‘Opioid of Opioid’ Documentarian Ken Burns lays into Donald Trump sparking MAGA outrage

Ken Burns warned Brandeis University students that ‘the choice could not be clearer’ in the November presidential election

Ariana Baio
Wednesday 29 May 2024 17:16 BST
Ken Burns says ‘there is no real choice this November’ during commencement speech

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Documentarian Ken Burns put his “longstanding attempt at neutrality” aside to issue a stern warning about presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as he spoke at a commencement.

“There is no real choice this November,” Burns told Brandeis University graduates last week.

“The presumptive Republican nominee is the opioid of all opioids, an easy cure for what some believe is the solution to our myriad pains and problems,” he said.

Burns warned students that the United States is at “an existential crossroads” in political and civic lives. Without using direct names, he told students, “The choice could not be clearer.”

His comments quickly spread online and garnered strong rebuke from the MAGA faithful with one labeling his comments “highly inappropriate.”

Ken Burns warned graduates of Brandeis University ‘there is no real choice this November’
Ken Burns warned graduates of Brandeis University ‘there is no real choice this November’ (Brandeis University / The Independent)

The documentarian is a known Democratic supporter – though he told students that he had consciously tried to maintain neutrality to preserve the integrity of his documentaries’ messages.

But when it comes to the potential outcome of the November election, Burns felt compelled to tell students that “taking the other route” will lead to a chaotic decline that will “engulf and destroy us”.

“Do not be seduced by easy equalization, there is nothing equal about this equation,” Burns added.

Several Trump allies lashed out at the filmmaker, calling his address a “disgrace” and condemning him for pushing his political views on graduates. Attorney Jonathan Turley created three posts on X, questioning Burns for making a political call during the commencement address.

“There was a time when such partisan speeches were considered highly inappropriate,” Mr Turley wrote.

He added: “In a country divided down the middle, universities expect graduates with opposing views to just sit there and listen to political diatribes at their commencements.”

Jeff Clark, a former US assistant attorney general who was indicted alongside Mr Trump in the Georgia election interference case, said Burns’ speech “is a disgrace.”

“He shouldn’t be pumping the Brandeis students full of his political views. Students should get to make their own choices,” Mr Clark said. “Brandeis should lose all of its federal funding for allowing this blatant politicking to happen.”

Vernon Jones, a former Georgia state representative and Trump ally, said Burns “should be ashamed of himself.”

“His attempt to steer graduates to vote for [Joe Biden] won’t save America’s future.  However, Burns’ disgraceful speech will add to Biden’s already successful efforts to further divide this country,” Mr Jones added.

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