Even Lou Grant never treated newsroom employees this badly.
Ed Asner, the 83-year-old, seven-time Emmy Award winner who recently narrated an animated California teachers union video that initially depicted a rich man urinating on common folks, bristled when a Fox News Channel producer questioned him about it.
"I don't remember a thing I said on it or a word I said on it, but I agreed to do it for California teachers," said Asner, who is in New York appearing in the Broadway show "Grace."
When the scene, which the union edited out on Thursday, was described for the veteran actor best known for his role as the crusty TV newsroom boss on the 1970's show "Mary Tyler Moore," Asner quipped: "How disgusting. It should be reversed."
Then, he bizarrely asked the questioner, from the channel's "Hannity" show, if he had any money and dropped his vulgar request.
"Can I piss on you?" Asner asked.
The eight-minute video, titled “Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale,” was written and directed by California Federation of Teachers’ communications director Fred Glass and criticizes America's wealthy for not paying their fair share of taxes to fund services for the rest of the country. It drew harsh reviews from several critics of public sector unions in California, where the state has been pushed into massive debt, in part by commitments to government worker unions.
Kyle Olson, founder of the Michigan-based Education Action Group, said it left him disgusted.
“That was the most galling thing about it, the image of the rich guy standing at the top of the scale urinating down on the poor,” Olson said. “It’s nothing more than leftist propaganda.”
Olson said the video was also factually inaccurate, noting that claims the rich made the government print money for them when the housing market crashed ignored the fact that billions in stimulus spending went to help bail out homeowners and – ironically -- state education programs.
But the video could make its way into the classroom, Olson warned, noting the simplistic presentation seems aimed at kids.
“Who is the audience for this?” he said. “You could easily see teachers or social justice activists introducing it into the classroom. Nothing more than leftist propaganda.”
At the end of the video, viewers are urged to email their elected representatives to tell them to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to fund public services.
Ed Ring, of UnionWatch.org, said the teachers union’s hypocrisy in attacking Wall Street and the so-called “1 percent” is evident in the fact that [the teachers union] and other public-sector unions invest in Wall Street.
“These infantile bits of propaganda, such as their cartoon showing a rich person urinating on common folks, obscures the reality, which is that public-sector unions and Wall Street sharks are allied against the private-sector middle class,” Ring said.
Union spokesman Stephen Hopcraft said the complaints about the image amounted to "mock outrage," but said it was edited out to prevent it from overwhelming the underlying message of the video.
"We're very proud of the video," Hopcraft said. "But we don't want any distractions about the message, and we don't want any debate about a particular frame to drown out the real issue."
Still, said Hopcraft, "If you're threatened by this video, you'd better take "The Simpsons" off the air, because this is pretty mild.
John Coupal, of California's powerful Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said he panned the video after just three minutes.
"It's unbridled Marxism," Coupal said. "I'm stunned that a union would actually put that out there."