CNN on Sunday night aired a “documentary” about former President George H.W. Bush on the occasion of his 90th birthday.
It was a glowing tribute to the nation’s 41st president filled with testimonials from notables, including President Obama, Bill Clinton and 39 other friends and family members. What was missing was a warning that what viewers were about to see was propaganda masquerading as journalism.
As noted by the always spot-on David Zurawik, the program — titled “41ON41” —was paid for by the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation and one of its producers worked as a speechwriter for Bush in the White House.
As Zurawik wrote, “Our national history belongs to all of us, and while there is nothing wrong with a rich and powerful family putting up money to create this kind of birthday gift for one of its members, it is not OK for a channel with the word ‘news’ in its title to try and present it to millions of Americans as a “documentary’ or ‘history.’”
If your head hasn’t exploded yet, it gets worse. The whole sorry mess was introduced by gay CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who seemed not to mind being used in a propaganda effort to bolster the reputation of Bush, a former CIA director and the vice president during the Reagan administration’s abysmal response to the burgeoning AIDS epidemic. Bush’s own record on LGBT issues is fairly sparse and he recently attended a gay wedding. But his legacy is more complicated — especially to the gay community ravaged by AIDS during his tenure in office — than was alluded to in CNN’s so-called “documentary.”
Shame on Cooper, CNN and its president Jeff Zucker for blurring the lines so shamelessly between journalism and propaganda. CNN has shown that its programming is now for sale to the highest bidder and its anchors, including the gay ones, will do anyone’s bidding if the price is right.