Sesame Street's pinko puppets brainwash our kids

That's the claim by a right-wing author who says he's exposed a left-wing plot behind some top TV shows

The TV series Friends undermined family values; Sesame Street taught ethnic minorities about civil disobedience; Happy Days had a subtle anti-Vietnam subtext; and the 1980s cop show MacGyver tried to persuade pistol-packing Americans that guns are bad. That, at least, is the considered opinion of Ben Shapiro, an investigative author and right-wing columnist who will publish a detailed exposé tomorrow telling how Hollywood producers, writers and actors have been secretly using TV to promote what he calls a "radical" left-leaning political agenda.

Shapiro's book, Primetime Propaganda runs to 416 pages and revolves around comments by 70-odd industry heavyweights who he approached for interviews. The book promises to "profile the biggest names in showbusiness over the past 50 years" and includes a series of "gotcha" moments, in which the architects of the best-watched TV shows of modern times tell how they tried to use the medium of broadcasting to, as Shapiro puts it, "shape America in their own leftist image".

"I was shocked by the openness of the Hollywood crowd when it came to admitting anti-conservative discrimination inside the industry," Shapiro told The Independent on Sunday. "They weren't ashamed of it. In fact, some were actually proud of it."

The book's contents will only add weight to allegations – often aired by conservative Americans – that Hollywood is the exclusive domain of leftie propagandists. Earlier this year, Republicans called for funding cuts to the public broadcaster NPR after one of its executives was secretly taped calling supporters of the Tea Party "racist".

Among Shapiro's most revelatory interviewees is Marta Kauffman, the co-creator of Friends, who recalls how she hired a "bunch of liberals" to run the programme to "put out there what we believe". In 1999, she admitted casting the actress sister of Newt Gingrich, the prominent Republican, to play a preacher at a lesbian wedding because she wanted to annoy conservatives.

"When we did the lesbian wedding, we knew there was going to be some flack," said Kauffman. "I have to say, when we cast Candice Gingrich as the minister of that wedding, there was a bit of a 'fuck you' in it to the right-wing, directly."

Elsewhere in the book, Vin DiBona, the producer of MacGyver, agrees that Hollywood has a liberal bias, saying "I'm happy about it, actually." The cult cop show advanced an anti-gun agenda, he added. "That was the whole premise of the programme, that MacGuyver used his brain power and skill and science, and solved all the difficulties through ingenuity. No Guns, no knives."

Far from being just a comedy about military camaraderie, MASH meanwhile had a pacifist agenda, the show's co-creator and director Gene Reynolds told Shapiro, who said: "We wanted to point out the wastefulness of war."

And, with regard to Happy Days, writer Bill Bickley said he "had a whole subtext" attacking the Vietnam War. "If you really look for it, you can find it."

Shapiro is relatively well known among the conservative commentariat, but believes he was able to persuade so many interviewees to reveal more than was perhaps sensible because they assumed he was a fellow liberal.

"There was a certain amount of stereotyping on their part in granting the interview," he said. "Many probably assumed that with a name like Shapiro and a Harvard Law credential, there was no need to Google me: I would have to be a leftist. In Hollywood, talking to a Jew with a Harvard Law baseball cap is like talking to someone wearing an Obama pin."

The book, published by Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins is perhaps at its most condemnatory whenaccusing the creators of Sesame Street of attempting to brainwash young children. It quotes Mike Dann, one of the show's founding executives, saying it "was not made for the sophisticated or the middle class".

Early episodes featured the character Grover breaking bread with a hippie. Oscar, who lived in a rubbish bin, was supposed to address "conflicts arising from racial and ethnic diversity".

"Sesame Street tried to tackle divorce, tackled 'peaceful conflict resolution' in the aftermath of 9/11 and had [gay actor] Neil Patrick Harris on the show playing the subtly-named 'fairy shoeperson'," notes Shapiro.

As to whether there may be a touch of McCarthy-esque paranoia about his belief that film-makers are planting the seed of socialism in the bosom of America, he adds: "It's not paranoid to speak the truth. Hollywoodites admit openly to messaging their product, and to their scorn for conservative Americans. I'm just reporting what they told me."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Guru Careers: Business Analyst / Digital Business Analyst

£50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Analyst / Digital Bus...

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales

£30 - 40k (£65k Y1 OTE Uncapped): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Deve...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before