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FRONTLINE: Trump’s American Carnage

Stream or tune in Tuesday, March 16, 2021 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, March 18 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2

Trump supporters attacked the nation's capital on Jan. 6, 2021 in protest of ...

Credit: Courtesy of Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Above: Trump supporters attacked the nation's capital on Jan. 6, 2021 in protest of the ratification of President-elect Joe Biden's Electoral College victory over President Trump in the 2020 election.

Following Capitol Attack, FRONTLINE Documentary Traces President Trump’s Incitement of Division, Violence and Ultimately Insurrection Throughout His Term

It was a sight that shook the world: Images of a violent pro-Trump mob storming the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the presidential election, threatening lawmakers’ lives, flying the Confederate flag in the building’s halls and erecting a gallows outside.

But the chaotic and deadly end of Donald Trump’s presidency was in many ways the inevitable result of four years of a president who stoked distrust, divison, anger and racism — and ultimately sought to undermine the election itself, with large swathes of his party echoing his claims.

How did American democracy reach this moment of crisis, and who is responsible?

In the new documentary special "Trump’s American Carnage," FRONTLINE tells the inside story of how Trump’s presidency laid the groundwork for bitter division, violence and insurrection — and why many lawmakers went along with him in what one conservative commentator in the film calls a “Faustian bargain.”

FRONTLINE: "Trump's American Carnage" - Preview

From his first days as president to his last, how Trump stoked division, violence, and insurrection. FRONTLINE investigates Trump’s siege on his enemies, the media, and even the leaders of his own party, who for years ignored the warning signs of what was to come. Airing: 01/26/21

“Our film identifies how, for years, the country’s political leaders missed, ignored and discounted clear warnings of the violence and chaos that was to come,” says FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk (“America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump,” “Trump’s Takeover” and “United States of Conspiracy”).

With his team, Kirk has made more than 20 documentaries about the Trump and Obama eras, examining the growing divisions that led up to the storming of the Capitol on January 6 and the ongoing fears around the country.

Tracing the path from Trump’s inaugural address, where the president famously vowed an end to what he called “American carnage,” to the violent siege of the Capitol, “Trump’s American Carnage” premieres Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021.

Drawing on an extensive archive as well as new interviews, the film finds a direct line between Trump’s actions over four years and the insurrection that exploded at the Capitol.

It tracks how, from his very first day in office, Trump tapped into the politics of grievance and waged war on his perceived enemies: the media, the Democrats and the establishment leadership of his own Republican party. 

The documentary goes on to examine how Trump seized control of the Republican party, the high price that he extracted from GOP leaders and why the party now finds itself in the midst of conflict over its future.

As the Biden administration begins and Trump faces an unprecedented second impeachment trial, "Trump’s American Carnage" offers a powerful look at how the U.S. reached this volatile moment.

Watch On Your Schedule:

The film will be available to stream on PBS, at, on YouTube and the PBS Video App.

Join The Conversation:

FRONTLINE is on Facebook, Instagram, tumblr, and you can follow @frontlinepbs on Twitter. #frontlinePBS


A FRONTLINE production with Kirk Documentary Group, Ltd. The director is Michael Kirk. The producers are Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser, Jim Gilmore, Gabrielle Schonder and Philip Bennett. The writers are Michael Kirk and Mike Wiser. The reporters are Jim Gilmore and Gabrielle Schonder. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath.


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