A few weeks ago The Hollywood Reporter published a review of a movie called 'Truth" starring Robert Redford as Dan Rather and Cate Blanchett as Mary Mapes. It's coming out in a few days. "Truth," portrays Rather and Mapes as martyred and heroic journalists who sought to expose some dangerous and damaging truth in order to show America that President George W. Bush was unfit for office.
For starters, Truth is blessed with another galvanizing performance by Blanchett, who comes on strong but in a very human way as a high-powered newswoman seemingly at the top of her game. The main breadwinner in her family (she has a husband and son at home), Mary Mapes has clearly had to work very hard to get where she is but also has a lot to show for it; she’s at the very top of her profession.
Variety gushes on, going even so far as to make an oblique reference to Redford's decades earlier role as Bob Woodward in "All The President's Men," in which Woodward and Carl Bernstein exposed President Richard Nixon's Watergate cover up. (My emphasis below.)
This hot stuff provokes Mapes to put together a small team, including a former Marine (Dennis Quaid), a professor (Elisabeth Moss) and a researcher (Topher Grace). Almost everyone with Bush family connections in Texas refuses to talk, of course, but one key figure, the elderly and sick Retired Lt. Col.Bill Burkett (Stacy Keach), reluctantly provides Mapes with some incriminating information and a couple of documents to back it up. It’s enough to get CBS on board with her and Rather determined to report it.
Still, it’s an election year, and any evidence liberal CBS offers up against Bush is guaranteed to meet with withering opposition from all the president’s men, beginning with the Texas crowd.
Unlike the Washington Post's Watergate coverage, the 60 Minutes broadcast, around which "Truth" is centered, was a partisan hit piece that was based on falsified evidence. Dan Rather and Mary Mapes claimed to have been given decades old memos that said President George W. Bush was guilty of insubordination and being AWOL when he served as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard in the early 1970s. Testimony was solicited from partisan ax grinders who said Bush received preferential treatment to get into the TANG so that he could avoid duty in Vietnam. Documents, supposedly written in 1972, were shown on the air and later posted on the internet. They said that Bush performed poorly as an officer, that he refused to report for a physical examination, and that he eventually went AWOL.
But within hours of being posted on the internet, bloggers poked holes in the evidence. In a matter of days the memos were shown, quite conclusively, to be fakes. Here is some of the Washington Times reporting on it just days after the original broadcast aired.
A handwriting expert says the two signatures on purported Texas National Guard memos aired by CBS News this week are not those of President Bush’s squadron commander, as asserted by “60 Minutes.”
[T]he CBS documents contain a superscript “th” that is automatically used by Microsoft Word and that was in very limited use in the early 1970s.
Independent document examiner Sandra Ramsey Lines, a document expert and fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, told the Associated Press the superscript — a smaller, raised “th” in “111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron” — is one piece of evidence indicating a computer forgery.
A Washington Times computer expert retyped one of the CBS memos in Microsoft Word. He then superimposed the two documents, which appeared to make a perfect match, character by character.
The Times New Roman typeface available on any word processing machine in 1972 would not have matched perfectly because of the differences in technology used to reproduce it, the expert at The Times said, adding that the line spacing in the memos wasn’t available 30 years ago.
CBS at first defended the broadcast, but then in the face of the overwhelming evidence that fake documents were used they retracted the story, fired Mary Mapes, and accepted Dan Rather's resignation. When asked to comment on the film version of events, CBS had this to say about it.
“It’s astounding how little truth there is in ‘Truth,’” a CBS spokesman said in response to Variety’s inquiry. “There are, in fact, too many distortions, evasions and baseless conspiracy theories to enumerate them all. The film tries to turn gross errors of journalism and judgment into acts of heroism and martyrdom. That’s a disservice not just to the public but to journalists across the world who go out every day and do everything within their power, sometimes at great risk to themselves, to get the story right.”
CBS’ ire and the response from the “Truth” filmmakers and distributor Sony Pictures Classics crystallizes the central debate about the incident that has been re-ignited by the film. Was the problem behind the “60 Minutes II” report an issue of corporate interference with the pursuit of a sensitive story? Or was it journalistic mistakes that compromised the reputation of a trusted news outlet and its primary public face, namely Rather?
Variety does not, as it claims, capture the essence of the controversy. The central debate is not a question of corporate interference verses journalistic mistakes. This is about a couple of partisan journalists using their positions as news reporters, dealers in truth, to propagate very damaging lies.
I'm not what you would call a religious guy, but there's a commandment that applies. "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." To a Catholic kid growing up in Connecticut, that meant God was commanding us not to lie, ever. But that was a pretty simplistic view, because there is lying and there is bearing false witness, and they're not the same. Have you ever had your sweetheart ask you, "Do you think I look fat?" You know the correct answer, and isn't necessarily the truth. Are you going to burn in hell for that one?
Bearing false witness is quite another thing. With bearing false witness, it's not just that you deliberately say something that's not true, but that you also intend to cause injury to someone else by doing it. That's exactly what Rather and Mapes were up to on 60 Minutes. They intended to cause injury to George Bush. But there were unintended consequences, as well.
Bush was their intended target, the one who was supposed to be destroyed, but Rather and Mapes found out that their careers were destroyed instead. Rather and Mapes intended to undermine America's trust in President Bush, and in that they were partially successful. There are some who still believe them, and America's trust was certainly diminished. But it took more than just the work of a partisan news anchor and his hyper-partisan producer to do it.
They were just a couple of the players in a leftist mainstream media that had embarked upon an unprecedented campaign to discredit the man who led us in the fight against terrorism. In this the media were quite successful. They convinced a large number of Americans that our fight against terrorism was unjust because of supposed flaws in the man who led us. They discredited the war on terror to the point that it has now been all but abandoned. The damage from that campaign is hard to quantify, but suffice it to say that it helped to drive America to its weakest position since probably the Bay of Pigs.
And now we get a movie glorifying that smear, ironically named "Truth." I couldn't resist leaving a snarky comment on the Hollywood Reporter movie review.
Tom Bowler • Sunday, September 13, 2015 10:42 AM
A movie called "Truth" about Dan Rather? Isn't that what we call an oxymoron?
Weeks later my comment drew a reply.
StupidShouldCausePain • Friday, October 9, 2015 1:49 AM
Not if you're well versed in facts, Ubermoron.
An apt name for my liberal commenter, "StupdShouldCausePain." He seems so unaware that stupid actually does cause pain. In their incredible stupidity Rather and Mapes caused themselves quite a lot of pain. By deciding to go ahead with so thoroughly dishonest a broadcast, they took aim at their political enemy and then shot themselves. I have to say I find that quite satisfying. I think about it when I need something to cheer me up.
StupidShouldCausePain is emblematic of progressivism today. You might think it's mindless, this complete unwillingness to admit to the real facts. After all, when CBS won't stand by their own story, it's really hard to pretend there's any truth to it.
But there are two reasons why progressive denial isn't mindless. First, there is profit. There's profit from winning, and to progressives, that's all that matters. For just one example there's Harry Reid getting up on the Senate floor to lie about Mitt Romney, claiming that for ten years he never paid any taxes. That was during the 2012 presidential elections. When asked later about his obvious lie, Reid responded, "He didn't win, did he?"
Second, there is that intent to cause harm to someone. There's nothing mindless about that. It's purposeful, and sad to say it's the norm for progressives. They invariably resort to character assassination when their arguments won't hold water. And it's stupid.
The idea that "Truth" is a story about journalistic errors in judgment is hogwash. The errors were moral in nature. There is no way that Mapes and Rather could not known their evidence was false, but they were confident they could pull it off, that the public would be taken in. They still believe it, as do Redford and Blanchett, apparently. Stupid.
When Redford and Blanchett agreed to do this movie, they hired on to bear false witness, to repeat the false testimony that Rather and Mapes peddled some eleven years earlier. How sad that we can be influenced so heavily by people who get paid to recite words that somebody else writes for them. And paid quite a lot. The more convincingly they recite, the more money and accolades come their way.
Redford and Blanchett trade on suspension of disbelief. Usually the stories that movies tell are about events that never actually happened, and often could not happen. Star Trek. But the good stories illustrate some basic truth, and that's what makes us believe for the moment. In "Truth" we're supposed to believe the events portrayed really did happen. Unfortunately, there's no truth to it.