1968 February 25

Pete Seeger Performs “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour


Folk singer Pete Seeger had been blacklisted in the 1950s because of his leftist political views (see his appearance before HUAC, August 18, 1955). By the 1960s his commercial career had returned. Nonethless, he was initially banned by CBS from singing the song, Waist Deep in the Big Muddy, on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in September 1967.  On this day, however, he was allowed to sing the song about the American quagmire in the Vietnam War.

The Seeger episode was one of many censorship battles between CBS and the Smothers Brothers, who almost alone among network television shows introduced political content on their show. The network canceled the show the following year on April 4, 1969. Pete Seeger died on January 27, 2014, at age 94.

In addition to this incident and many similar ones, the Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (August 15, 1967); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example high school student protests (February 24, 1969); censorship of television programs, as in this case above; and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

See Pete Seeger sing Waste Deep: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3SysxG6yoE\

Learn more about the Smothers Brothers show: David Bianculli, Dangerously Funny: The Uncensored Story of the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (2009)

Learn more about Pete Seeger: http://peteseeger.net/wp/

Learn more at the National Coalition Against Censorship here.

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