David Talbot’s book “Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years” was cited by screenwriter Stephen Kronish as source material for his script for the upcoming History Channel miniseries “The Kennedys.”
But Talbot now has come out against the script for the project, joining a chorus of historians who have characterized it as a politically motivated hatchet job, focusing on soap opera aspects of the Kennedys’ private indiscretions and ignoring seminal events of John F. Kennedy’s presidency, like the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Talbot’s comments were posted in a web video this afternoon on the site of BraveNewFilms, the progressive org run by Robert Greenwald, who has been spearheading the campaign against the project. “The Kennedys” is being produced by Joel Surnow, the former “24” executive producer and unabashed conservative.
In the video, Talbott says that he was so “furious” by Kronish’s citation of his book as a source that he said it amounted to what he called “defamation.”
“I don’t recognize the JFK in his script,” he says. “Certainly he’s not the JFK in my book.”
After reading a draft of the script, Talbot said that “obviously they made a determination to do a one-sided portrait,” citing in particular scenes in which President John F. Kennedy is shown “dithering” about the unfolding crisis in Oxford, Mississippi, where James Meredith sought to become the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi. In fact, Kennedy sent in a major division of the U.S. Army to enforce his enrollment.
“Yes, you can have an even handed and truthful portrait of President Kennedy that takes into account not only his own indiscretions but his father’s,” Talbot says. “But unless you put it into a truthful context to show that meanwhile he was changing history and fighting every day of his life to change history, then you have no kind of appreciation or measure of the man.”
A History channel spokesman could not immediately be reached. But the network did provide a statement to the New York Times.
“Our mini-series “The Kennedys” was just commissioned in December 2009 and is planned to air in 2011. Not a frame of footage has been shot nor a final script delivered to the network. Our in-house group of historians have not vetted or for that matter seen any scripts yet. The scripts are in early draft form and are currently being annotated and revised every day. There are no final versions. The mini-series will be historically accurate and based on the work of multiple noted scholars. Anyone claiming otherwise is basing their claim on inaccurate information that has not been vetted by the History Channel.”
BraveNewFilms is also about to post a statement from an actor who once played JFK, Mike Farrell, in a one-man show.