In an interview with Ken Burns on Sunday's web-based Meet the Press feature Press Pass, moderator Chuck Todd asked the historian and film-maker about his PBS documentary on the Roosevelts: "It's amazing what the press didn't cover....I mean, and if they had, obviously it could have changed history." Burns responded:
It could. But I think we focus too much – we presume that because there was a gentleman's agreement to turn off the cameras as he [FDR] started to stand up or when he started to sit down, that we know less...."Wasn't that quaint an arrangement? They sort of looked the other way when JFK did that or they, you know, didn't really notice Franklin Roosevelt's illness." They actually did and they actually knew more and had better and more intimate access to power, and that's an important thing. [Listen to the audio]
During the first installment of PBS's The Roosevelts: An Intimate History on Sunday, historian Clay Jenkinson and former Newsweek editor turned historian Evan Thomas slammed Theodore Roosevelt as a bloodthirsty "imperialist" who promoted the "glorification of war" and built up a "cult" of personality. [Listen to the audio]
Speaking on Roosevelt's command of the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War, Jenkinson proclaimed: "There's no question that Roosevelt is an imperialist. Apologists like to try to play this down. But the fact is he's probably the most significant imperialist in American history." Jenkinson seemed troubled by Roosevelt's call for the United States to "take our place in the world's arena."
Ken Burns proclaims that he merely inherited being a Democrat from his family despite giving a speech proclaiming himself to be a "Yellow Dog Democrat." He also declares his PBS documentaries free of political advocacy.
The top PBS station in New York is marketing itself to potential new donors in the most natural way: by snobbishly mocking commercial TV as “a sea of madness.” Sadly, commercial TV stations probably won’t fight back by mocking prissy British period dramas like “Downton Abbey.” (I might suggest a mop-topped Muppet that looks like Ken Burns that constantly boasts of his own importance as a national story-teller.)
The New York Times reports WNET is undertaking a subway advertising and Twitter campaign mocking fake shows that sound like the “reality” shows currently airing on The History Channel or TLC, channels that conservatives have argued were airing programming similar to PBS fare:
During a discussion of the new film Lincoln on Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, documentary film maker Ken Burns ranted about one of the supposed lessons he took away from the movie: "Race is always there in America....Do you think we'd have a secession movement in Texas and the other places, faddish secession movement, if this president wasn't African-American? Do you think the vitriol that came out of some elements of the Tea Party would have been at the same level had this President not been Africa-American?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
On Tuesday, USA Today topped their front page with an "Essay by Ken Burns" headlined "National parks feed the American soul." Naturally, this liberal PBS filmmaker/sermonizer began by celebrating Barack Obama, which the newspaper put in large type.
"Just before our documentary film series on the history of our national parks was first broadcast on PBS in the fall of 2009, I had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to share scenes from the film with President Obama in a small screening room at the White House. It was a great honor." He had to confess his wife and kids were "blurred into the background" as he shared his work with this special president:
If Ken Burns ever decides to stop making documentaries, he could always go into comedy . . .On today's Morning Joe, Burns claimed he was non-political, despite repeatedly attempting to draw parallels between Prohibition, the subject of his current film, and themes in current conservatism, particularly immigration. At the same time, Burns ignored the modern-day prohibitionist sitting right across the table from him--Mika Brzezinski--the neo-Carrie Nation who would ban everything from cigarettes to soft drinks, transfats to fast food. Video after the jump.
AP reports something that's not very shocking: hallowed liberal PBS filmmaker Ken Burns (in between his Kennedy tribute films for Democrat conventions and the tens of thousands in donations to Barack Obama and other Democrats) is decrying Republicans for a "show trial" atmosphere in proposing cuts to public broadcasting subsidies:
"I just don't think they have fully thought through what they're doing," Burns said of House Republicans who want to eliminate or significantly reduce funding for the arts, humanities and public media. Such cuts would devastate film producers, he said.
Liberal filmmaker Ken Burns on Sunday highlighted conservative William F. Buckley as an example of the diversity of PBS. He also claimed Ronald Reagan as a supporter of public financing public television.
Writing in the Washington Post, the director lobbied, "[PBS] contributes to cradle-to-grave continuing education services that are particularly appreciated in rural states - belying the canard that this is programming for the rich and bicoastal. It also gave William F. Buckley a home for 30 years." [Emphasis added.]
Of course, Buckley ended his run on Frontline in 1999, 12 years ago. If Burns has to go back that far for a strong conservative presence, perhaps this isn't the strongest argument.
From Reuters and the Hollywood Reporter comes news that PBS filmmaker Ken Burns used a New York panel discussion preceding the news and documentary Emmy Awards as a forum to denounce the Republican vice-presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, as proof the selection process devolved "into a high school popularity contest and an American Idol competition" and insisted "in the whole history of the republic there has been no one with as thin a credent
PBS demonstrated it clearly isn’t afraid to fly the flag of liberalism when it allowed one of its multi-millionaire stars, filmmaker Ken Burns, to not only make a syrupy socialist tribute to Ted Kennedy, but then to appear late Monday night on MSNBC to add his own personal tribute to the star of his film: "He was talking not just about the audacity but the possibility of hope.