Claim: Children’s television show host Fred Rogers hid a violent and criminal past.
Origins: In 2003 the television world mourned the loss of
Any popular, decent, clean-cut celebrity is fair game for all sorts of scurrilous rumors these days, it seems. We’re either too cynical or too bored to accept that a kindly, soft-spoken man who made a career out of teaching and communicating with children as an adult (no funny costumes, no frenetic comedy gags, no sickly sweet “baby talk”) could possibly live up to his television image. He must be concealing some deep, dark secret antithetical to his public persona, and the variety of rumors floated about
Among the more common of the
Fred Rogers began his television career as a result of his being convicted of child molestation; one condition of his sentence was that he fulfill a community service obligation by performing a television show for children on a local public station. This circumstance explains the lack of children on his program and the presence of adult characters with suggestive names, such as
Given the prominent, widespread protests and boycotts directed at Disney when it was revealed that
Fred Rogers got his start in television through his musical background when, after earning a bachelor’s degree in music composition in 1951, he was hired by NBC television in
Voice of Firestone, The Lucky Strike Hit Parade, The Kate Smith Hour) prevalent on TV in the early 1950s.
A few years later, Rogers returned to his hometown area to develop programming for WQED in Pittsburgh, the nation’s first community-sponsored educational television station. One of the initial programs he developed for WQED was The Children’s Corner, which contained many of the elements and characters Fred Rogers would incorporate into his own show when he made his
It isn’t true that no children ever appeared with Fred Rogers on
Fred Rogers served as a sniper or as a Navy SEAL during the Vietnam War, with a large number of confirmed kills to his credit.
position particularly known for requiring toughness and extreme mental and physical fortitude, such as a Navy SEAL, an Army Green Beret, a Marine Corps drill instructor, or an armed services sniper. Fred Rogers has also been the subject of such rumors, all of them false.
Not only did Fred Rogers never serve in the military, there are no gaps in his career when he could conceivably have done so. He went straight into college after high school, he moved directly into TV work after graduating college, and his breaks from television work were devoted to attending the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary (he was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1963) and the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Child Development. Moreover, Fred Rogers was born in 1928 and was therefore far too old to have been a draftee during the period of America’s military involvement in the Vietnam ground war
Fred Rogers always wore long-sleeved shirts and sweaters on his show to conceal the tattoos on his arms he obtained while serving in the military.
Fred Rogers never served in the military, and he bore no tattoos on his arms (or any other part of his body). He wore long-sleeved shirts and sweaters on his show as a stylistic choice, in order to maintain an air of formality with youngsters. Although he was friendly with the children in his viewing audience and talked to them on their own level, he was most definitely an authority figure on a par with parents and teachers (he was Mister Rogers to them, after all, not “Fred”), and his choice of dress was intended to establish and foster that relationship.
Fred Rogers “flipped the bird” to his young audience during the taping of his final show in December 2000:
Images of Fred Rogers posing with one or both middle fingers extended have long been circulated on the Internet with captions claiming they captured the children’s show host disdainfully “flipping off” his audience during the taping of the final
familiar children’s song “Where Is Thumbkin?,” which is traditionally accompanied by participants’ holding up the corresponding fingers as they are each named in the song:
Last updated: 14 March 2015
McNamara, Mary. “Sneakers, Sweater and Warm Heart: Mr. Rogers.” Los Angeles Times. 28 February 2003. Moore, Frazier. “A Most Unlikely TV Star: Fred Rogers Was the Real Thing .” Associated Press. 28 February 2003. Smith, Lynn and Lynne Heffley. “A Void, and Yet His Legacy Does Live On.” Los Angeles Times. 28 February 2003 (p. E48). Spangler, Todd. “Nation Mourns Fred Rogers, Soft-Spoken Host of ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood'” Associated Press. 28 February 2003. Woo, Elaine. “It’s a Sad Day in This Neighborhood.” Los Angeles Times. 28 February 2003.