Twenty-four World War II veterans gathered in Hawaii last Friday to pay their respects to fellow soldiers who died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor 70 years ago. A Denver-based news reporter on the scene says the elderly veterans, many requiring wheelchairs, were shown very little respect by the crew of a CBS television show on the site.
Steffan Tubbs, co-host of “Colorado’s Morning News” on 850 KOA, posted information about the incident on his Facebook page shortly after the event. Now, both local and national media outlets are investigating what Tubbs calls a “freaking fiasco.”
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Tubbs was part of a week-long trip to Hawaii to honor the memories of fallen soldiers as well as thank living veterans for their service. On Dec.9, the group – average age: 91 – held an emotional ceremony at the Punchbowl including the presentation of colors, the National Anthem and Taps, says Tubbs, a board member of The Greatest Generations Foundation, the Denver-based group which organized the trip.
Tubbs and the veterans. all but one Pearl Harbor survivors, weren’t allowed to complete the ceremony in private. Cast and crew from CBS’s “Hawaii Five-O” were also on the scene preparing to shoot footage for the cop show.
“I noticed as Taps was being played people were walking back and forth to their production vans,” he says of roughly 15-20 show crew members on the same area where the ceremony was taking place.
“Immediately what struck me was, it’s going on on the graves,” he says. “All the Hollywood production was literally on the grave sites, not a grassy area.”
Tubbs understands that the crew likely had its own deadlines to meet, and that shooting a major television show isn’t cheap. But he says that can’t explain how some crew members treated the elderly veterans.
“There was a guy with an ear piece walking among the vets, hushing them, in essence, hurrying them along and telling them to be quiet,” he recalls. “I think I was so stunned I didn’t know what to say.”
One of the veterans tried to take a picture of the actors from the program at one point, but a crew representative nixed the plan, saying the actors were “skittish” around still cameras.
The coup de grace for Tubbs came when a caterer for the show walked across the graves – and the veterans laying roses atop them – to bring salmon and blackberries to actors on the set.
“I’m feeling like [the veterans were] shown the ultimate disrespect,” he says.
Over the weekend, Tubbs had a robust exchange with the show’s executive producer, Peter M. Lenkov, via email regarding the incident. The news anchor posted the back- and-forth online, but since doing so hasn’t received any new messages from Lenkov.
“The executive producer tried to make me out to be some right-wing wacko blogger. I’m a news man … my entire career is based on being credible and telling it like it is,” says Tubbs, who admits he DVRs “Hawaii Five-0″ every week. “They’re accusing me of having an agenda.”
CBS Television Studios released a statement to Big Hollywood regarding the incident:
“We were surprised to hear this report and are looking into the matter,” said CBS Television Studios spokesperson. “Our veterans deserve the highest level of respect and reverence for their service, particularly during a ceremony honoring those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Tubbs doesn’t want the event to simply fade away, but he’s also more than happy to see it wrap in an amicable fashion. That starts with an apology from CBS, he says, and perhaps a show of support for the veterans themselves.
“Make a contribution to the Foundation and call it a day, and all is forgiven,” he says.