The recent firings of two Alabama Public Television executives, ousted over their purported unwillingness to air Christianist historical documentaries, has generated a swelling backlash within the state. Mass resignations from APT’s attendant committees followed the firings of former Executive Director Allan Pizzato and Deputy Director Pauline Howland, and last week a pair of petitions carrying approximately 114,000 signatures were delivered to the APT headquarters to protest the “misleading and hateful programming” APT is considering airing.
One of the petitions came from Faithful America, a religious organization focused on social justice issues. The other came from Credo Action, a three million-strong group centered on social issues.
The programming in question is David Barton’s “American Heritage Series,” which infuses Christian themes and motivations in tales of American history. Barton is one of the most public, and controversial, historians in the nation, and is considered “a key bridge between the mainstream political right and radical-right religious ideology,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whom Barton once advised, has said that he “almost wished” that Americans should be “forced — forced at gunpoint no less — to listen to every David Barton message.”
While the APT has not yet aired any of Barton’s documentaries, the petitions shared concerns that the programming had even been discussed.
“I’m disappointed that APT is even considering broadcasting David Barton’s slanted, misinformed history of America,” said Rev. Darryl Kiehl, a local pastor who helped deliver the signatures. “Since our nation’s founding, Christians have fought for justice, equality and the common good, and Barton’s work appears to ignore that. His revisionist history is unworthy of public television.”
In addition to requesting that APT not air Barton’s documentaries, the Faithful America petition asked that the Alamaba Educational Television Commission, which fired both Pizzato and Howland, reinstate the executives to their original positions.
The signatures, 3,500 of which came from residents of Alabama, were delivered to APT COO Charles Grantham, who recently sent an open letter to Gov. Robert Bentley to protests the firings. While disputing that the firings were tied solely to Barton’s documentaries, Grantham, who’s worked at the APT for 35 years, wrote, “A shadow is being cast over APT by its own directors.” Grantham noted that APT had already lost more than $25,000 since the firings due to pulled donations.
“The [APT] staff morale is the lowest I have ever seen and we have no confidence in our commissioners,” Grantham continued. “Our public and private foundation members resigned after the firings. What kind of message does that send when leaders in the communities who love APT resign in protest?”