Nat Geo Producer: John Wilkes Booth ‘Could Be the Poster Child for the Tea Party'

Elizabeth Harrington | January 7, 2013 | 11:49am EST
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"Killing Lincoln" by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, which was made into a movie by National Geographic, execuitve producer Erik Jendersen. (Photo: Henry Holt and Co.)

( – Executive Producer Erik Jendresen of National Geographic Channel's upcoming television movie “Killing Lincoln,” said John Wilkes Booth “could be the poster child for the Tea Party.”

“This is not the act of somebody who can easily be dismissed as a psychopath, so that it’s easy to understand,  ‘Oh well, he was crazy,’” Jendresen said of Booth at a Television Critics Association winter press tour event on Friday in Pasadena, Calif., as initially reported by The Wrap.

“No. It's more disturbing to find out who Booth was," said Jendresen. "This is a man who believed what still probably 20 percent of this country still believes. He could be a poster child for the Tea Party."

Jendresen's remarks about Booth were in response to a reporter's question about how much history kids know today.

Jendresen, who won an Emmy for his work on the HBO World War II drama “Band of Brothers,” is producing the television adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling book “Killing Lincoln.”  The film adaptation will air on National Geographic’s cable channel later this year, and stars Billy Campbell as the 16th president with narration by actor and long-time liberal Tom Hanks.

At the press event on Friday, The Wrap asked Jendresen if he thought O’Reilly would agree with his views on the Tea Party and John Wilkes Booth.  Jendresen said, “I can’t speak for Mr. O’Reilly. I think that if you look at the politics of the time, and a lot of the epithets that were being hurled at Lincoln, there was a feeling in the nation that’s not dissimilar from what we’ve experienced in  the past four years in response to Barack Obama – the sense of an imperial presidency or soundbytes about somebody who’s going to proclaim himself king and take over.

"It's stunning to me to read some of the newspaper articles and some of the interviews of the time, some of the contents of the letters and memoirs from the time and some of the things that were thought about Lincoln in the South are so similar to … the dialogue today," said Jendresen.

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