Cover Osama bin Laden in the ‘90s? Journalists were too busy with Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. That was the casual, lazy way in which Chuck Todd on Monday explained lack of journalistic alarm about the terrorist.
Todd talked to actors Jeff Daniels and Peter Sarsgaard about their new TV series on the pre-9/11 hunt for bin Laden, The Looming Tower. He dismissed: “Bin Laden was an undercovered issue and person in our news media in the late ‘90s because we were focused on another story.... Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.”
Daniels chided his host: “Yes, you were.”
Apparently, walking and chewing gum — in this case covering both the allegations against Clinton and the threat of bin Laden — was too much to expect from a free press. (And for the historical record, when journalists covered the Lewinsky scandal, they defended Clinton and slammed Ken Starr.)
After seeming to dismiss the importance of the most powerful man in the world pushing a young intern for sexual favors, Todd unironically turned to the Me Too movement. In a cringe-inducing exchange, he talked about how actors doing this sort of behavior is more “accepted”:
And it is accepted more in artists. "Oh, they are the eccentric.... They are artistic. They are eccentric." But obviously there is some behavior that isn’t.
Todd pressed Daniels on whether he would do another Woody Allen movie. The answer was rather tortured:
That one is hard. It is a difficult decision because of Purple Rose of Cairo. That movie will always be a great experience, a great movie for me and he will always be a great American filmmaker and I got to work with him at the age of 30 and it changed my life.... All of that and I believe Dylan Farrow. So I do another one with Woody? The difficult decision would be to turn him down. Because of Purple Rose.
A partial transcript is below. Click “expand” to read:
KATY TUR: Jeff Daniels and Peter Sarsgaard play the FBI and CIA agents at the center of the drama. They sat down to talk with Chuck Todd about their new series.
CHUCK TODD: It is amazing to me that among the first, you know, episodes you deal with in this ten-episode deal, is this idea that bin Laden is about to do a interview with ABC. That was happening. Bin Laden was an undercovered issue and person in our news media in the late ‘90s because we were focused on another story.
JEFF DANIELS Yes, you were.
TODD: Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. How much did you learn, Jeff and Peter, that you realize you didn't know just as American citizens?
DANIELS: All of it. I didn't know any of it. I knew nothing about the turmoil between the CIA and the FBI, both of whom thought they were right. I didn't know who John O'Neal was.
TODD: Let me ask you about the Me Too movement. How has it changed? I've talked to folks in Hollywood and over time it’s incremental. How would you say that things have changed in Hollywood?
DANIELS: I think it's a revolutionary times about a lot of things and that is right in there. Fully support it. Absolutely, fully support it.
TODD: Have you notice a difference just on sets yet?
PETER SARSGAARD: I don't know.
DANIELS: I wasn't around that crap. I wasn't around it.
TODD: Woody Allen films. Where are you on this? There are some actors are saying a couple of things, you both appeared in some Woody Allen, some are giving money back and some say they will never appear on a Woody Allen film. Where are you on this? I get this art is art and line of what is art and when do you leave somebody's politics or personality or whatever — however you want to do it, where are you on this?
SARSGAARD: It is such a complicated question. I mean, I believe people when they say, you know, “I was assaulted or I was molested” or something like that. Because I don't think you really have any other choice. Because if we start not believing people, it is a slippery slope. So that’s —
TODD: The hard part is why would they make it up and put themselves or label themselves as molesters?
SARSGAARD: They say that it is very, very rare that somebody makes something like that up. So I would rather error on that side. I know that --
TODD: Does that made — you would think twice before taking another part in a Woody Allen movie.
SARSGAARD: I've already done a woody Allen movie.
TODD: But would you do another?
TODD: What about you, Jeff?
DANIELS: That one is hard. It is a difficult decision because of Purple Rose of Cairo. That movie will always be a great experience, a great movie for me and he will always be a great American filmmaker and I got to work with him at the age of 30 and it changed my life.
SARSGAARD: He is a fantastic filmmaker.
DANIELS: All of that and I believe Dylan Farrow. So I do another one with Woody? The difficult decision would be to turn him down. Because of Purple Rose.
SARSGAARD: Throughout history there were so many artists that have bad behavior. Picasso, I mean, my God. And one after another and in all professions.
TODD: And it is accepted more in artists. Oh, they are the eccentric.
SARSGAARD: We can be alcoholics
TODD: Well, they are artistic. They are eccentric. But obviously there is some behavior that isn’t.
SARSGAARD: I would continue to watch Woody Allen movies. I’ll tell you that. I would go back and watch some of those movies. I mean, he’s a fantastic filmmaker.
TODD: Jeff Daniels, Peter Sarsgaard. Thank you.