Prof. debuts CNN documentary

Emmy award-winning journalist Frank Sesno is finishing some projects before beginning teaching at the School of Media and Public Affairs this spring.

One of those projects, an in-depth documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, the U.S. Secretary of Defense, debuted Saturday night on CNN. Sesno has been working on the documentary since April.

“The most controversial, outspoken, polarizing, fascinating person in Washington is Rumsfeld. At a time of war, a divisive war, it seemed like a good time to take a look at him,” Sesno said.

“It’s a well-rounded but critical look,” he added.

Sesno, who was a finalist for the director position at SMPA last year, has worked at CNN for 17 years as a special correspondent, news anchor, analyst and reporter. Sesno won an Emmy for his reporting on Midwest flooding in 1993.

Former Northwestern University professor Lee Huebner took over SMPA’s top post in July after an 18-month search process.

Sesno, who will teach graduate and undergraduate classes in the spring, came to GW from George Mason University, where he had been teaching at the School of Public Policy.

In the course of making the documentary, entitled “Donald Rumsfeld: Man of War,” Sesno had an exclusive interview with the defense secretary and a tour of his Pentagon offices. Sesno also interviewed various retired military officials and Paul Bremer, the former Coalition Provisional Authority administrator for Iraq, for the assignment.

“I discovered the complexity of Rumsfeld. What people often see on television is just a part of him,” Sesno said.

“He does not question himself. He does not second-guess himself, and for some people that represents strength, but for others it represents a weakness because it may suggest a failure to adapt to change a situation,” said Sesno.

Sesno said he hopes all Americans can learn more about how the government works and how the secretary makes decisions based on his documentary.

“Most people have a limited acquaintance with him. To get a sense of whom he is up close and how he is seen by the people he works with and has worked with is very important,” he said.

In the coming weeks, Sesno hopes to hold a screening of the documentary for students to explain how to put a project like this together and to give students a chance to talk with him and the CNN producers of the show.

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