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Is The Kennedys the next Path to 9/11?

By Media Matters

Media Matters expresses deep concerns about The History Channel’s upcoming Kennedy miniseries

Washington, DC - Today, Media Matters for America responded to news that The Kennedys, a History Channel miniseries about John F. Kennedy’s presidency tentatively set to air next year to coincide with the 50th anniversary of his inauguration, contains a “remarkable number of obvious errors,” according to former Kennedy adviser Ted Sorenson, who reportedly saw scripts for the series. Sorenson additionally said that “[e]very single conversation with the president in the Oval Office or elsewhere in which I, according to the script, participated, never happened.”

“Of any network, The History Channel should understand the value of accurate, agenda-free historical programming,” said Eric Burns, President of Media Matters. “The fact that one of the Kennedys’ closest advisers doesn’t think the script fits that description is deeply concerning.”

Burns added: “The question is whether The History Channel is going to allow The Kennedys to become the next Path to 9/11.

BACKGROUND

The New York Times reported today that after Brave New Films’ Robert Greenwald read the scripts for the miniseries, he reached out to Sorensen and historians to fact-check what Greenwald described as a “political character assassination.” In addition to Sorensen’s criticism, historians said that the script was “loony and juvenile,” a “travesty,” and “distorted.”

  • Former Kennedy adviser Ted Sorensen: “I was amazed to find reading those pages that every single conversation with the President in the Oval office or elsewhere in which I according to the script participated, never happened. There were no such conversations… A minimum amount of research could’ve avoided the remarkable number of obvious errors of that kind in this script.”
  • Author and historian Nigel Hamilton: “The script becomes, historically, ever more loony and juvenile, as the writers invent more and more phony events to give an impression of a President Kennedy out of his depth, and dependent on others for advice.”
  • Author, historian, and professor of American history David Nasaw: “If the authors of this travesty had any conscience or any honesty they’d rename it. Call these people Sullivans or Schwartzes or some other name because they certainly aren’t Kennedys as I know them.”
  • Author Rick Perlstein: “It struck me that the writer wanted to tell as distorted a story as possible, and find very little in the Kennedy years that possessed any dignity what so ever.”

The miniseries is being developed by Joel Surnow, producer of Fox Broadcasting Co’s 24. Greenwald wrote on The Huffington Post that Surnow is “a right wing activist” who vacations with Rush Limbaugh, refers to Bill Clinton as a “yuppie, baby boomer narcissist,” and supported Rick Santorum for Senate.

This is not the first time a historical miniseries has sparked controversy. Media Matters was one of several organizations to criticize ABC’s The Path to 9/11 and successfully pressured Scholastic to pull flawed, ABC-sponsored educational materials about the 9-11 attacks.