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PBS Likens Trump to Nazi Sympathizer Charles Lindbergh

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Cross posted to the MRC's NewsBusters blog

On Wednesday's Amanpour & Co. show, PBS/CNN host Christiane Amanpour and television producer David Simon likened 1930s Nazi sympathizer and famous aviator Charles Lindbergh's political movement to that of President Donald Trump as the two discussed the HBO series The Plot Against America. The series -- produced by Simon based on Philips Roth's novel which imagines the pro-Germany LIndbergh defeating President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940.

As she introduced the segment, Amanpour recalled: "Lindbergh is famous for his trans-Atlantic flight, but what's lesser known are his views on politics. Before Trump's 'America First,' Charles Lindbergh represented America First -- the powerful isolationist organization. Lindbergh was pro-Germany and was denounced by many as anti-Semitic."

She soon further hinted at similarity between the work of fiction and the current political environment:

AMANPOUR: It's sort of a warning tale, and I don't know how much of what you have committed your creativity to here sort of collides with real-life politics in the United States right now. I mean, you imagine the year 1940 presidential election, the then-aviator hero Charles Lindbergh -- anti-Semitic, white nationalist -- wins the presidency against FDR.

Simon then called the series "an allegory for our time" as he responded:

DAVID SIMON, CREATOR OF THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA HBO SERIES: Yeah, I'd like to take credit for having some perception on the novel that is this vehicle -- this prescient vehicle to explain our current political moment, but, strangely, in 2004, Philip Roth  -- one of four great novelists -- he wrote this alternate history through the eyes of his family in New Jersey, and it just sings as an allegory for our time with every page. I mean, if you turn it and just read, it's sort of astonishing how close he captured this political moment in America.

The PBS host soon asked if Roth's book -- which was written in 2004 -- was meant to be a warning against anti-Semitism or against a climate of anti-Muslim sentiments after the 9/11 attacks:

SIMON: That's exactly right. He was looking at it in the context of his political moment, which was 2004, but it still applies because these themes in America -- our susceptibility to the demagoguery of nationalism -- to the idea of the immigrant horde to the dangerous other -- the populace -- the cohort that will not become Americans as we need them to become Americans -- that can't be trusted -- whose loyalty can be questioned. Roth was using the vulnerable group in 1940, which were Jewish Americans whose loyalty was being challenged by the America Firsters and the German American Bund and Lindbergh. He was using that group to tell the tale. But, right now, the people who are vulnerable -- or are most vulnerable -- in America right now are people with black and brown skin, and Muslims.

The liberal producer argued that Roth meant to draw parallels to American life in 2004, and then added:

SIMON: But it still applies because these themes in America -- our susceptibility to the demagoguery of nationalism -- to the idea of the immigrant horde to the dangerous other -- the populace -- the cohort that will not become Americans as we need them to become Americans -- that can't be trusted -- whose loyalty can be questioned. Roth was using the vulnerable group in 1940, which were Jewish Americans whose loyalty was being challenged by the America Firsters and the German American Bund and Lindbergh. He was using that group to tell the tale. But, right now, the people who are vulnerable -- or are most vulnerable -- in America right now are people with black and brown skin, and Muslims.

Simon soon brought up the Donald Trump administration's policy of separating some illegal immigrant families to pursue prosecutions for illegal crossings even though the zero tolerance policy was ended in June of 2018, giving the impression that it is still happening:

SIMON: There are so many moments in Roth's book where I read a page and I would think about what happened at the airports -- the mayhem at the airports in the aftermath of the Inauguration when even American citizens were having their passports regarded as insufficient to guarantee their civil liberties, or what's happening at the Southern border now in terms of family separation -- you look at the programming and the raw manipulation of civil liberties that /Roth depicts in the book, and they are --  they compare almost precisely.

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Wednesday, March 4, Amanpour & Co. on PBS:

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Lindbergh is famous for his trans-Atlantic flight, but what's lesser known are his views on politics. Before Trump's "America First," Charles Lindbergh represented America First -- the powerful isolationist organization. Lindbergh was pro-Germany and was denounced by many as anti-Semitic.

(...)

AMANPOUR: It's sort of a warning tale, and I don't know how much of what you have committed your creativity to here sort of collides with real-life politics in the United States right now. I mean, you imagine the year 1940 presidential election, the then-aviator hero Charles Lindbergh -- anti-Semitic, white nationalist -- wins the presidency against FDR.

DAVID SIMON, CREATOR OF THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA HBO SERIES: Yeah, I'd like to take credit for having some perception on the novel that is this vehicle -- this prescient vehicle to explain our current political moment, but, strangely, in 2004, Philip Roth  -- one of four great novelists -- he wrote this alternate history through the eyes of his family in New Jersey, and it just sings as an allegory for our time with every page. I mean, if you turn it and just read, it's sort of astonishing how close he captured this political moment in America.

(...)

AMANPOUR: Do you still see it as an anti-Semitic warning or is it about the, you know, post-9/11 others -- minorities who have been targeted?

SIMON: That's exactly right. He was looking at it in the context of his political moment, which was 2004, but it still applies because these themes in America -- our susceptibility to the demagoguery of nationalism -- to the idea of the immigrant horde to the dangerous other -- the populace -- the cohort that will not become Americans as we need them to become Americans -- that can't be trusted -- whose loyalty can be questioned. Roth was using the vulnerable group in 1940, which were Jewish Americans whose loyalty was being challenged by the America Firsters and the German American Bund and Lindbergh. He was using that group to tell the tale. But, right now, the people who are vulnerable -- or are most vulnerable -- in America right now are people with black and brown skin, and Muslims.

(...)

SIMON: There are so many moments in Roth's book where I read a page and I would think about what happened at the airports -- the mayhem at the airports in the aftermath of the Inauguration when even American citizens were having their passports regarded as insufficient to guarantee their civil liberties, or what's happening at the Southern border now in terms of family separation -- you look at the programming and the raw manipulation of civil liberties that /Roth depicts in the book, and they are --  they compare almost precisely.

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