Liberals, historians aghast at History Channel’s Kennedy mini-series
By Brett Michael Dykes at Yahoo News
In a 2007 New Yorker profile, “24″ co-creator and executive producer Joel Surnow is portrayed as an unabashed conservative: He smokes cigars with Rush Limbaugh, can “hardly think” of Ronald Reagan without “breaking into tears,” and believed that “America [was] in its glory days” under President Bush. For being a right-leaning power player flourishing in a bastion of liberal politics, Surnow is understandably revered in conservative circles. And, naturally, he’s ruffled feathers on the left.
Now he’s producing a miniseries for the History Channel about the Kennedys, the closest thing the Democratic Party has to royalty, and historians – as well as a liberal documentary filmmaker – are up in arms.
The eight-hour series, titled “The Kennedys,” is still in the early stages of production. But when its script began circulating around Hollywood for casting purposes, it made its way into the hands of liberal documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald. After reading it and finding it to be what he termed a piece of “political character assassination,” Greenwald drew up a list of twenty “reputable historians” to pass the script to for their opinions.
What the historians found: The script painted a sensational view of the Kennedys and contained numerous factual inaccuracies. Further, Ted Sorenson, a close adviser to President Kennedy, lamented that “every single conversation with the president in the Oval Office or elsewhere in which I, according to the script, participated, never happened.”
So Greenwald is fighting back by publicizing a video in which scholars he contacted offer their opinions and grievances with the script. According to Greenwald, the historical inaccuracies include:
-A scene where Joe Kennedy, the patriarch of the famously Catholic family, smashes a crucifix over his knee.
-A scene that suggests JFK came up with the idea for the construction of the Berlin Wall during World War II.
-Numerous sex scenes that, they believe, portray President Kennedy as an out-of-control sex fiend who confides to his brother Robert that he gets migraines if he doesn’t sleep with new women on a regular basis.
-A scene in which the timing of Kennedy’s introduction of the Peace Corps is not accurate.
-Little to no acknowledgment of the Cuban missile crisis, the event viewed by most as the most significant, and perhaps most successful, of the Kennedy presidency.
-References to exit-polling in a scene about the 1960 presidential election, a time when exit-polling had yet to come into existence.
Watch Greenwald’s video here:
In defense of the project, Steve Kronish, the miniseries’ head writer, told the Huffington Post that the uproar was premature. He explained that producing scripted content is an evolutionary process, and that the version of the script Greenwald obtained is far from final. Kronish, who labeled himself a liberal politically, implored critics to hold their criticism until the final product is released. He said that to trash the project in its early stages is unfair, and that people need to “recognize also that this is not a documentary, it is a dramatization.”
Additionally, Kronish told the New York Times that he’s using numerous historical Kennedy biographies in the process of researching the project, adding that his finished script “will require bibliographic annotations and legal vetting” before the History Channel allows filming to begin.
The uproar over “The Kennedys” reminds some of a similar 2003 controversy surrounding “The Reagans,” a CBS miniseries that offered what many conservatives and Reagan family members considered an unflattering portrayal of the former president and first lady. CBS eventually caved to public outcry and canceled the series, which later aired on Showtime.