SHOCK: Lauer Asks if HBO Anita Hill Film is ‘Political Propaganda’

In a stunning moment on Friday’s NBC Today, co-host Matt Lauer actually pressed liberal actress Kerry Washington – starring in HBO’s new film on the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings – on whether the biopic was really just a piece of “political propaganda.”

Lauer started off seeming to lament asking the question: “You know, it seems nothing these days is without controversy. And there is some backlash on this.” However, he pointedly continued: “Some of the people who were involved in the actual historical event are saying, ‘Wait a minute, this is an overdramatized version. It's not how I remember it.’ Others are saying, this is political propaganda to support Anita Hill, and even support Hillary Clinton's run for the White House.”

Washington was unapologetic: “That’s interesting. I mean, for me, I’ve always felt it's important for me to not hold back on my political beliefs because of what I do for a living. I don't think that I should have to be any less of an American because I’m an actor.”

Lauer followed up: “But were you trying to make a political statement in this?” Washington assured him: “No, no....you can see that this is a film about very complicated people during a very complicated time. And you are actually pulled in the direction of a lot of the characters.”

She dismissed the critics: “A lot of the backlash is actually coming from people who haven't seen the film.”

On Tuesday, actor Greg Kinnear, who played Joe Biden in the movie, argued that the then-senator remained “impartial” throughout the smear campaign against Thomas during his Supreme Court confirmation process.  

Hear is a transcript of Lauer’s April 8 exchange with Washington:

8:39 AM ET

(...)

MATT LAUER: In addition to playing Anita Hill, you're the executive producer of this. And this is one of your first real big projects. Why this one?

KERRY WASHINGTON: You know, I think because it held such a memory from my childhood and it was my first experience of kind of understanding intersectionality as a person of color and as a woman and trying wrap my head around those identity politics. But I think also, I saw the documentary Anita a few years ago. And I loved the documentary but I wanted to know more, I wanted to peel back the layers of the onion and find out more. Not only about Anita, but I wanted to know more about Joe Biden and what he was feeling. I wanted to know more about Clarence Thomas and what he was feeling.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Kerry Washington Goes to Washington; Star on Controversial New Role in HBO’s “Confirmation”]

LAUER: You know, it seems nothing these days is without controversy.

WASHINGTON: Right.

LAUER: And there is some backlash on this.

WASHINGTON: Sure.

LAUER: Some of the people who were involved in the actual historical event are saying, “Wait a minute, this is an overdramatized version. It's not how I remember it.” Others are saying, this is political propaganda...

WASHINGTON: Sure.

LAUER: ...to support Anita Hill, and even support Hillary Clinton's run for the White House.

WASHINGTON: Oh, to be doing both at the same time?

LAUER: Yeah.

WASHINGTON: That’s interesting. I mean, for me, I’ve always felt it's important for me to not hold back on my political beliefs because of what I do for a living. I don't think that I should have to be any less of an American because I’m an actor.  

LAUER: But were you trying to make a political statement in this?

WASHINGTON: No, no. I mean, for me, what we tried to do, and it was extraordinarily challenging, to really go out and do as much research from all perspectives as we could. We talked to a lot of people on both sides of the aisle. We did an enormous amount of research. I myself read both Clarence Thomas's memoir, as well as Anita Hill's memoir. I mean, and read about every other book about the hearing at the time. We really wanted to make a film – and I think when you see the film, you can see that this is a film about very complicated people during a very complicated time. And you are actually pulled in the direction of a lot of the characters. A lot of the backlash is actually coming from people who haven't seen the film.

LAUER: Yeah, they haven't seen it yet, and they'll have to wait a couple of weeks before they do.

(...)

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