A major U.S. television network has decided not to air a controversial biographical movie about former President Ronald Reagan after criticism from the Republican Party and political conservatives.
CBS television had planned to air the movie about Ronald and Nancy Reagan later this month.
But after complaints from the chairman of the Republican Party and conservative groups about how the former president is portrayed in the film, CBS has decided to broadcast it instead on the cable network Showtime, which has a much smaller audience. CBS and Showtime are both owned by the media giant Viacom.
Chris Ender, a CBS vice president, said "although the mini-series features impressive production values and acting performances and although the producers have sources to verify each scene in the script, we believe it does not present a balanced portrayal of the Reagan's for CBS and its audience."
Reagan loyalists and conservative talk radio hosts objected to the film's portrayal of the former president. They alleged that several bits of dialogue were fabricated including one scene in which Mr. Reagan is depicted as insensitive to the plight of people suffering from AIDS.
Ed Rollins, a veteran of several Reagan political campaigns, said "the made-up dialogue between the president and the first lady was totally inaccurate. Certainly, the reference to the president not being sensitive to AIDS. He was extremely sensitive. He had many friends that were gay in the movie community and was in the forefront early on of pushing AIDS research."
Ronald Reagan served as president from 1981 until 1989. The 92-year old former president has been in seclusion in recent years suffering from Alzheimer's disease. One of his sons, Michael Reagan, a conservative radio talk show host, says he saw some of the finished film and objected to the portrayal.
Washington Post television critic Tom Shales says much of the American public still holds Ronald Reagan in high regard and is sensitive to his illness. "To come along with an anti-Reagan movie at this time, at this juncture, was in the worst possible taste and just very unintelligent," he said.
Others questioned the decision by CBS not to air the Reagan movie. Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle was asked for his reaction at the U.S. Capitol. "It smells of intimidation to me. It sounds to me like they were intimidated into making decisions that reversed earlier ones and I am disappointed," he said.
The Reagan film stars actor James Brolin as the former president. He is married to singer and actress Barbra Streisand, who is active in Democratic Party politics and fundraising.