In a failure that readers of NewsBusters will undoubtedly not be surprised by, the beloved PBS showing of A Capitol Fourth from the U.S. Capitol on Monday night concluded with a video compilation of previous years fireworks unbeknownst to the TV audience because of the cloudy, dreary weather the D.C. metro area experienced throughout the day.
The taxpayer-funded network began its 2016 fireworks display as The Voice season three winner Cassadee Pope concluded her performance, but when Hamilton star Christopher Jackson returned to play old American tunes such as Seventy-Six Trombones and the National Symphony Orchestra began playing the 1812 Overture’s finale, the fireworks that broke almost completely above the clouds had been interspersed with taped displays from past years. [See comparison for yourself in video below]
As many on Twitter noticed, the gimmick was clear when the fireworks appearing on-screen included a U.S. Capitol without the extensive scaffolding that its dome has worn for much of the past two years due to renovations in time for the 2017 presidential inauguration.
Political strategist and well-known focus-group guru Frank Luntz pegged the canned footage from 2014 in a series of tweets as he stated from the National Mall that “[w]hat @PBS is showing right now is a lie – you can’t see the fireworks, it’s all clouds and rain.”
Not long after the show had concluded, PBS’s A Capitol Fourth Twitter account was in full damage control as it publicly owned up to the move and deemed it the right thing to do:
We showed a combination of the best fireworks from this year and previous years. It was the patriotic thing to do. #July4thPBS— A Capitol Fourth (@July4thPBS) July 5, 2016
Washington D.C. Metro’s CBS affiliate WUSA-9 and reporter Mallory Hughes noted the catch as well and as they explained, there was some who saw the tape as a good move since there would have been little to view with the fireworks breaking out of view and above the dark clouds.
In full disclosure, I’ve watched PBS’s A Capitol Fourth as well as their Memorial Day weekend concert for nearly my entire (albeit young) life and look forward to watching both each year for their tributes to American troops and the plethora of classical and patriotic music. That being said, the inability to fully make clear what viewers were seeing was a tape seemed to rub a lot of folks the wrong way.