Mister Rogers’ widow does not want President Trump as her neighbor.
Joanne Rogers, the 92-year-old wife of the late Fred Rogers, blasted the president on Thursday, calling him a ‘horrible person’ who ‘seldom tells the truth.’
She made the remarks on the same day Trump held a rally in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, which is Fred Rogers’ home town, located about 40 miles east of Pittsburgh.
For 31 seasons, Fred Rogers hosted the half-hour educational show for children, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which aired nationally on public television.
Joanne Rogers (left), 92, the widow of Fred Rogers, tore into President Trump (right) on Thursday, the same day he held a rally in her late husband’s hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania
For 31 seasons, Fred Rogers hosted the half-hour educational show for children, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, which aired nationally on public television. The above image is from a show in 1989
Joanne Rogers is seen left on the set of her husband’s show in this undated file photo
The final episode aired on August 31, 2001. There has been renewed interest in Fred Rogers’ life and work, particularly since Tom Hanks portrayed him in last year’s hit film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
Rogers died in 2003, leaving behind his wife of 51 years, Joanne, and their two children.
Trump held a rally on Thursday at Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Latrobe, but Joanne Rogers doesn’t appear eager to welcome him to her neighborhood.
‘This man is pathologically ill. Mentally ill,’ Rogers told The Daily Beast.
When asked what she would do if Trump won re-election, she replied: ‘I will probably go into mourning.’
‘I can’t even imagine. I would feel so badly.’
Rogers said her husband never discussed politics because he was doing a children’s television show and feared it could disrupt the kids’ lives within their households.
There has been renewed interest in Fred Rogers’ life and work, particularly since Tom Hanks portrayed him in last year’s hit film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
‘Fred tried to stay pretty quiet about politics, basically because his program was for children,’ she said.
Joanne Rogers, on the other hand, feels free to speak her mind.
‘I’m alone now,’ she said. ‘I don’t do a program for children.’
When asked why she dislikes the president, she said: ‘I think maybe the fact that Mr. Trump seldom tells the truth.
‘If he does, it’s just a fluke, I think.
‘But the fact [is] that I can’t believe anything he says, not even the simplest thing.’
Rogers said she is enthusiastically supporting Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden.
‘I am a very big Biden fan,’ Rogers said.
Joanne Rogers said she was moved by the story of Brayden Harrington, 13, who appeared during last month’s Democratic National Convention and read a speech about meeting Joe Biden and getting advice about how to manage a stutter
The DNC made a video out of Harrington’s telling of the encounter
When asked why she is backing Biden, Rogers said he is what the country needs right now.
‘I think he’s kind,’ she said.
‘I think we all need somebody like Biden who can give us little pats on the back.’
Joanne Rogers also defended Biden over accusations that he was too physical in his interactions with women.
Many accusations against Biden stem from awkward photographs, including one in 2015 when he is shown grabbing the shoulders of Stephanie Carter from behind and whispering in her ear as her husband Ash Carter was delivering his Secretary of Defense acceptance speech.
Other photos show him awkwardly groping Amie Parnes, a reporter with The Hill, during a 2013 holiday party.
And another image captured the then-vice president getting so close with a woman during a 2012 campaign stop in Ohio that his forehead touched the side of her head.
Joanne Rogers said Biden’s kindness toward Harrington reminded her of her husband’s friendship with Jeffrey Erlanger, who in 1981 appeared on his show. Erlanger (seen left when he was 10 years old alongside Rogers) was a quadriplegic who had a tumor removed from his spine when he was 7 months old
But the most serious accusations came in March 2019, when Nevada lawmaker Lucy Flores revealed in New York Magazine that Biden grabbed her by the shoulders and kissed her hair during a campaign event in Las Vegas in 2014 – she was 35 at the time.
‘I felt him get closer to me from behind. He leaned further in and inhaled my hair’ then ‘proceeded to plant a big slow kiss on the back of my head,’ Flores wrote.
Biden critics pounced on the revelations and the hashtag ‘Creepy Joe’ quickly began trending on Twitter.
Trump has often dubbed Biden as ‘Creepy Joe’ in Twitter attacks – he has also called his Democratic rival ‘Sleepy Joe.’
Joanne Rogers said she would be happy to receive a hug from the Democratic nominee.
‘I said, “Listen, I understand that completely, I’m a hugger, and I would certainly want a hug from him”,’ she said.
When asked if she thought Biden was too old to be president, she replied: ‘Seventy-seven seems still pretty young to me.’
Biden critics, including the president and his supporters, have claimed that the former vice president is showing signs of cognitive decline.
But supporters of Biden, including Rogers, believe his frequent verbal gaffes are the result of a stutter.
‘Sometimes when Biden gets in trouble with his speech, I think it has to do with that old stutter,’ she said.
Joanne Rogers also defended Biden against accusations that he is too physical in his interactions with women. Biden has come under fire for several awkward and too-close-for-comfort physical interactions with women – oftentimes captured on camera. Biden is seen far right with supporters in Iowa in January 2020
Rogers said she was reminded of her husband while watching a video of Biden encourage a young boy who was struggling with a stuttering problem.
In a clip that was broadcast during last month’s Democratic National Convention, Brayden Harrington, 13, said he met Biden a few months ago during the primaries, and discussed the obstacle they both share.
Biden had a serious stutter as a child, and says he had to spend hours practicing and learn special techniques to find a way to work through it.
He said Biden ‘made me feel more confident about something that’s bothered me my whole life.’
Joanne Rogers said it reminded her of her husband’s favorite episode of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, when her husband welcomed a 10-year-old boy, Jeffrey Erlanger, to his show in 1981.
Erlanger, who at that time was a young boy from Madison, Wisconsin, was confined to a wheelchair after he was diagnosed with a spinal tumor when he was just 7 months old.
Surgeons removed the tumor, but the condition left him a quadriplegic. Before his surgery, his parents asked him what he wanted.
Erlanger told them he wanted to meet Mister Rogers. His sister wrote a letter to Fred Rogers and the family arranged to meet in a restaurant in nearby Milwaukee.
Several years later, Erlanger appeared on Mister Rogers’ show, where he talked about his electric wheelchair. The two became friends from then on.
When Fred Rogers was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1999, Erlanger surprised him and the rest of the audience by appearing to introduce him at the podium on stage.
After Fred Rogers died in 2003, Erlanger attended the memorial service in Pittsburgh to honor him.
Erlanger, who spent his life as an activist, died at the age of 36 in June 2007. He spent three weeks in a coma after choking on food before succumbing.
‘That was Fred’s favorite,’ Joanne Rogers said. ‘It is just a fabulous segment.’