Wednesday, November 19, 2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A television documentary asserting that Lyndon B. Johnson helped plot the Kennedy assassination was condemned as an absurd smear by Johnson’s family and former staff members.

A History Channel film that aired Monday claims that Vice President Johnson and members of his staff were responsible for President Kennedy’s 1963 killing, said LBJ Foundation Chairman Tom Johnson, no relation to the former president.

“I do not know of a greater injustice to the reputation of a former president — especially to be on the History Channel,” Tom Johnson, who worked in the Johnson White House, said in an interview Tuesday.

He and Jack Valenti, another former Johnson staff member and current president of the Motion Picture Association of America, issued a joint statement on behalf of the Johnson family and others.

“Sadly, President Johnson and the staff members who are wrongly smeared by the conspiracy theorists are no longer alive to defend themselves,” the statement said. “In televising this production, The History Channel has distorted history beyond recognition.”

It was the second recent TV project about a former president to draw criticism. CBS yanked its November miniseries “The Reagans” after conceding it was not a balanced portrayal of Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

The latest program aired as part of an umbrella series titled “The Men Who Killed Kennedy,” a package of documentaries about various conspiracy theories regarding Kennedy’s death, said channel spokeswoman Lynn Gardner.

The films in “The Men Who Killed Kennedy” series are from producer Nigel Turner and have aired before on cable TV, channel spokeswoman Gardner said. Monday’s film, titled “The Guilty Men,” was based in part on the book “Blood, Money & Power: How L.B.J. Killed J.F.K.” by Barr McClellan, she said.

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