The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Criticism gives CBS cold feet on The Reagans
- mini-series inaccurate: daughter

Irking both Democrats and Republicans, CBS on Tuesday dropped plans to air The Reagans and sold the controversial mini-series to pay-cable network Showtime in moves that followed angry criticism from conservatives that the unseen film was biased and unfair.

The network, which earlier this year sparked an uproar for broadcasting a TV movie about Adolf Hitler, denied that it was bowing to pressure but said producers of the docudrama about Ronald Reagan and his wife, Nancy, failed to deliver a balanced depiction of the 40th US President.

Rather than air the four-hour mini-series as originally planned on November 16 and 18, the height of ratings “sweeps,” the network said it had sold the programme to Showtime, a subscriber-based cable channel with a fraction of the audience commanded by CBS. Both are owned by Viacom Inc. “A free broadcast network, available to all over the public airwaves, has different standards than media the public must pay to view,” CBS said. “We do, however, recognise and respect the filmmakers’ right to have their voice heard.”

A Showtime spokesman said The Reagans would likely air early next year.

The CBS decision was denounced in Washington on both ends of the political spectrum. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle said on Capitol Hill,“It smells of intimidation.” And Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie said moving the film to Showtime “does not address the central concern over historical accuracy.”

“Misleading a smaller audience of viewers is not a noble response to the legitimate concerns raised about this programme,” Gillespie said in a statement. There was no immediate comment from the Reagans themselves. Their daughter, Patti Davis, said CBS was “doing the right thing” by steering the biopic to Showtime, but added the story remained inaccurate. In a column for Time magazine’s website, she wrote that the producers “exhibited astounding carelessness and cruelty in their depiction of my father and my entire family.” The furore arose after the New York Times reported that the film portrays the Reagans in an unflattering light, and left out much of what supporters of the former President regard as his achievements.

In one scene from the film’s final script, Reagan says of AIDS patients: “They that live in sin shall die in sin.” But there is no evidence he ever expressed those views. Nancy Reagan, meanwhile, was cast as a control freak with considerable sway over White House policies and personnel.

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