Is the 'Waco' Miniseries Historically Accurate? Yes and No.
Ever since the Paramount Network miniseries Waco started to stream on Netflix in mid-April, people have been flocking towards the show, quickly pushing it into the streamer’s top 10. With its insane true story of a 51-day standoff between the Branch Davidians and the FBI/ATF leading up to a tragic fire that killed 76 people, including religious cult leader David Koresh, viewers have been left wondering just how close the series mirrors the true-life events that have been widely disputed since the catastrophe occurred in 1993.
While most of the miniseries does depict an accurate telling of what actually happened in the early 1990s, there are some historical inaccuracies that the show fails to mention, potentially leading confusion amongst viewers.
Koresh was not the one to start the Branch Davidians.
Although the series makes it seem like Koresh (portrayed by Taylor Kitsch) was the one to create the religious cult and bring believers of the offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventists to the Mount Carmel compound, that’s not actually the case. The movement was actually started by Victor Houteff in 1930, who believed that Jesus wasn’t the messiah mentioned in the Book of Isaiah, but another man who would arrive in the future. He also believed that the Branch Davidians would be the ones to bring the “Davidic Kingdom” (essentially a repeat off the empire started by King David in the Bible) during times of the apocalypse, an essential part of Houteff’s teachings.
Koresh joined the community in the early 1980s as a young man in his early twenties, and eventually took leadership of the religious sect in 1990, after the group’s previous leader was imprisoned on murder charges.
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Gary Noesner was only involved with the siege for the first 25 days.
The series depicts Gary Noesner (portrayed by Michael Shannon), the FBI hostage negotiator between David Koresh/Branch Davidians and the FBI/ATF, as being involved throughout the entire siege. It turns out that wasn’t the case. In a 2018 profile with Time, Noesner pointed out that he was only involved in the first 25 days of the standoff, eventually being removed from the case after other FBI agents thought he would be an “impediment to those who wanted to take a more aggressive role.” He did say that on the final day of the siege, the FBI called him into the bureau’s headquarters to watch the fire through the monitors, angering him to the point where he walked out.
Remnants of the Mount Carmel compound still exist today.
The miniseries ends with the FBI/ATF setting the Mount Carmel compound ablaze, tragically killing the majority of those living on the grounds. It turns out that wasn’t the last of the area for the Branch Davidians, as there are around a dozen or so parishioners still living on the land today. In a 2018 interview with the Dallas Observer, David Thibodeau said that he visits Waco from time to time, and whenever he’s there, he visits two of his fellow survivors on the Mount Carmel Compound.
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