The Kennedys v. Transparency, Part II

Alex Knapp’s post about the extraordinary efforts of the Kennedy family to prevent the release of Robert F. Kennedy’s official papers from when he was Attorney General reminded me of this story from just a few weeks ago involving the family’s successful effort to stop The History Channel from airing a miniseries than many feared would be less than complimentary:

Pressure from the Kennedy family played a key role in the History channel’s decision to pull the plug on its controversial miniseries The Kennedys.

As The Hollywood Reporter first reported, the eight-part miniseries, starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes and masterminded by conservative 24 co-creator Joel Surnow, was abruptly yanked from the History schedule Jan. 7 before a planned airdate in the spring. In a statement to THR, a rep for History parent A&E Television Networks said that “after viewing the final product in its totality, we have concluded this dramatic interpretation is not a fit for the History brand.”

This struck many as odd considering that it was coming from the same network that had become known in more recent years for endless documentaries about Hitler, Nostradamus, and Armageddon, but then we learned the rest of the story:

None of History’s advertisers or sponsors complained about the miniseries. But behind the scenes, members of the Kennedy family strongly lobbied AETN to kill the project since it was announced in December 2009, according to a source close to the situation. In recent weeks, those efforts intensified.

AETN is owned by a consortium including the Walt Disney Co., NBC Universal and Hearst. The source said that Disney/ABC Television Group topper Anne Sweeney, who serves on the AETN board and is said to hold tremendous sway over its decisions, was personally lobbied by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy. Caroline Kennedy has a book deal with Disney’s Hyperion publishing division, which announced in April 2010 that it will publish a collection of previously unreleased interviews with the late Jackie Kennedy timed to the 50th anniversary of the first year of JFK’s presidency this fall.

Caroline has agreed to edit the untitled book, write an introduction and to help promote it, including making an appearance on Disney/ABC’s Good Morning America, among other outlets.As part of the promotion for the book, Caroline is expected to reveal some of the 6.5 hours of previously unheard audiotapes of the former First Lady that form the basis of the book.

But that level of cooperation might have been unlikely if History had gone ahead with the Kennedys project, which was championed by AETN president and CEO Abbe Raven and History and Lifetime president and general manager Nancy Dubuc.

Maria Shriver is also reported to have utilized her contacts form her NBC days to lobby against the project.

The miniseries itself concluded filming months ago and was on schedule to be aired in the spring so one presumes it will show up somewhere at some point, but, once again, this shows the extent to which the Kennedys continue to try to protect the illusion of Camelot even today.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Alex Knapp says:

    It’s crap. What burns me even more is that a lot of the good things that people associate with the Kennedy Administration were actually accomplished by LBJ. The Kennedy Administration was, in a lot of ways, more right-wing than Ike’s.

  2. sam says:

    On the other hand:

    On Tuesday progressive filmmaker Robert Greenwald released a short video preemptively calling into question the accuracy of “The Kennedys,” an eight-hour miniseries which will air on the History Channel and is being produced by Joel Surnow, the creator of the series “24” and a well-known Hollywood conservative.

    In on-camera interviews, a set of renowned Kennedy historians, including Ted Sorensen — a one-time aide to John F. Kennedy — trash the script, which was obtained in advance by Greenwald. Charging that it is littered with easily documented falsehoods, they insist that the production team drafted a “cartoon” and “caricature” of the former president — downplaying weighty historical episodes in favor of tawdry and Greenwald told the Huffington Post he counted more than a dozen sex scenes written into the biopic with only scant acknowledgment of the Cuban Missile crisis. Sorenson, in the film, says that the conversations he is depicted to have had with the President “never happened.” [Source]

    Maybe it was a hatchet job. Anyway, here’s the YouTube.

  3. Dave Schuler says:

    What burns me even more is that a lot of the good things that people associate with the Kennedy Administration were actually accomplished by LBJ.

    That’s so far away from the Authorized Version that heads would explode if they heard it. Remember: everything bad during the 1960s happened either during the Johnson or Nixon administrations and everything good happened during Jack Kennedy’s term.