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New movie is anything but the 'Truth'
Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford in Truth. - photo by Jim Bennett
Thirty years ago this month, document forger Mark Hofmann killed two innocent people in order to cover up his unraveling scheme of fraud and deception. The whole sordid mess has been the subject of a slew of books and articles, but imagine if Hollywood had come calling and asked Hofmann to tell his side of the story.

Imagine, too, if Hofmann had been sympathetically portrayed by a respected and beloved movie star Tom Hanks, maybe? in a film that insisted that poor ol Mark was a misunderstood genius with high ideals brought down by dark, oppressive forces, and that his forged documents werent really all that bad, because they accurately described truths that bad people were trying to hide.

I admit my analogy is clumsy here, as former CBS news anchor Dan Rather and his producer Mary Mapes have certainly never killed anyone. But the new movie Truth, which may be the most shamelessly dishonest title ever conceived, is an attempt to rewrite history and pretend that one of the greatest journalistic frauds ever hoisted on the American public was actually a noble cause, and that Rather and Mapes were martyrs, not liars.

This is an astonishing level of sophistry, even for Hollywood.

The movie is based on Mapess self-justifying memoir Truth and Duty: The Press, the President and the Privilege of Power, in which she defends the story she produced and Rather reported for 60 Minutes II two months before the 2004 presidential election. The Mapes/Rather piece claimed that George W. Bush was AWOL during his service in the National Guard, and the basis for these explosive accusations was a bunch of memos ostensibly written by Bushs late commanding officer, who apparently had access to Microsoft Word in the early 1970s.

The memos contain typeface and fonts that would have been impossible to produce on a 70s-era typewriter. They also bungle basic military terminology and reference a man as being on active duty who had actually been honorably discharged 18 months before the memo was purportedly written. Within days of the 60 Minutes II broadcast, these documents were conclusively demonstrated by a number of sources to be crude forgeries. Not long after, CBS disavowed the story and admitted they couldnt verify the authenticity of the documents. Both Mapes and Rather ended up losing their jobs as a result.

So the 60 Minutes story was a lie based on a fraud, and now, in true Orwellian fashion, its the subject of a movie called Truth.

The film stars Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett as Rather and Mapes, respectively, and it portrays the controversy over the memos as the product of a nebulous, ill-defined conspiracy between CBS executives and the Bush administration. In promoting the film, Redford told a New York Times panel that the original story was discredited merely by a technicality, as if manufacturing fake historical documents out of whole cloth is the equivalent of, say, bad grammar or poor spelling.

So far, the outrage over this travesty has come primarily from conservative circles, and defenders of the movie, like Redford, generally lean left, so it would be too easy to dismiss this as just another partisan controversy. But facts are not subject to ideological interpretation. If your story is based on forgeries, it shouldnt matter whether your target is a Republican or a Democrat. Anyone who participates in such a fraud should hide their heads in shame, not score a big studio movie deal.

This movie shows that Hollywood lacks the integrity to be honest with its audience. Aint that the truth.
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