It is regrettable that PBS allowed its reputation to be marred and compromised by airing the documentary “Turmoil and Triumph,” an uncritical, distorted, flattering history of the Reagan era. Secretary of State George Shultz was gushingly self-aggrandizing. Glaringly omitted from the film was the illegal funding of the Contras leading to the Iran-Contra scandal, which should have resulted in the impeachment of Ronald Reagan. Predictably, Shultz tiptoed around the issue.
According to The New York Times—undisclosed by PBS—the documentary was partially sponsored by corporations directly linked to Shultz’s career, most prominently the Bechtel Corporation. Another noted omission was Shultz’s role in supporting the disastrous invasion of Iraq. Coincidentally, Bechtel won huge construction contracts during Shultz’s tenure as director. Granting the “no-bid exclusive” contracts to Bechtel was severely castigated by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
PBS has unwittingly been used for political gain. The company that produced the film, Free to Choose Media, has received funding from the conservative Bradley Foundation, which is part of the Palmer R. Chitester Fund.
“Turmoil and Triumph” falls far short of PBS’s general guidelines insisting that producers adhere to the highest professional standards including “real or perceived conflicts of interest.” I urge concerned readers to write to PBS ombudsman Michael Getler and ask him to investigate the relationship between George Shultz et al. and the corporate sponsors of “Turmoil and Triumph” (firstname.lastname@example.org, 703- 739-5290).
Los Altos, Calif.
Ed. note: George Shultz, former U.S. secretary of state, is a Hoover distinguished fellow. According to The New York Times, the documentary was partially sponsored by the Stephen Bechtel Fund.