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
Sport
Super BowlAfter Katy Perry madness it's back to The Independent's live coverage of Super Bowl 49!
News
See what Twitter had to say about the first half of the Super Bowl
News
people
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Day In a Page

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
Shazam! Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

Shazam: Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch