Chris Matthews the politics and news junkie certainly knows better than to buy the malarkey that is the Dan Rather Memogate story as told in the new box-office dud Truth. But Chris Matthews the star-struck cinemaphile won out last night as the Hardball host treated guest Robert Redford with fawning adulation, both for his body of work as an actor and for putting a positive spin on the discredited journalist Dan Rather with a sympathetic portrayal in the new movie.
Here's the transcript of the love fest (emphases mine):
Nov. 2, 2015; 7:47 p.m. Eastern
CHRIS MATTHEWS: We’re back. Renowned actor Robert Redford is famous for movies he starred in about politics and journalism. Movies like The Candidate, where as a U.S. Senate hopeful his character challenges the political establishment. And another about investigative journalism in All the President’s Men or a movie about broadcast television journalism with the romantic drama Up Close and Personal.
And now he’s starring in a new film about a crisis in journalism and the movie’s called Truth. It recalls the firestorm about the 2004 CBS 60 Minutes investigating then-President George W. Bush’s service records in the Texas Air National Guard.
Several producers and executives at CBS lost their jobs because of that report, including the legendary CBS Evening News anchor Dan rather. Robert Redford plays Rather himself in the film. Let’s watch.
[brief clip from Truth/ Sony Pictures Classics]
MATTHEWS: Robert Redford joins me now. Robert, thanks so much for joining us tonight live. What made you want to get into this, hot, talk about a hot issue. I mean, it's the end of Dan rather who’s a friend of mine and I’d like to think you are, too. Boy, talk about controversy, the media, the world we’re in right now with the fights over the debates and the moderators. You’re right in the middle of the stew right now. I think. Your thoughts?
ROBERT REDFORD: Well right in the middle of the stew, well, I don't think I'm in the middle of the stew going on politically right now.
I mean, for me, this is a personal opinion, it feels like loony tunes and note-so-merry melodies. I mean it’s kind of for me, it’s kind depressing in terms of what we could be hearing but aren't. So, but that’s my personal opinion.
MATTHEWS: What about the movie? I'm talking about what happened to Dan Rather. Do you think, at the heart of it is an investigative report on George Bush's Air National Guard story which is a hell of a good story. Did he in fact show up? Was he in fact given special special treatment. These are all good questions. But then the whole thing came down to the documents that Bill Burkitt produced that turned out to be highly questionable, to put it lightly.
REDFORD: Well, look, for me I’m all about story. That's what I'm about, is what's the story. You know, and who are the characters that embody the story. But for me, at that time, that was a story that I don't think ever got fully told. It was an open and shut case. It popped up and went back down again so fast you wondered, well, wait a minute, wasn't there more to this? We never knew until now. So I think what the film does or tries to do is to open it up to look at what the full story was and let the audience decide for themselves how they feel about it.
MATTHEWS: How do you think rather comes off?
REDFORD: As me playing him or Dan himself?
MATTHEWS: No, you're great. In fact, you've opened the door to my applause now. I think you really caught him, his formality, his good old boy -- his Texas thing combined with his formality, the way he's a bit awkward personally. He's a good guy, but he’s very awkward. I think you captured all of that. And so did Cate Blan—I don’t know her but she's just charismatic. That's all. The way she played it. But you really got Rather, I thought.
REDFORD: Cate can do anything.
REDFORD: Thank you. It was not an easy -- it was a challenge for me as an actor. But I enjoyed that because I had to play somebody that was very well known on a nightly basis and everybody knew what he looked like. And if I was going to play him I couldn't -- if I mimicked him that would be a caricature of him and that would be terrible.
On the other hand, how to get an essence of a guy, and you hit some of the points, Chris. But he's very polite, he's very -- he's -- he has a genuine compassionate exterior. But what I found out, what sat underneath that was a tremendous kind of a wolf desire to get to the truth. And so that dichotomy is what interested me.
MATTHEWS: You know, I look at all your movies and I think about you're always going -- the great movies, the series about winners. And of course The Candidate being one of them. I hope you do a sequel to that some day. The Candidate, I still think is the best political movie and I've seen them all. I think you’ve got that.
Investigative reporting, you have the fabulous Woodward-Bernstein team. You captured the excitement and the honesty of those guys, and the courage to take on a presidency and all his men and to have them do it just as two young guys. I mean, you really do find the romance in politics and in journalism and especially when they clash, like this movie shows.
REDFORD: Well, that's because, that's because what I'm most interested in is the characters themselves. With Woodward and Bernstein, when I went into that, and I spent four years working on that project, there was a similarity by the way with what's happening with Rather and Mary Mapes and Woodward and Bernstein, there's a difference because with Woodward and Bernstein they were going after the truth, they were digging in to get to the truth against the odds of an administration that did not want that revealed.
REDFORD: But they had the support of their bosses. They had Kay Graham and they had Ben Bradlee. They had their support. On this situation you had Rather and Mapes trying to do the very same thing, but in the end they did not have the support of their bosses because if you look at the picture then you get into the whole thing about the conjunction between corporations—
MATTHEWS: Yeah, I know.
REDFORD: --media and journalism. And I remember -- boy, I'll tell you. I'm a big devotee of honest good news. And I remember there was a time, and I think the film says this, there was a time when the news was sacrosanct. There was -- that's what it was. Entertainment had its area and the news had its area. It was sacrosanct.
Slowly what happens, entertainment at some point begins to creep into the news and it changed the dynamic. I think that's kind of sad because I think news is vitally important.
MATTHEWS: Yeah. I think you're right about the feature pieces that they do. By the way, I've never told you this but I've got to tell you-I was in the Peace Corps on my way home from two years in Africa. I go to Mombasa in Kenya and I go to see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I thought I had come home. That was America. You know, the country had changed in two years, and that movie was such a cultural iconic piece.
Number two, a little more applause here for Robert Redford. I think Quiz Show is one of the best movies ever made. And you made it. That movie is perfect.
REDFORD: Thank you.
MATTHEWS: And it gets better every time I see it. Robert Redford's done it again with Truth. Thank you so much for coming on the show tonight. And it’s at the theaters right now.
# # #