Pinky Pie

Lou Grant, FDR & Me

Posted on: March 26, 2010

Watching Ed Asner play FDR Thursday night in La Crosse, I wondered if any Republicans were in the audience at the Viterbo University Fine Arts Center.

Someone sitting next to me told me he talked to a couple Republicans, who told him, Eleanor Roosevelt ran the government, not President Franklin Roosevelt.

I wondered if these folks wished they had given away their tickets.

Reminiscing as if he were President Franklin Roosevelt, Asner took the audience through the years when FDR was asked to run for governor through his departure in 1945 to go to Warm Springs, Georgia. He expected to recover his energy there but instead died, leaving the country in great despair as it was so near to the end of the war and Roosevelt was the nation’s hero. He had helped lead the nation out of the Depression and prepare for World War II much to the despair of the isolationists. After Pearl Harbor, his wisdom was suddenly respected.

Asner, the beloved grump of the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and the consummate editor of “Lou Grant,” was 15 when Roosevelt died. “He as the greatest president we ever had,” he told reporters in La Crosse.

Asner made us feel a connection between Roosevelt’s years and our own with stories about high unemployment, banks going belly up, a nation at war, claims he was a socialist, extremists threatening minorities and Republicans fighting whatever Democrats advocated.

The last time my mom voted for a president in 2004, she told me, “I wish I could vote again for Roosevelt.”

Those of us who were newspaper reporters in the 1970s and 1980s, respected the character that Asner played as Lou Grant, city editor of the fictitious Los Angeles Tribune. His character had the highest standards of journalistic ethics. His concern was not the business of journalism, but doing the right thing. Of course that was before the tremendous economic squeeze on newspapers.

“Lou Grant” was cancelled in 1982 because of controversies related to Asner’s outspokenness off the show, including his opposition to the U.S. intervention into El Salvador. It also was felt by the network that the show had become too controversial.

Asner told local reporters Thursday that he is offered few roles today because of his age, weight and outspokenness on the liberal end of the political spectrum. He was, however, the voice of the lead character in “Up,” the animated movie that garnered an Academy Award or two this month.

Asked what he thought of conservative talk radio, Asner told La Crose media, “There’s a lot of yapping. How can people listen to them? I think they are ridiculous.”

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