Mister Rogers’ Widow Reveals That He Wasn't The 'Saint' Everybody Thought He Was

Mister Rogers: the nicest guy on Earth. Or was he?

No, he was. I'm kidding.

But he wasn't perfect, and his wife, Joanne Rogers, wants us all to remember that he was a human first and foremost.

Mister Rogers has been in the news a lot lately.

That's due to the upcoming release of A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, a film following a journalist's journey through writing a piece on the man himself, Mister Fred Rogers.

Tom Hanks was chosen to step into Mister Rogers' iconic cardigan.

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He initially passed on the project when he first read the script. However, when director Marielle Heller came on board, she managed to persuade him to give the film another shot.

The rest, of course, is history.

The heart of the film was in Joanne's hands.

It took screenwriters Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster a long time to earn Joanne Rogers' trust. A year and a half after their first meeting, she finally allowed them to read some of Fred's old letters.

That led them to the film as it is today.

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"Once we read those letters in the archive between Tom Junod and Fred Rogers, hundreds of letters that they had written back and forth, that for us was a moment, like, 'Oh, this is the story,'" Harpster said.

They decided to try and understand the conflict within Mister Rogers.

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"There's a mystery about Fred Rogers at the center of this film," Fitzerman-Blue said. "Which is, where did all of this hurt and suffering that he would absorb from other people go? How did he deal with it?"

They never found the answer.

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"There was a mystery to him, and we don't think that we ever got to fully crack it. But we wanted to leave a lot of clues."

One of those clues was the humanization of him.

And the screenwriters knew this was the time to tell his story.

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"Right before he died … he said that he wouldn't be allowed to do what he does now. He wouldn't be accepted, there would not be a place for him on television."

Joanne didn't think he was right about that.

"And I think he was sad about that.

And I think we desperately we need him right now."

But Joanne had a request for them:


Fitzerman-Blue told The LA Times that her contribution to the film was this: "She really only had one request: that we not treat her husband as a saint."

She was disconcerted at how often that word was used to describe him.

What?! How could this be?!

Could it possibly be that Mister Rogers is not the man we all thought he was?

However, she meant it in a pretty wholesome way.

For instance, he was a huge fan of fart jokes.

"He would just raise one cheek and he would look at me and smile," she said.

He often did that when they were at an event they found particularly boring.

And he was just like the rest of us.

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"He was not prissy. Not at all," she said. "He ran around the house in the droopiest drawers."

Mister Rogers? In baggy underwear? Well, according to her, that was his preferred way to be.

He wore them all the time.

"They were at least three sizes too big, but they were comfortable, and he liked them. It didn’t matter if there was company here — he’d wear those and a T-shirt. He was not a modest person."

She also revealed that he was a registered Republican.

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But that his political leanings were far more independent.

He never revealed his political leanings on the show. "[...] he just didn’t talk about it because he didn’t want to lose the children."

Her own politics lean more to the left.

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Though she's undecided on who she's going to vote for in 2020, she is not voting for Trump.

"Trump changed it," she said. "And I want to vote for whoever is going to beat Trump."

She doesn't want him to be thought of as a saint at all.

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"He’s out there now as somebody who’s somehow way above all the rest of us," she said, remarking on how he's been remembered since his death.

I'm definitely guilty of that one.

She thinks the bar is too high.

"People invariably say, 'Well, I can’t do that, but I sure do admire him. I would love to do it.' Well, you can do it. I’m convinced there are lots of Fred Rogerses out there."

I think so, too.

A recent New York Times profile on Tom Hanks found that he really was the perfect choice for the part.

The interviewer initially was hoping to find more of a "dark side" to Tom, like what Joanne Rogers suggested. "Yes, and finally, finally I’ll get to tell it to The New York Times," was Tom's quippy reply.

But Tom eventually revealed his own not-so-saintly behavior, although it was pretty much on the same level as Mister Rogers' himself.

“Let’s not call this a dark side, but: I realize, and I used over and over again, the ability to seduce a room, seduce a group of people, and that it started off when I was very young as a self-defense mechanism but then turned into a manipulative kind of thing, because I didn’t realize that I was as good at it as I was," Tom said.

"Part of that is I am not malevolent. I’m not mysterious."

"You’re not going to get a huge amount of anger out of me or anything like that. I’m not coming in to dominate a room, but I am coming in to seduce it somehow.”

It sounds like both Mister Rogers and Tom Hanks are human, which is better than being saints — we're all humans, and we can all strive to be a little bit better.