Historian Geoffrey Ward told CBS News on Sunday that Franklin D. Roosevelt would have difficulty running for president with a disability like polio today because Fox News would have “loved” to show him “at his most helpless.”
During a panel discussion about the PBS documentary “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” CBS host Bob Schieffer noted that Roosevelt could have never hidden his inability to walk from the public today.
“Hopefully, the public today would be much more understanding and glad to have somebody that had overcome this kind of problem,” historian Doris Kearns Goodwin agreed.
“I differ with Doris a little,” Ward said. “I think if he were running now, sadly, I think TV crews would compete with each other to see who could get the footage that showed him at his most helpless. He had to be carried in and out of buildings. He had to be helped to remove his braces and so on.”
“And I think Fox News would have loved that,” he pointed out.
Filmmaker Ken Burns argued that because of that type of television coverage, the public actually knew less about what was happening inside government today.
“This is a man who had 998 press conferences,” Burns said. “Those reporters and the people around him saw all this stuff, saw the huge effort, but also had a kind of intimate access to him as the chief executive.”
“And so we think that it’s really good that we know everything, it may not be really good that we know everything. And because we know everything, there is now a moat around the presidency and our great leaders that then removes us from the possibility of truly knowing them.”
Watch the video below from CBS’ Face the Nation, broadcast Sept. 14, 2014.