While journalists such as Brian Williams railed about "extortion" when CBS pulled a historically inaccurate 2003 miniseries about Ronald Reagan, there has been very little outcry over the news that the History Channel has withdrawn a (reportedly) hard-hitting drama about the Kennedys.
The Hollywood Reporter on Sunday explained the behind the scenes role Caroline Kennedy and Maria Shriver played in pressuring the cable network to not air the series created by Hollywood conservative Joel Surnow. According to journalist Matthew Belloni, Kennedy used her leverage regarding a book deal with Disney, the History Channel's parent company, to get the completed miniseries shelved.
The evening newscasts have ignored this development, as has ABC and CBS's morning shows. It was mentioned on Monday's Today show. 10am hour co-host Kathie Lee Gifford suggested, "And I heard there was also one of the producers of this was one of the few hardline conservatives in Hollywood. And so it was quite, it was quite negative in many ways."
The program's producers are apparently shopping the series to other networks, including Showtime.
The Media Research Center highlighted the outrage from journalists in 2003 when CBS decided not to air The Reagans:
CBS Feared Conservative Bullies
Brian Williams: "Do you believe what has happened here with this mini-series on CBS amounts to extortion?"
Media critic Michael Wolff: "Certainly capitulation...."
Williams: "So is it hyperbolic to say, you know, when we give all these speeches about freedom in the United States, you can go ahead and stretch your artistic freedom, make a movie about whatever you wish as long as it doesn't cross a certain political or societal group?"
Wolff: "Absolutely. If the group is well-organized and there is no group as well-organized as the right wing in America at this point in time, you're going to be in big trouble."
– CNBC’s The News with Brian Williams, November 4, 2003.
Reagan Deserved Hitler Treatment
"If Hitler had more friends, CBS wouldn’t have aired [its Hitler mini-series] either."
– Philadelphia Daily News TV critic Ellen Gray, as quoted by the Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes in a November 4 column.
Perhaps the most hyperbolic complaint came from the New York Times. In an editorial on November 5, 2003, the paper complained: "His [Ronald Reagan’s] supporters credit him with forcing down the Iron Curtain, so it is odd that some of them have helped create the Soviet-style chill embedded in the idea that we, as a nation, will not allow critical portrayals of one of our own recent leaders."
A transcript of the January 10 exchange on the Today show, which aired at 10:30am EST, follows:
HODA KOTB: Katie Holmes was supposed to be playing Jackie O. I heard rumblings about this. Now we hear that the project is off.
KATHY LEE GIFFORD: Greg Kinnear playing John Kennedy.
KOTB: And I heard rumblings about this. Now we hear the project is off.
ROSEANNE COLLETI (Gossip Gram): Well, the History Channel is saying they're saying it is not appropriate for the History Channel. Even though this was most expensive miniseries they have ever produced. However, it is being shopped around to Showtime.
GIFFORD: Oh, It will be pick up for Showtime.
KOTB: Why did the History Channel say it wasn't for them.
COLLETI: It is really interesting. It turns out that, okay, History Channel is owned by Disney. Disney has a book company and the book company's supposed to be producing a 50-year anniversary book about the kenned penned by Caroline Kennedy. Apparently there's been pressure from the Kennedy family.
GIFFORD: And I heard there was also one of the producers of this was one of the few hardline conservatives in Hollywood. And so it was quite, it was quite negative in many ways. I don't know if that's true or not. That's something that was also written.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.