Someone at CBS thought it quite cool to have contestants in the March 17 broadcast of the “Amazing Race” reality show taped in Hanoi use a downed B-52 bomber as a prop in an episode that gives a new meaning to the word tasteless.
CBS put an “Amazing Race” sign in front of the B-52, as well as instructions to the contestants in the race to execute a “Double U-Turn” at the downed aircraft, without thinking through the consequences of using a Vietnam War relic as entertainment.
Oh yeah, CBS also had the contestants sing a song in front of a portrait of Ho Chi Minh praising the glory of communism.
Last Friday, John Hamilton, commander in chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, blasted the “Amazing Race” episode in a letter to Leslie Moonves, CBS president and CEO. Hamilton, a Marine wounded in Vietnam, told the CBS chief, “The B-52 scene, as well as the young people singing a propaganda song, was totally unnecessary to the show’s plot, which speaks volumes about naive producers who think they’re in charge when they are not.”
Hamilton added, “I hope you can understand our anger at a show that wasted a golden opportunity to educate as well as entertain…. CBS reopened an old wound by failing to educate a viewership about a time in American history that continues to be misunderstood, misrepresented and stereotyped. The Vietnam Generation and our nation deserve and expect much better from your network.”
The VFW commander made it clear in his letter that his anger was focused on CBS and not the Vietnamese. “[I] have been very fortunate to have returned several times to meet the people and to discuss the war with my former enemy, many of whom are now helping to recover the remains of missing Americans,” he said.
Phil Keoghan, host of the show, kicked off last night’s broadcast with an apology. "Parts of last Sunday's episode, filmed in Vietnam, were insensitive to a group that is very important to us -- our nation's veterans,” he said. “We want to apologize to veterans, particularly those who served in Vietnam, as well as to their families and any viewers who were offended by the broadcast. All of us here have the most profound respect for the men and women who fight for our country."
Note to Moonves and Keoghan: I also served as a Marine in Vietnam and my life today is still filtered by this reality. Believe me, it was not a show.