KC Johnson

LBJ & Lady Bird Johnson, 14 Oct. 1964

One person from within the President’s circle of advisors disagreed with the decision to distance wholly from Jenkins. In this clip, the First Lady explained her thinking—and her intent to go forward regardless of her husband’s desires.

Lady Bird Johnson: I will try to be discreet, but it is my strong feeling that a gesture of support to Walter [Jenkins] on our part is best.

President Johnson: I’d make all the gestures I could, but I don’t think that I would put myself in the position of defending what we say in the public in a situation like this, because we just can’t win it.

The average farmer just can’t understand you’re knowing it [Jenkins’ behavior] and approving it, or condoning it—any more than he can [Dean] Acheson not turning his back [on Alger Hiss].

[Break; the First Lady suggests offering Jenkins a job at KTBC.]

President Johnson: I don’t think the job is the important thing. I think we can—the finances is the minimum thing, honey.

Lady Bird Johnson: I think a gesture of support on some of our part is necessary to hold our own forces together.

President Johnson: [wearily] Well, talk to Abe [Fortas] and Clark [Clifford] about it, and . . .

Lady Bird Johnson: My poor darling, my heart breaks for you, too.

President Johnson: Well, I know it, honey, and—

Lady Bird Johnson: And I suppose I’ll let you go now. But if I get questioned, what I’m going to say is that I cannot believe this picture that’s put before me.

[Break. The First Lady passes along a report that Jenkins’ wife, Marjorie, is blaming the President for her husband’s downfall.]

President Johnson: I’ve got to go; they’re holding the plane with the mayor [of New York City] and everybody on it.

Lady Bird Johnson: All right.

President Johnson: We’re an hour late now.

Lady Bird Johnson: My love, my love, I pray for you, along with Walter. Good-bye.

President Johnson: [ignoring her] And I think I would get Abe, right quick, and Clark, and have Abe go see her [Mrs. Jenkins] go see her if he could—or have her priest go talk to her.

Lady Bird Johnson: All right. You’re a brave, good guy; and if you read where I said some things in Walter’s support, they’ll be along the line that I’ve just said to you—this man, who I’ve known all these years, and then you heard the adjectives I used.

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