After more than half-a-century of Kennedy video hagiography, it seems a bit churlish to object to a production that might not so considerately toe the party line—and I’m as much a Kennedy guy as anybody else.
The History Channel’s made-for-TV Kennedy film, which is apparently unfilmed and unwritten, has already attracted a serious cabal of phumphering Kennedy oldsters and other stalwart liberals appalled at the possibility of an off-message portrait.
The form of the protest is an internet video produced by Robert Greenwald, the documentary filmmaker who made Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism. And, indeed, central to his complaint is that the Kennedy film is being made by Joel Surnow, not just a conservative, but one who has worked for Fox as the executive producer of 24. So in a sense this has more to do with the war modern liberals are waging against Fox than with old-time liberals defending the Kennedys.
Greenwald’s attack video features a series of righteous Kennedy defenders as well as reenactments of what seem to be purloined versions of the possible script. The Kennedy partisans are quite a tongue-tied bunch, all of them struggling gamely, if inarticulately, to somehow dismiss or disdain or circumlocute what is, apparently, the main focus of the film.
Since we all know what this is—it’s the thing the Kennedys are now perhaps most noted for—it makes all these harumphers seem as though they’re trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
“It bears no relationship to the lives of these once living people,” says the biographer and historian David Nasaw, in, to say the least, a peculiar turn of phrase.
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 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 “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.,” is still in the early stages of production. But when its script began circulating around
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.”
By David Byrne at The Raw Story
An upcoming biopic on former president John F. Kennedy has liberals and erstwhile advisers fuming mad.
Like the 2003 biopic, The Reagans, most of the outrage comes from conservatives, but liberals fought their own battle over a controversial 9/11 miniseries which aired on ABC a few years ago. But the miniseries biography — commissioned by The History Channel and produced by Joel Surnow, an outspoken conservative who created the hit Fox show “24″ — is more than a little loose with the facts.
Surnow’s Kennedy bio appears to depict Kennedy as a sex-maniac, according to a liberal filmmaker who describes some of the scenes in an interview with The New York Times. Filmmaker Robert Greenwald called the scripts he’d seen a “hatchet job.”
In one scene, the former president from Massachusetts is caught in a pool having sex with a young associate, who the Times gently describes as “a young woman who is not his wife.”
In another, JFK is seen asking his brother and onetime Attorney General, Robert, “What do you do when you’re horny?”According to the script, the president then informs him that if he doesn’t sleep with unfamiliar women “every couple of days I get migraines.”
There are other factual inaccuracies in the film under development.
“The scripts invent scenes that never occurred, like an exchange that suggests Kennedy came up with the idea for the Berlin Wall,” the reporter notes.
Kennedy adviser Theodore Sorensen, who is quoted in a video attempting to kill the project, says, “Every single conversation with the president in the Oval Office or elsewhere in which I, according to the script, participated, never happened.”
Other boo-boos: “the scripts refer to exit polling for the 1960 presidential election when exit polling had not yet been invented; and that President Kennedy introduced the Peace Corps during the Bay of Pigs crisis in April 1961, when in fact he signed an executive order creating the corps one month earlier.”
The Times, which broke the story, seemed to shrug off the depiction of Kennedy as a roving philanderer. A 1984 Kennedy bio which The New Yorker called “riveting and well-documented” detailed several of Kennedy’s more randy sexual misadventures, including an alleged encounter with an underaged cheerleader on the 1960 campaign trail and instances of inviting prostitutes to White House pool parties while his wife was traveling.
“Like a similar controversy over a 2003 television film about Ronald Reagan, the dispute over the embryonic Kennedy series seems to say as much about the enduring place of the Kennedys as a battleground in the culture wars as it does about history itself,” The Times’ Dave Itzkoff writes.
NEW YORK, Feb. 17 (UPI) — Producers of a planned miniseries about former U.S. President John F. Kennedy deny a critic’s charge the project is “political character assassination.”
Producer Joel Surnow, best known as a creator of the Fox TV action hit “24,” is developing the Kennedy project for the History channel, with a script by Stephen Kronish, who identifies himself as a liberal Democrat, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who has received copies of the script from other entertainment industry professionals, has produced a video featuring critics of the script — including former JFK adviser Theodore C. Sorensen — in which the panel argues the script contains factual errors.
“It was political character assassination,” Greenwald told the Times. “It was sexist titillation and pandering, and it was turning everything into a cheap soap opera of the worst kind.”
Greenwald’s video includes an appeal to viewers to “tell the History channel I refuse to watch right-wing character assassination masquerading as ‘history’” and directs them to a Web site, stopkennedysmears.com.
Producers say the scripts are not complete. Kronish said criticism is premature.
“Next year, when it’s done and it’s on the air, if people want to criticize it, so be it,” he said.
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.
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.
Coming soon from two of the makers of ‘24′: Another tale of a president whose scandalous, secretive behavior jeopardized America’s national security. Only this time, the president is John F. Kennedy, and the project is ‘The Kennedys,’ an eight-hour docudrama miniseries due in 2011 on the History Channel.
Not a frame has been shot yet, but one documentarian and several JFK historians who claim to have seen the script say ‘The Kennedys’ as written is full of smears, distortions, and an emphasis on the 35th president’s lurid sex life at the expense of his historical achievements. They’ve formed an ad hoc group, StopKennedySmears.com, and have launched an online petition drive threatening a boycott of the channel if the miniseries airs with the script’s alleged falsehoods intact.
The group’s founder, Robert Greenwald, is a filmmaker known for left-leaning agitprop documentaries like ‘Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism’ and ‘Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers.’ But before he started making such films, he directed many standard-issue Hollywood movies and miniseries, and he tells the New York Times that contacts in the industry leaked him the script.
Although the author of the script, ’24’s’ Stephen Kronish, calls himself a liberal Democrat, the project’s director is ‘24′ co-creator Joel Surnow, one of Hollywood’s most outspoken conservatives. It’s Surnow whom Greenwald blames for what he calls the script’s “political character assassination” of the Democratic icon.
True to form, Greenwald has made a 12-minute documentary, marshaling historians who object to specific scenes in the draft of ‘The Kennedys’ Greenwald showed them. Former JFK aide Ted Sorenson says none of the script’s conversations between him and the president ever took place. Greenwald and his team object to scenes like one where JFK is committing adultery in the White House swimming pool while a Secret Service agent tries to get him to attend to a national security matter, or the one where JFK tells an aide that if he doesn’t cheat every other day, he gets a migraine headache. Even Nigel Hamilton, whose unflattering 1992 history ‘JFK: Restless Youth’ drew the ire of the Kennedy family, thinks the script’s portrayal is over the top and better suited to the National Enquirer than the History Channel.
Robert Greenwald’s ‘Stop Kennedy Smears’
By Mara Gay at AOL News
It might be the adulterous sex scene in the White House swimming pool that sent them over the edge. Or the line that has President John F. Kennedy saying he gets migraines unless he sleeps with a new woman every couple of days.
But the proposed script of a new History channel miniseries has drawn the ire of progressive historians and bloggers, who are waging a campaign to stop a portrait about JFK that some are calling a “right-wing political hit job.”
It began when Kennedy scholars, including Ted Sorensen, a Kennedy historian and former adviser, got ahold of the script and were horrified. Sorensen called the approach “vindictive” and “malicious,” and said that the script is historically inaccurate.
When liberal filmmaker Robert Greenwald read the script, he was so angry he started a “Stop the Kennedy Smears Campaign,” complete with a video featuring progressive historians calling for a boycott of the History channel until the network stops “running politically motivated fiction as historical.”
Controversy is already dogging “The Kennedys,” a miniseries about the iconic political family that marks History’s first original dramatic project, according to the New York Times. Liberal documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald got hold of some early scripts and has shown them to historians, who say the screenplays are inaccurate. The fact that the series comes from producer Joel Surnow (”24″), who is known for his conservative political views, appears to have fed skepticism about the series.