum, from disgruntled Texas oilmen, to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, the CIA, the military, Johnson's crooked Texas cronies, and Texas Governor John Connally -- forget he almost was killed himself. The Right has to be pleased with the mugging of LBJ, while the Left can pin more evil-doing on Hoover. A perfect storm. Such are our faded memories that McClellan can afford to omit a Communist plot.

McClellan's background is worth a mention. He is a convicted forger, who then resigned from the bar before disbarment proceedings ran their course. His certitude knows no bounds: "LBJ murdered John F.

Kennedy"; Johnson "knew of the assassination"; and he was involved "beyond a reasonable doubt." His "evidence" rests entirely on the alleged utterances of dead people, with the sole exception of that poster child for a con artist, Billie Sol Estes. A McClellan supporter wrote to me, urging that I call Estes to "get the truth." He said "Billie Sol Estes was there when LBJ ordered the killings, 18 of them in all. This includes JFK. Don't take my word for it, get it from the man who was there at the time the killings were ordered. Call Billie Sol Estes, . . ." The FBI has investigated Estes's accusations, and they found his credibility "non-existent." A further cover-up? Then consider how this pitiful figure admitted to his sentencing judge in 1979: "I have a problem. I live in a dream world." In a rare sensible moment, the film maker wisely did without his services -- but not without his fabrications.

Assassination conspiracy theories and books expounding them proliferate. But film is special. A conjurer's sleight-of-hand and verbal misdirection are ready ingredients for manipulating a mass audience. Richard Condon, who wrote The Manchurian Candidate, and who managed to spoof every recent American president, gave his own comic twist in Winter Kills, a novel (later a film) naming the perp as Patriarch Joseph Kennedy, distressed because his son had become too liberal. A comic genius, Condon never labeled his work as anything other than fiction. But Oliver Stone, in the new tradition of "docu-dramas,"gave us JFK, which lent an aura of authenticity to Jim Garrison's outlandish, gothic tale. Sadly, many of those under 25 believed him.

The History Channel film takes historical revisionism to unimagined depths. It seems everyone wanted Kennedy dead: he was going to withdraw from Vietnam in December 1963, so the CIA and the military wanted him out of the way; Texans wanted to preserve their oil-depletion allowance; J. Edgar Hoover believed Kennedy was about to replace him; and driving it all, of course, was Lyndon Johnson's insatiable appetite for power. Increasing the improbability of the thesis, it seems, heightens its appeal.

History is essential to our understanding of ourselves. Interpretations inevitably will vary. We will tinker with its meaning, but there are bounds to the truth of essential facts. Our profit-driven world drives such blatant exploitation of the past. Several years ago, a journalist, using John Mitchell and Gordon Liddy as his principal sources, peddled a "new, different" explanation for Watergate: John Dean organized the break-in, allegedly to protect his wife's reputation. Dean successfully sued for libel, but the truly appalling event was the media's uncritical reception and praise for the work. After all, we already had tapes in which Nixon acknowledged his criminal action. The damage to the Deans was calculable; for history, that may be another matter.

The History Channel is a brand name. The network has a responsibility to produce history, not fiction, or what McClellan brazenly labels, "faction." Did anyone at the company watch this film and invoke the elementary rules for historical writing: is it true, and what is the evidence? McClellan's forgery conviction is not a very useful credential for writing history.

History is our treasure, under assault from plagiarists and trivializers. Hearsay, gossip, and innuendo are not the stuff of history. History should be informative, entertaining, and above all, it must rest on a foundation of credible and verifiable evidence. We must not deliberately falsify it. We have Hollywood for that.

What is at stake here is the public rendering of our history. The commercial exploitation of the past predictably raises the bottom line. For the History Channel, as with any other such venture, ratings and the broadest possible appeal are the surest way to swelling profits. Inevitably, truth is the first casualty. Imagine, we speak of an entertainment or arts "industry." Our homogenized culture is reduced to as simple formula: does it entertain and will it sell?

But we are talking history now. Certainly, we can strive to make it as broadly appealing and interesting as possible. But does that mean we cloak it with unsubstantiated rumors and imagining, or invented sources? History is not created and rendered with the props of falsehood, innuendo, or manipulation. History is bordered by the wall of facts; without them, we are in the realm of fiction.

The History Channel has made a start in the right direction as it has totally disavowed the program and publicly promised it never will be shown again. It always is free to sell it as a hitherto-unknown episode of"The Twilight Zone."

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ray valent - 9/24/2009

If you've seriously done any research into this crime, you are a fool to believe there was no govt conspiracy. Compare the autopsy photos of JFK's head. One has long scraggly hair, the other has a military crew cut. Ford admitted in a new york times article in 1992 that he moved the shot from the back to the neck to facilitate it coming out the throat.
LBJ's first presidential acts were to destroy evidence, the limo and Connaly's shirt. How much do you need?

Peter R McGuire - 11/4/2005

The doctors stated the wounds were from the front , and you can see the head shot is from the front on the Zapruder film. Yet , supposedly, Mr. Oswald did it. That simply couldnt be the case. The autopsy photos are fake. So we know we have been lied to. There is no need to go further. Someone hit him from the front. Sixteen Parkland Hospital Doctors say so!!!

Jim R. Feliciano - 6/3/2004


May 28, 2004



In a 25 page filing with the HISTORY CHANNEL, HANNOVER HOUSE author BARR McCLELLAN proposed arbitration instead of litigation over issues raised by a historians' panel on April 7, 2004. The proposal includes a list of fact errors by the three historians ranging from wrong dates for the Warren Report, to representations that a sniper acting alone killed President Kennedy. In addition, McClellan listed standards proposed by the panel that the three men promptly broke. The failure to follow ethical rules for fairness was also protested.

Last November the HISTORY CHANNEL aired "The Guilty Men," a documentary showing LBJ's involvement in the assassination of JFK. The episode was number NINE in "THe Men Who Killed Kennedy" series by award-winning producer Nigel Turner. JACK VALENTI, BILL MOYERS, and others acting on behalf of the JOHNSON FOUNDATION, promptly protested but were rejected. The HISTORY CHANNEL said the documentary was "meticulously researched" and continued its broadcast.

The documentary became the bestseller for the HISTORY CHANNEL so, this past January, VALENTI and his team tried again, bringing heavy pressure on the owners of the company and forcing its management to name a review panel of historians. Three men were chosen: ROBERT DALLEK, STANLEY KUTLER and THOMAS SUGRUE. At the same time, the HISTORY CHANNEL ceased broadcasting the documentary and halted all sales.

By letters in early February, McClellan offered full cooperation with the panel and proposed sharing of evidence and full discussion of the issues presented. He emphasised the true service the HISTORY CHANNEL could do for history with an open and fair review. According to press reports, VALENTI submitted extensive documentation and alleged all evidence had been released. McClellan was not granted any access to the secret materials, and he stated extensive LBJ records were still concealed.

In early April, the HISTORY CHANNEL apologized to LBJ's widow for presenting the documentary.
Several days later, the panel conducted a discussion of the issues, concluded the documentary was not credible, and recommended it not be shown again. In their April 7, 2004 discussion, the panel reviewed some of the issues and facts, but largely ignored the facts in the documentary and the documents in McClellan's book.

After some preliminary letters on defamation issues, in which there was agreement the parties took separate positions on key facts that are ideal for arbitration, McClellan completed his proposal and today filed it with the HISTORY CHANNEL.

The proposal alleges five [5] violations of applicable laws: FALSE STATEMENTS, DEFAMATION, COVER-UP, CENSORSHIP, and VIOLATION OF PUBLISHER ETHICS. Stating that arbitration is preferable to litigation and that arbitration would be required by a court in any event, McClellan proposed agreeing to a procedure to review the issues surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy.
History does not readily lend itself to litigation, arbitration by mutually agreed arbitrators would be a preferred approach, and the review would not so much decide history as to determine where questions of evidence remained. McClellan emphasized many key sources of documents still kept secret, including LBJ's legal files, JACKIE KENNEDY's sealed documents, and many more.

McClellan reviewed the numerous misleading statements by the panel, listing 46 ERRORS OF FACT (including ommisions and half-truths) and CITING 16 STANDARDS OF REVIEW VIOLATED by the panel in an incredulous disregard of the ehtics they themselves proposed. The panel's main finding of a lack of credibility meant they disregarded 12 members of a Texas grand jury, the presentation of a United States Marshall and District Attorney, signed statements by LBJ and the only man he trusted, several other key letters between LBJ and his superlawyer, and the conclusions of a highly respected and fully qualified latent print examiner. McClellan stated there was no way the panel could conclude these witnesses and many more in the documentary, along with 68 exhibits admisible in court were not credible. For another key example of errors by the panel, the three men stated the Warren Report was accurate disregarding the fact that LBJ himself had stated there was a conspiracy. Based on these many errors and violations of their own ethics, the panel was simply not credible.

McClellan's proposal also objects to the secret evidence provided by VALENTI's group that included, based on press reports, another 53 ERRORS OF FACT. The main error by the VALENTI group was to disregard the statements of fact regarding LBJ that were made by the interviewees in the documentary and by the facts in the book. This failure to answer is deemed an admission both in law and by history research standards.

McClellan proposed setting up an arbitration panel of several mutually acceptable experts in several areas to review the issues and make recommendations. Their review would include finding some issues unquestionable (such as the year the Warren Report was issued), subject to further documentation (such as release of still closed records), and needing further discussion (such as the role played by the alleged lone sniper).

McClellan has already requested a full apology and equeal time to present a response to the errors by the panel.

For further information contact:



[End of press release; May 28, 2004]

Jim R. Feliciano - 5/9/2004

Mr. Kutler,

As you are well aware, on April 7, 2004, the History Channel had broadcast a televised special, "The Guilty Men: A Historical Overview", a program in which you appeared with two other noted historians, Dallek and Sugrue, a program moderated in forum (by THC) to counter, and to respond, to the various controversial allegations presented (last November) in "The Guilty Men, a History Channel presentation that had alleged (then) vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, had been directly responsible for Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963.

As a concerned American, I was outraged of that particular "rebuttal" presentation, and in turn, of the final end result The History Channel had set forth.

Just the same, it was noted the majority of THC respondents were much DISMAYED with The History Channel (their discussion forums reflects highly of that), of actions taken to "buckle" and to concede to the desired whims of those who gained in having suppressed [The Guilty Men] for good, and that of any further consideration of this documented program, by certain individuals who had profited (inmensly) from the Johnson White House, and, from Kennedy's murder in 1963.

In the recent ensuing THC controversy, it had been noted the 'controlled' press proliferated much on what (ultimatedly) had been decided of THC rebuttal, as opposed to, not drawing of any reference whatsoever of what not had been presented, in 'counter', of the compelling evidence (found in the public domain) which pointed to LBJ's complicity in "multiple" murders, including that, of the 1963 assassination.

Naturally, the History Channel's "appointed" panel would simply come to dismiss the glaring evidence they (and you) would choose not to get into, that of the same evidence they (and you) would choose not to discuss, nor even attempt to refute of, again, based on certain overwhelming facts they (and you) decided to so ignore, and this despite, the opportunity had been presented you were to do so.

We are also well aware, that the History Channel's (now) retraction of "The Guilty Men", would only serve well with the (so-called) panel's "investigation" and of their verdict they so rendered: in that Lyndon Baines Johnson was "not involved" in any way, shape, or form... hence, all they while the "panel" had condemned the History Channel, and used this very forum... to attack Barr McClellan's book, a book the panel so readily dismissed as "nonsense", and as... "crap."

Of course, in the anticipated moment, we had expected nothing less nothing less of what had been presented of this (supposedly) "historical overview" and that of it's shallow efforts the panel vigorously had sought, in presenting counter.

In the final analysis, the History Channel succeeded of doing further damage in reversing the public trust, when THC stated, in the AP wires, last November 18, that they had presented... "a point of view that was meticulously researched... (and)... by presenting different viewpoints we enable our viewers to decide to agree or disagree with them and arrive at their own conclusions."

Unfortunately now, to THC's own credit, this "overview" served only as a redeeming opportunity to attack the very message that was released, given that, of the very message it so implied, and of course, that of the messenger himself... Barr McClellan.

Barr McClellan's book, "Blood, Money, and Power: How LBJ Killed JFK", comes at a juncture in our lifetime, and probably more that ever before, we may be so close in opening the lid off this pandora's box" which has been guarded under veiled secrecy, for many, many years, by those same vested "interests" who are still protecting this old crime, and at whatever the cost.

But in the end, sadly, the History Channel panel's own conclusions can only be viewed, at least from my perspective, an obvious farce they so demonstrated of their own inept "academical" findings, and to which they had presented-- absolutely nothing-- to that regard.

To the majority of Americans who knows well of the truth, it was a wasted effort to which they had failed.

But I would remind you, Mr. Kutler, there was this one passage that was heard in "The Guilty Men", which had concluded, and I quote:

"Undaunted, across the nation, the questioning voice of the American people will not be silenced. An overwhelming majority refuse to accept their government's version of what happened in Dallas, on November the 22nd, 1963."

But the "questioning voice of the American people" has been "silenced", this time, by The History Channel. And to that end, for their part, the History Channel is now "guilty" in having done precisely just that.


Jim Feliciano

Wim Dankbaar - 4/21/2004

Special announcement for immediate and unrestricted release:
Gerald Ford's motto: Attack is Best Defense.
Gerald Ford, former President and last surviving member of the Warren Commission, has demonstrated his strategy again: Disguise your crimes by attacking the attacker. I am increasingly flabbergasted about what is possible in America. Why is the world and the History Channel swallowing his attack on the documentary "The guilty men"? For those who missed this headline news, it is the last episode of "The men who killed Kennedy" series, aired last November and originally scheduled for re-runs over the next nine years, which makes a case for Lyndon Johnson as a main conspirator in JFK's murder. Ford's coordinated protest with former Johnson cronies like Bill Moyers, Jack Valenti and Johnson's widow, has now even resulted in complete cancellation of all three new episodes, including those which were not attacked, like "The Love Affair" with Judyth Vary Baker, who makes a credible case for having been Lee Harvey Oswald's girlfriend, exonerating him from the Government's THEORY that he was the lone assassin. To my knowledge, this is an unprecedented form of censorship in the United States.

In all the heated discussions and controversy about the History Channel's documentary, whether LBJ had a role in the JFK assassination or not, it seems that one thing is overlooked : In this case, Lyndon Baines Johnson and his next door neighbor and close buddy J. Edgar Hoover are guilty of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, not because we can prove they ordered it or because we can prove they had any direct connection to the killing, but because we can prove beyond any reasonable doubt that those two men took steps and took actions that covered up the truth of the crime. Washing out and refurbishing the President's limousine is just one of many examples of destroying crucial evidence. This makes them AT LEAST accessories after the fact. And was it not to Bill Moyers that Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach sent the infamous memo: "The public should be satisfied that Oswald was the lone assassin"?

But what's more, Ford himself is guilty! Not only was it learned that he was secretly reporting on the Commission to FBI Director Hoover, but also, forced by declassified files, he has admitted that he instructed the Warren Commission to move Kennedy's backwound up by several inches !!! The significance of this cannot be overstated! For with a wound in the original location, there cannot be a single bullet theory and without a single bullet theory there cannot be a lone gunman. Last time I looked, this was called "tampering with evidence", which is a federal crime and in such an important case as the death of a president, it is also TREASON. Raised with my naive and Dutch set of values on freedom and democracy, I believe the man should be in jail, despite his rehearsed repetitions that the Commission "found no evidence of a conspiracy, foreign or domestic". Instead, he is allowed to bury essentially good documentaries. What is happening to America?

All three men, Johnson, Hoover AND Ford, took steps that altered, destroyed and hid evidence, ...... and this, by the way, is what changes what otherwise would have been a Texas homicide, to a national coup d'etat!

In order to provide a contra-weight to these outrageous proceedings of the on-going cover-up, I have made available for the public the first ever camera-interview with former special FBI agent James W. Sibert. This interview will be part of an upcoming film/documentary "Second Look, FBI agents re-examine the JFK assassination" (wanted: uncontrolled broadcasters). James Sibert, 84 years young, a former World War II hero and B-52 pilot, 21 year career FBI agent and American patriot, was present at Kennedy's autopsy in Bethesda. Like every other retired FBI agent featured in Second Look, he is also PISSED with his government for covering up such a major crime.

See and hear what he has to say about Gerald Ford and senator Arlen Specter, architect of the notorious single bullet theory that was (and still is) pushed down our throat.

Right here: http://www.jfkmurdersolved.com/sibert.htm

This is age of the Internet, the new revolutionary and independent medium that can spread the truth. Recent studies show that the web has surpassed conventional media as a news source. If you share my amazement, SPREAD THIS! Email to friends and/or your favorite news-outlets. This message is also posted there, thus forwarding the link is enough. The videoclip may be downloaded and used for any website.


Wim Dankbaar (Netherlands)

"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act."

George Orwell

Tim Wright - 4/13/2004

So, then, you believe that LBJ ordered the killings?



Vince Michael Palamara - 4/8/2004

I think it is laughable and ludicrous to thinking people everywhere they you did not address the Mac Wallace part of the story, nor interview any of the people involved...did you even READ McClellan's book? You guys make me ashamed to be an American. I tihnk you "historians" are incapable of looking at the truth. You have served your masters (Valenti & Co.) well.

Total Information - 4/8/2004

'History' Channel memory-holes LBJ connection to JFK-kill


ACTION: Call History Channel parent A&E Television and tell them you want fewer bloviating lying eggheads and more investigative work like Nigel Turner's The Men Who Killed Kennedy.

Phone: 212-210-1400
Fax: 212-850-9370

REVIEW: The court historians made total jackasses of themselves.

When host Sesno asked if Edgar Hoover's FBI should prima facie be trusted in the matter of the JFK-kill, each in turn windbaggedly evinced incredulity that such a question could even be raised. The fat one absentmindedly volunteered that "Hoover and Johnson were friends."

Madeline Brown's eyewitness story (corroborating witnesses ignored) of the Murchison party on King-Kill Eve was challenged with unspecified "Secret Service logs," as though some holy writ, its pure and perfect provenance a given.

The name of gunman Mack White was not even mentioned, much less the forensic fingerprint evidence putting him in the Depository.

McClellan and producer Nigel Turner each came in for ad hominem.

The one with an overbite concluded the presentation with an appeal that everything on THE HISTORY CHANNEL henceforth and forever be vetted by the Bones-founded AHA.

UPDATE: Reuters April 7 6:10 PM ET:
Book author McClellan, interviewed on the documentary program, said he tried to cooperate with the reviewing panel by sending them material but never heard back from them.

"It doesn't seem as if they treated the subject fairly at all," McClellan said in a telephone interview on Wednesday from his home in Gulfport, Mississippi.
Associated Press 04-02
In response to an uproar caused by a History Channel documentary that claimed President Lyndon Johnson was involved in the Kennedy assassination, the network will air a challenge to that program . . .

The special, airing 8 p.m. Wednesday, is called "The Guilty Men: An Historical Review."

The one-hour program is meant to rebut last November's broadcast of "The Guilty Men," which was based in part on a book published in 2003 by Barr McClellan, who claims the law firm he quit a quarter-century ago was involved in convoluted plots that link Johnson to at least 11 deaths, including President Kennedy's.
Former aides to Johnson, along with former Presidents Ford and Carter and Johnson's widow, Lady Bird Johnson, sought an independent probe of the claims.

The network apologized on Friday to its viewers as well as Mrs. Johnson and her family for the program, which it said will no longer be aired or made available on home video.