Ken Burns Spins Reagan as a Supporter of PBS, Cites Presence of Buckley 12 Years Ago

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.

Writing of Ronald Reagan, Burns claimed:

In the late 1980s, I told President Ronald Reagan I was working on a history of the Civil War. His eyes twinkled as he recalled watching, as a young boy, parades of aging Union veterans marching down the main street of Dixon, Ill., on the Fourth of July. Then he spoke to me about the responsibility he saw for a private sector/governmental partnership between public broadcasting and the arts and humanities. Nearly a third of my budget for that series came from a corporation, a third from private foundations, and a third from the National Endowment for the Humanities. "Good work," he said.

Given Burns' liberal bent, touting Reagan to support PBS is an odd choice. On February 26, 1998, The MRC's Brent Bozell recounted how PBS remembered Reagan and the '80s:

Unfortunately, and predictably, "The American Experience" show's wadings into domestic politics contained too many of the same old liberal slurs. "The gap between the richest and poorest became a chasm. Donald Trump and the new billionaires of the 1980s recalled the extravagance of the captains of industry in the 1880s. There were losers. Cuts in social programs created a homeless population that grew to exceed that of Atlanta. AIDS became an epidemic in the 1980s Nearly 50,000 died. Reagan largely ignored it." Almost all of that is baloney.

It gets worse. Check out the PBS Web site's "Ideas for the Classroom," which suggest students do things like:

* "Watch the film 'Wall Street,' made in the 1980s. Write an analysis explaining how the film is evocative of the times."

* "Examine the controversy surrounding Reagan's visit to a military cemetery in Bitburg, West Germany. Write your views in a letter to the editor."

For a roundup of PBS's bias, go here.

— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org