Filmmaker Michael Kirk On The Latest ‘Frontline’: How The Republican Party Acquiesced To Donald Trump — And Why That’s Alarming For Democracy

As President Joe Biden, the January 6th Committee and a number of longtime conservatives sound the alarm over the threat to American democracy, the latest Frontline, debuting on Tuesday on PBS, examines the warning signs.

The two-hour season premiere, Lies, Politics and Democracy, digs into Donald Trump’s influence and grip over the Republican party. The focus isn’t so much on the former president as it is the decisions that GOP leaders made that enabled his rise to power.

The documentary offers a timeline of acquiescence, from the 2016 primary season to the present day, as so many in the party have aligned with Trump and his false claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged and stolen. A reminder of how much Trump shattered norms comes at the start of the film, with clips of presidential election concession speeches going back to the 1930s, the obvious exception being the last occupant of the White House.

Frontline focuses on figures like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who ultimately supported Trump even after he attacked his wife’s looks and his father’s background, as well as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). On the floor of the Senate on the night of January 6th, Graham said to “count me out.” That spring, he was golfing with Trump.

Among those interviewed for the film are J. Michael Luttig, the former federal judge who testified before the January 6th Committee, and Alyssa Farah, the former White House communications director and new regular on The View. Farah offers an anecdote that Trump privately admitted that he lost the 2020 election.

Other voices come from former senator Jeff Flake and former representative Mark Sanford, two Republicans who found themselves on the outs after they dared to criticize Trump, as well as January 6th Committee member Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), who chose not to seek reelection after voting for Trump’s second impeachment. Journalists Tim Alberta and Jelani Cobb collaborated with the producers on the project.

The project — which will be available on the PBS video app and — is supported by Preserving Democracy, a public media initiative from The WNET Group. Kirk directed the project, and produced along with Mike Wiser and Vanessa Fica.

Deadline chatted with Kirk recently about how the project came together and what he sees as its potential impact.

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