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Fate of “The Kennedys” Miniseries Shows Trend of Political Intimidation

Political intimidation is alive and well in this country. Anyone who believes that Hollywood has the power to make any film they want without consequence must be dreaming. You may remember what happened to the excellent docudrama The Path to 9/11 in 2006. The scared-to-death Clinton camp was so terrified that they pushed with all of their might to get the program pulled from the air. Fortunately it did get one single airing in two parts.

Regardless, the Clintons used their pull at Disney (who owns ABC) to intimidate producers, writers and anyone else involved in the project. People like Bob Iger and Anne Sweeney at Disney were pivotal in trashing the series. To this day the DVD is not available for this film and is strategically locked in the Disney vault. Anyone who has seen the film knows that it is not libelous to anyone and is a fair depiction of the events leading up to 9/11.

This trend continues as political intimidation proves useful while freedom of speech is constantly threatened.

Over the last week or so we’ve seen a similar fate to a new series, The Kennedys, which was supposed to air on The History Channel. Members of the political Left rounded up the usual suspects and theories to blame this series on purposeful misinformation by the Right. The History channel ultimately dropped the series but it did spark the interest of Showtime who also backed out. If there is any good to come out of this, maybe the filmmakers who worked on The Kennedys will be spared the death threats that were flung at those involved with The Path to 9/11. That is, unless DirecTV picks it up.

The New York Post reports on how the Kennedy Machine forced The History Channel into taking a 30 million dollar bath:

Caroline Kennedy had leveled an ultimatum to the companies — dump the reportedly warts- and-all miniseries or lose her cooperation in the planned fall release of never-before-heard conversations with her mother.

Hollywood insider Nikki Finke reports the real motivation for the cancellation:

I hear the stunning cancellation, which was done after the mini had been completed, was done under political pressure from the Kennedy family who were not comfortable with the project coming out in the year of the 50th anniversary of Camelot. History is part of the A&E Networks, which is co-owned by the Walt Disney Co. Disney’s interest in the company is overseen by Disney-ABC TV Group president Anne Sweeney who is an A&E Networks board member.

The companies offered to send DVD copies to the Kennedys to approve before airing but they declined. This only proves that they believed the spin created about the project. This is eerily similar to how Bill Clinton wouldn’t take the time to see The Path to 9/11 before calling for its burial. I have it from a good source also confirming that Anne Sweeney was pivotal in getting this project scrapped (and was obviously pressured by the Kennedy family’s Iron Fist). It should surprise no one that she was also in part responsible for banishing The Path to 9/11 and has cited that as a good reason to do away with The Kennedys.

In addition, filmmaker Robert Greenwald led a campaign to “correct” the problems with The Kennedys which he felt was driven by Right-wing conspiracy brought on by conservative producer Joel Surnow  (of 24 fame). He didn’t find the series accurate and blames Surnow’s involvement as the primary problem (then goes on a rant against FOX News, Rush Limbaugh, etc). I have also been hearing that Greenwald has been spreading lies about this show around Hollywood for some time. Greenwald appears laughably offended over this new series and is called out as not understanding artistic license in the video below.

Greenwald was just a foot soldier for the Kennedy family and clearly aided in the kind of censorship that the Left was up in arms about in 1950s Hollywood. Did they not learn anything from the HUAC hearings? Do they now condone the kind of blacklist mentality their peers condemned 60 years ago? Hollywood cannot be afraid of political relics and needs desperately to prove they will not be silenced. It is scary to know that they will bow to this thinly veiled intimidation. We didn’t see the Bush family show any insecurity when a film was being made about George W. Bush being assassinated while he was still a sitting president.

In fairness, we should note that about ten years ago something similar happened to a series about the Reagan family that was bounced around after conservative uproar. The fact is that trying to silence projects, regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum is destructive. The series ended up playing on Showtime anyway, rendering any outcry about the show pointless.  The Kennedys is still scheduled to air in Canada and will likely get a DVD release which will make the noise in the US over this project that much more unnecessary.

Today there are so many options from Hollywood, an endless number of stories told from different angles. There is no reason anyone would believe that a single film or series is the final word on anything. Hollywood’s role in such projects is to dramatize history and more times than not to “print the legend.” In this Age of Information everyone can find dirt about these high profile families in a single Internet search. The Clinton and Kennedy families are so disconnected that they actually feel one hour of TV might change what we already know. Hollywood should be stronger than to bow to such ignorance.

Chris Yogerst

Chris is an associate lecturer at the University of Wisconsin Colleges and is a PhD film student at Regent University. He is also editor and a film critic for Parcbench. His articles are linked on numerous sites around the web. Follow him at twitter.com/chrisyogerst

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About Chris Yogerst

Chris is an associate lecturer at the University of Wisconsin Colleges and is a PhD film student at Regent University. He is also editor and a film critic for Parcbench. His articles are linked on numerous sites around the web. Follow him at twitter.com/chrisyogerst
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