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Frontline Unveils a Major January Lineup Investigating Trump’s Rise, Obama’s Legacy, and a Nation Divided
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Premiering on OETA and online:
President Trump | Tues., Jan. 3, 2017, at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST
Divided States of America | Tues.-Wed., Jan. 17-18, 2017, at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST
Trump’s Road to the White House | Tues., Jan. 24, 2017, at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST

When Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on January 20, he'll inherit a country deeply divided by politics, race, gender, culture and economics — divisions that helped fuel his rise to the White House.

How did Trump win? What ignited the intense polarization in the country and in Washington? And what is the legacy of President Barack Obama, who rode to power on the promise of transforming politics and uniting America?

This January, FRONTLINE will present President Trump, Divided States of America and Trump’s Road to the White House. Totaling six hours, this unprecedented series of documentaries chronicles Trump’s rise, tells the inside story of his campaign, and explores the roots of the division and polarization in Washington that frustrated the Obama presidency and laid the groundwork for the election of a defiant outsider.

“This January lineup from our acclaimed investigative team illustrates FRONTLINE’S deep commitment to examining our politics and powerbrokers – from looking closely at President-Elect Trump as he takes over, to looking back at President Obama’s eight years and the polarization that has ensued,” says FRONTLINE Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath.

“These films are focused on helping Americans understand the state of their government at this important historical moment, and telling the inside story of how we got here as only FRONTLINE can,” says FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk, who most recently helmed The Choice 2016, and who with his team has made more than a dozen documentaries on the Obama administration.

First, on Jan. 3, FRONTLINE examines key moments that shaped the president-elect in President Trump — an in-depth biography drawn from The Choice 2016, in which advisors, business associates and biographers reveal how Trump transformed himself from real estate developer to reality-TV star to president.

Then, on Jan. 17 and 18, FRONTLINE presents television’s most comprehensive exploration of the Obama era: a four-hour, two-night series called Divided States of America, airing at a special time (9 p.m. EST / 10 p.m. CST).

Featuring new, in-depth interviews with White House officials, Cabinet members, and senior Congressional leaders from both parties, as well as one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism, Divided States examines how Barack Obama’s promise of change and unity — and his belief in the possibility of bipartisanship — quickly collided with political realities and racially-charged resistance.

A year in the making, this epic, four-hour series tells the inside story of Obama’s presidency, explores the civil war within the Republican party, and identifies turning points over the past eight years that exposed simmering divisions among the American people.

“Though the political establishment on both sides was shocked when Donald Trump won the presidency, Divided States shows why his success shouldn’t have come as a surprise,” Kirk says. “In fact, we’ve found that the seeds of what would one day culminate in Trump’s election were evident even before the end of Obama’s very first year as president.”

Divided States examines the roots of the partisan gridlock, populist anger, and racial tensions that charged the 2016 presidential campaign, including:

  • How the popularity of Sarah Palin’s anti-elite, anti-establishment message in the heartland — and disdain for it on the coasts — presaged Trump’s rhetoric and its reception;
  • How Obama’s handling of the financial crisis fueled the rise of populist anger on both sides of the aisle — even as it also sparked economic recovery;
  • How the battle over the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) sowed the seeds for years of division and the surge of the Tea Party movement, and accelerated a new political climate in which incivility towards the President wasn’t just accepted, but rewarded;
  • The complicated role of race during America’s first black presidency: “The great irony of the Obama presidency, right, is someone who came on the mandate of changing Washington as we know it… by his very presence and by his very humanity – who he was, the color of his skin, the sound of his name – forced more polarization and gridlock than we had seen in the eight years prior,” Wesley Lowery of the Washington Post tells FRONTLINE.

Ultimately, Divided States is a revelatory story not just about Barack Obama’s presidency, but America itself.

On Jan. 24, FRONTLINE will continue that story with Trump’s Road to the White House — the inside story of how, despite historically high unfavorability ratings, Trump successfully tapped into frustration and calls for change to win the election.

Featuring revealing interviews with campaign insiders, Trump’s Road to the White House investigates how Trump rallied millions of supporters and defeated his adversaries — and what it reveals about how he will govern.

"He’s an unconventional candidate who used very unconventional methods to be elected president of the United States,” says Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway. 

Together, FRONTLINE’s January films will be essential viewing for Americans looking to gain a deeper understanding of the country’s shifting political landscape as a new era begins.

President Trump, Divided States of America, and Trump’s Road to the White House are FRONTLINE productions with the Kirk Documentary Group. The producers are Michael Kirk, Mike Wiser, Philip Bennett, Jim Gilmore, and Gabrielle Schonder. The director is Michael Kirk. 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.

FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 82 Emmy Awards and 18 Peabody Awards. Visit and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Google+ to learn more. Founded by David Fanning in 1983, FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, the John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, the Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.