The History Channel has asked three historians to review the credibility of a documentary that claims LBJ was behind the assassination of JFK.
The History Channel aired the documentary, The Guilty Men, in November as one of several programs exploring conspiracy theories surrounding President Kennedy’s death. Johnson was Kennedy’s vice president.
Former aides to Johnson, along with former presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter and Johnson’s widow, Lady Bird Johnson, sought an independent probe of the claims in The Guilty Men.
Meeting last week with executives from the TV station were Larry Temple, special counsel in the Johnson White House and president of The LBJ Foundation; journalist Bill Moyers; Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America; and Tom Johnson.
After the meeting, Tom Johnson said the executives expressed concern that the issue had been “ratcheted up” by letters from Ford, Carter and Lady Bird Johnson to the chief executives of NBC, Hearst Corp. and The Walt Disney Corp., which own A&E Networks.
“Nothing is more important to The History Channel than the integrity of our programming,” Dan Davids, executive vice president and general manager of The History Channel, said in a statement. “We take their concerns about historical accuracy and fairness very seriously and are taking appropriate action.”
That’s nice. Here’s a thought: Maybe the next time they bat around the possibility of airing something like that, they might get the historians on board with it before the actual broadcast, instead of after it. You know, what with them being the History channel and all.
Temple, who now works as an Austin attorney, said he was inclined to act when viewers began calling and sending e-mails and letters to the LBJ Library.
“Unfortunately, many of them were from kids who believed what they saw on TV,” Temple said.
“The theme was always: ‘Why do we have this memorial for murder?’ and ‘Why do we have this library to honor a man who killed a former president?’ It was such an egregious distortion of anything that is right or fair, we had to do something about it.”
Well, kids, at least you learned something from all this, even if it wasn’t what the History Channel intended for you to learn.
Not really on point but worth your time to read: Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk on defining conspiracy theories down.