Even Media Critics Can’t Find Any ‘Truth’ in Rather ‘Memo-gate’ Film

October 16th, 2015 12:46 PM

What’s more ironic: a film named “Truth” that tries to justify a lie; or liberal media critics lambasting the film as “lies” from “Hollywood liberals”?

The film is based off of former CBS “60 Minutes” producer Mary Mapes’ memoir surrounding false documents about President George W. Bush’s service record. Dan Rather reported the documents were legitimate and ended up tarnishing his credibility and ultimately ending his and Mapes’s careers in journalism. Mapes and Rather have contended over the years that the documents were legitimate and the media has given them many opportunities to defend themselves, despite the original report being thoroughly debunked years ago. 10 years later, enter Hollywood, and its attempt to rewrite history to exonerate their whistle-blowing “heroes” Mapes and Rather, in a film starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford, respectively.

So here you have a movie that slams George Bush and portrays liberal journalists as heroes. From a media perspective, what’s not to like? A lot, as is turns out.

The film’s sharpest critics largely resided in online media – no surprise there, considering it was bloggers who tore down Mapes’ report to begin with. However what is surprising is that Mapes’ story is being discredited this time by far-left media, including The Daily Beast and Vox.

Vox writer Todd VanDerWerff lamented, “Movies like Truth are why so many people hate ‘Hollywood liberals.’”  Wait, what? Yes, even this film is too liberal for the very-liberal Vox. Go figure.

He went on to call the film “morally simplistic” “liberal agitprop” and calls out its anti-Bush, anti-conservative message, writing:

“The real villains are society, the Bush administration, and unseen legions of internet commenters. It's a film built to assure people who agree with Mapes and Rather that, yes, they are doing good work for continuing to ask hard questions of people in power, but mostly Republicans. (It's hard to imagine this creative team producing a movie like this where the villain was the Clinton or Obama administrations.)” 

VanDerWerff even noted that this film will be lauded by Hollywood for its anti-conservative politics. “While there are conservative versions of the same thing,” he wrote, “[T]hey're mostly confined to fringe corners of our pop culture, whereas Truth will get an Oscar campaign and features big-name stars.”[emphasis added]

Lloyd Grove of the Daily Beast wrote that the the film “[L]ies about good journalism” and falsely portrays Rather and his producer Mary Mapes as “heroes” whose “real-life reporting failures show journalism at its shoddiest.” Grove fell short of criticizing the liberal bent of the film – this is the Daily Beast after all – mainly attacking the film making saints of Mapes and Rather, who clearly were in the wrong.

Entertainment Weekly’s Chris Nashawaty had some of the toughest criticism from the group, calling the protagonists “righteous fourth-estate saints.” He summarized his feelings on the film, writing, “For a movie about the importance of objectivity, Truth feels like a biased and sanctimonious op-ed column.” [emphasis added]

The Guardian’s Catherine Shoard also mocked the over-the-top treatment of Redford/Rather who seemed to have a perpetual halo over his head:

“The treatment of Rather is yet more telling. This isn’t an interpretation, it’s a deification. Here is a man of absolute scrupulousness and compassion, forever ringing up beleaguered colleagues to deliver measured pep talks or inspirational lessons about the history of TV news journalism, whose content you’d think they might already be familiar with. Rather’s one human tic is shown to be removing his blazer directly after shooting to-camera links. When he does this for the final time, the camera slows enormously, as adoring crew cheer and clap. The effect is fatal: not only do you vaguely think he might be about to get all his kit off, it undermines any hope of impartiality.” [emphasis added]

Shoard noted that the film was clearly made to preach to the choir, writing, “It’s a noisy, one-note rally for the converted that gets your pulse racing even if you’re rolling your eyes.”

Business magazine Forbes also criticized the film, saying it “misses the essential contradiction in its morality play.”

The movie has dismal ratings so far from critics--- 66% on Rotten Tomatoes as of Friday morning. However some in the media were still fans of the film. Such as the Huffington Post, which spent a majority of its review attacking Bush rather than critiquing the movie.  Others, like Deadline remain oblivious to the bias in the film, writing,

"The whole thing became a black eye in CBS’ view and Mapes, and finally Rather, were basically thrown under the bus. It began Rather’s downfall at the network. Vanderbilt has meticulously laid it all out, without turning anyone into heroes or villains." [emphasis added]

Most critics would certainly disagree with that assessment.