Former President Gerald Ford died Tuesday, at the age of 93, after a long illness. To mark his passing, The History Channel will air a world premiere special Gerald Ford: A Man and his Moment, on Wednesday, December 27, at 7pm ET/PT. Tom Brokaw hosts the hour-long program, which will repeat Sunday at 7am ET/PT.
Gerald Ford: A Man and his Moment takes an inside look at the man who was known as the "Accidental President" and who surpassed Ronald Reagan as the longest-lived U.S. President. From one of America's darkest moments, the constitutional crisis brought on by the Watergate scandal, Gerald Ford was a man thrust into history. A collegial, unassuming congressman for 25 years, Ford was selected by Richard Nixon to be his vice-president in 1973. Nine months later, when Nixon resigned, Ford became the 38th president of the United States, without winning a single vote for that office. His tenure was the shortest of the last century. It was marred, in the eyes of some, by his pardon of Nixon, by economic turmoil and by the last, painful throes of the Vietnam war. During his 895 days in office, Ford would become the target of two would-be assassins -- and one merciless comedian, in the form of Saturday Night Live's Chevy Chase, who lampooned the president as a stumbler and a bumbler.
Now, 30 years later, historians and Washington insiders are offering a surprising new judgment on Gerald Ford, even calling him an "unsung hero" of recent American politics. Though the Nixon pardon triggered bitter protests at the time and likely sealed Ford's defeat in 1976, today many experts consider that it was vital in order for the nation to heal and move on to the crucial issues of the day. Across a wide political spectrum, Ford's judgment and character are praised, and the political sacrifice he made is acknowledged.
Ford's shadow still looms large over Washington. His first Chief of Staff, Donald Rumsfeld, and his second, Dick Cheney, have gone on to become among the most influential and controversial members of President Bush's administration. Yet as we find ourselves in increasingly polarized times, Ford himself is remembered best for his ability to reach out and find compromise, whether with Democrats in the House or with Cold War adversaries like Leonid Brezhnev. He is also admired for calmly and capably handling a string of crises, such as the final pullout from Vietnam and the rescue of 41 American servicemen aboard the merchant ship Mayaguez, seized by newly communist Cambodian forces.
No assessment of Gerald Ford would be complete without a look at his trailblazing wife. Betty Ford, often controversial as First Lady for speaking out about sex and women's rights, is now revered as a force for candor and integrity in American life -- as well as the person who finally made alcoholism something that could be discussed publicly.
In Gerald Ford: A Man and his Moment, Tom Brokaw weaves this compelling story with the help of those who lived it, including: Mr. Cheney, Mr. Rumsfeld, Henry Kissinger (Ford's Secretary of State), as well as Steven Ford and Susan Ford Bales, two of the president's children. In this special look inside the Ford West Wing, and the Ford family, we learn the story of one man's surprising life and remarkable legacy.
Interviews: Steven Ford and Susan Ford Bales; former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; Vice President Dick Cheney (Deputy Chief of Staff, Chief of Staff (1975-77); Donald Rumsfeld (Chief of Staff, 1974-75 and Secretary of Defense, 1975-77); Brent Scowcraft (Dep. Asst. National Security, 1974-75 and National Security Advisor (1975-77); Alan Greenspan, Council Economic Advisors (1974-77); David Gergen, Special Counsel (1975-77); "Red" Cavaney, Ford Advance Office (1974-77); Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman; Sen. Edward M. Kennedy; and historians Doris Kearns Goodwin, Douglas Brinkley, and Michael Beschloss.
Gerald Ford: A Man and his Moment is produced by NBC News Productions for The History Channel.