Hawaii Five-0's executive producer has apologized to members of Denver's The Greatest Generations Foundation, whose members were "unintentionally offended" when a ceremony on the seventieth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor coincided with filming. But the event's host, KOA's Steffan Tubbs, calls the apology insincere and shares e-mails with the producer, plus photos, to show why he reached that conclusion.
Tubbs, who's also a board member of The Greatest Generations Foundation, traveled to Hawaii with a group of 24 veterans, 23 of whom were on Oahu on December 7, 1941 -- a day that Franklin D. Roosevelt correctly predicted would live in infamy. He believes it will be the last such journey due simply to the march of time. "The average age of our 24 veterans was 91, and the oldest was 96 -- he was midship on the Arizona when it was bombed and was thrown fifty feet into Pearl Harbor," he says. "Everyone was saying their goodbyes. So this event took us full circle."
The veterans arrived in Hawaii on December 3, and over the days leading up to the anniversary, they enjoyed a full slate of programs, including one at the Arizona memorial, leading up to the final event -- a ceremony at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also Punchbowl National Cemetery, on the 7th. By coincidence, Hawaii Five-0 was filming at the cemetery at the same time, in a spot that Tubbs estimates at more than 200 yards away; among the cast members on hand was Terry O'Quinn, a series regular best known for his work on the series Lost. Tubbs tried to snap a photo of O'Quinn as he casually strolled across the gravesite, but a crew member attempted to block off the shot -- an action that he sees as symbolic of everything that followed.
According to Tubbs, who emceed the ceremony for around fifty participants, many of the crew members failed to "stop or show their respects" during the National Anthem, the presentation of colors or the playing of "Taps" to conclude the approximately two-hour event. But in his view, the most offensive incident involved a part of the program near the end in which each veteran laid a rose on the marker of an unknown individual killed at Pearl Harbor.
"No one prevented us from laying the roses," he acknowledges. "But they had a guy with a backpack and an earpiece -- he was definitely with the production -- walking back and forth, talking, laughing and rushing the veterans. It's like when you go shopping with your wife and she's in the clothing section and you want her to hurry up, so you're pacing back and forth. That's what he was doing. And he told one of our staff members, 'Can you keep them quiet? We're rolling.'
"Ten of our 24 veterans were in wheelchairs," he adds. "Some of these guys can barely get out of them. They'd stand up and hobble over to the marker -- and here's some jackass walking back and forth, trying to hurry them along. It's the kind of thing you wouldn't believe could happen, especially on that day. But it did."
Page down to read the e-mail exchanges between Tubbs and Lenkov. This display didn't ruin the event for the veterans, Tubbs says. "They were treated like rock stars by the people of Hawaii, and people who had traveled there for the anniversary," he points out. But as he flew back to Colorado, the memory of what had taken place at Punchbowl ate at him. And so, on the Saturday morning following his return, he wrote up an account and shared it on his personal Facebook page, which is set to allow only designated friends (he's got just over 1,600) to read what's on the wall.
His goal was to vent, not to hype the situation into a national news story. But social media being what it is, his account -- now available on the Hawaii Reporter website -- began to leak out. And later that evening, he received a personal message from Peter Lenkov, Hawaii Five-0's executive producer. Here it is:
Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2011 7:37 PM To: Tubbs, Steffan Subject: From Peter Lenkov, EP of Hawaii Five-0
I'm appalled by this account of events, and you can be certain I will be questioning my crew about what happened. I fly to Hawaii tomorrow and will get to the bottom of this. In the meantime, please accept my apology for any mistreatment.
Peter M. Lenkov Executive Producer Hawaii Five-0
Upon reading this note, Tubbs was impressed. But Lenkov changed his tune with a message sent shortly thereafter:
To: Tubbs, Steffan Subject: Re: Out of Office AutoReply: From Peter Lenkov, EP of Hawaii Five-0 Sent: Saturday, December 10, 2011 7:59 PM
I'm being told that our crew did stop for your ceremony, at least for the time we told you needed, then proceeded with shooting.
The next morning, Tubbs disagreed in the following reply:
On Dec 11, 2011, at 7:37 AM, "Tubbs, Steffan"
Peter -- thanks for your response. From my vantage point, that was not the case. However, I have no way of "proving" it either way.
Regardless of your production stopping or not during the anthem or Taps, the way the vets were rushed along, hushed during the rose ceremony, the caterer walking through the graves, the production guy walking through as the vets laid roses -- total disrespect.
Telling a group of veterans during Pearl Harbor week that this section of the cemetery was "rented for the day" was a joke.
I am sure your crew respects our vets, but they let a TV show and the money and schedules involved trump common sense.
Ten minutes of respect would have done wonders for ratings and good relations, instead its gone the other direction.
Good luck. I enjoy the show.
Lenkov struck back a short time later:
Sent: Sunday, December 11, 2011 8:52 AM To: Tubbs, Steffan Subject: Re: From Peter Lenkov, EP of Hawaii Five-0
After my e-mail to you, I spoke to approx 30 folks who were there, including reps from Punchbowl. All say the same thing: they paid respect during the anthem, then called lunch to give the vets the privacy and respect they deserve. Now I know it might be fun to trash a TV show, but I can't understand why you would make these claims. Everyone knows how much we respect our military. We couldn't do our show without them. And since 80% of our crew is made up of locals with deep ties to the military, I can't imagine any one of them doing the things you said in your blog.
Also know, we were not told there was a ceremony until we arrived at Punchbowl. If you know anything about production, you would agree that we had to proceed. And we did, with great respect. Albeit you did not see it that way.
Unfortunately the damage is done. Your blog has spread quickly amongst our fan base. I have a meeting with CBS tomorrow to discuss further.
Wish you would have contacted us first so we could discuss your claims before trashing us so aggressively in a blog.
Peter M. Lenkov Executive Producer Hawaii Five-0
The tone of this note struck Tubbs as both offensive and ignorant; he didn't like being dismissed as "some crazy wacko in his mom's basement. I'm not a blogger. I'm a legitimate newsman -- at least I like to think I am." So he shared the e-mail thread, prompting one more communique from Lenkov:
Sent: Monday, December 12, 2011 5:32 PM To: Tubbs, Steffan Subject: From Peter Lenkov
Would you mind taking down our private exchange? I had hoped we could resolve this between us after I got the facts.
Peter M. Lenkov Executive Producer Hawaii Five-0
Next page: The apology. That was the last time Tubbs has heard directly from Lenkov -- but yesterday, he got wind of a formal apology to "veterans and members of the Greatest Generation Foundation whom we unintentionally offended when our events coincided." The statement continues:
"Our production crew is 80% staffed with local Hawaiians, many with ties to the military. We recognize the privilege of filming in Hawaii and we are acutely aware of the deserved respect for its culture, history and the reverence that should be afforded to all of our veterans, particularly those who served so nobly in Hawaii and at Pearl Harbor. Furthermore, the series we produce carries a demonstrative pro-military message.
"Contrary to some reports, to show respect, our crew did cease production for the playing of the national anthem, taps and for the remainder of the ceremony. When we resumed filming, we did encounter visitors from the ceremony. Any rudeness by our staff can only be attributed to haste to finish our work, not a lack of respect for men and women who have served and sacrificed for their country. And for that, too, we sincerely apologize to any that were offended."
Is Tubbs satisfied? Hardly. "The apology was weak. It was insincere -- and at the end, he almost accuses me of lying. 'Haste to finish our work'? Are you kidding me? These are men who enlisted and protected our country and changed the course of world history -- and your production schedule trumps your moral obligation to show respect? It's maddening to me even with that air-quotes apology."
The I'm-sorry hasn't killed the story yet. Yesterday, Tubbs was a guest on Fox & Friends, and today, Timothy Davis, the president and founder of the foundation, guested as well, saying that "my 10-year-old can produce a better apology than what CBS has provided us."
Davis "wants a personally written apology to each of the veterans," Tubbs says -- and he thinks that's a good idea. "I don't care if they apologize to me, or think I'm lying, or think I'm a prick. But they need to apologize to these veterans, because what they encountered was the utmost disrespect."
He'd also like the man who tried to hush the veterans to lose his job -- but he doesn't expect it will happen. "This is so typical of why people can't stand Hollywood," he says.
Click here to follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.
More from our Television & Film archive: "9News blooper of the year: 'Congratulations on your big hooters' (VIDEO)."
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.