Ken Burns brought his upcoming PBS documentary "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History" to the TCA summer press tour on Tuesday, July 22. The 14-hour series tells the story of Teddy, Eleanor and Franklin D. Roosevelt, including dealing with rumors that Eleanor was bisexual.
The show will not make any definitive statements on the sexuality of FDR's wife, but rather "present the facts." Geoffrey C. Ward, who wrote the program, said Eleanor's affectionate letters to friend Lorena Hickok, which fueled the bisexual speculation, "are in the film."
Calling the first lady a person who collected people and formed deeply emotional attachments to them, Ward said "my belief is she didn't have sexual relations with any of them. There are other people who differ." Thus, despite his opinion, the show includes interviews with those who believe otherwise.
"Our era dwells on that far more deeply than any others have before, and we make all kind of assumptions on that based on how we live now, and they're often not true," Ward continued. Assuring that his show would not present misleading informantion, Burns added, "This is an intimate history, not a tabloid history."
Contemplating how it would be if Teddy and FDR lived in present day, Ward said, "I'm not sure they could have been president now. TR was very eccentric, and FDR was physically helpless, and in the modern world in which everything is fair game. ... I think TV cameras would compete with each other to see who could get the most 'helpless' footage of FDR," referring to FDR's paralysis from the waist down after he contracted polio.
"The Roosevelts: An Intimate History" will air September 14-20, from 8-10 P.M. ET on PBS stations. The entire 14-hour series will also be available online starting September 15.