The movie “Truth” was originally released on October 30, 2015, and was set in New York City, in 2004. IMDb described “Truth” as a newsroom drama that documented the 2004 incident involving CBS’s “60 Minutes,” when they reported President George W. Bush avoided his military service during the Vietnam War. This story ruined the career of anchor Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes. The “Truth” movie warned of the power of the government within mass media.
“Truth” was based on the book written by Mapes. It was adapted into a screenplay and directed by James Vanderbilt. “Truth” starred Robert Redford as Rather and Cate Blanchett as Mapes. Consortium News explained these journalists did what they were supposed to do, which was to keep the powers-that-be accountable for their actions.
Sony Pictures Classics and RatPac Entertainment began the story with Mapes being interviewed for the “60 Minutes” producer position and then jumps ahead six months with the program ready to air a story about the use of torture in the United States military. It has been argued, the job of journalists involves digging up facts to help the public understand important events, in order to maintain transparency and accountability.
The story about torture during the Iraqi War was an insult to the current president and his father’s administration. This embarrassment was not taken lightly since there were graphic images and direct testimony that portrayed the detainees being stripped of their clothes, suffering physical abuse and sexual humiliation. Bush was forced to claim he was morally against the extreme military practices.
The story of the Killian documents was later referred to as Rathergate, especially around the time of the 2004 presidential election. The nickname for the Killian documents focused the media more on Rather and Mapes than the truth depicted in their story. Additionally, there were several challenges the CBS team faced.
First of all, CBS provided experts who proved the documents were real but this only contradicted the experts the government used to discredit the documents. Next, the media started to dig into the personal backgrounds of Rather and Mapes, including their political histories and family lives. Finally, the reputations of both Mapes and Rather were destroyed because they had the courage to stand up and report the story they investigated.
In June 2004, there was evidence Bush was transferred to the National Guard as a pilot, which appeared to be odd during the Vietnam War. As the journalists continued to dig deeper into the evidence, the documents proved that on June 24, 1973, Bush never arrived to check in with his commanding officer. It was suggested, the transfer to the National Guard was Bush’s father’s political connections keeping his son away from harm.
The real scandal began when memos received months later stated, that by August 18, 1973, Bush never showed up to the National Guard and was never court-martialed for being AWOL. Mapes put together a team to work on this controversial story. As the story progressed, there were not any military or government personnel willing to back up their evidence. One person stated, “even if it was an issue, it was no issue.” Once again, this explains why “Truth” warned of the power of the government within mass media.
“There were no strings pulled,” was a popular statement coming from the people the investigation team talked to. Even the person who provided the documents was unwilling to go on the record because they were afraid and explained he tried to bring the story to light during the 2000 presidential election. The source wanted to remain anonymous, but the legal battle became so bad it was necessary for the source to stand up for the copies of the information provided.
The destruction of the original evidence and the reputations of Rather and Mapes, from the Killian documents, depicted a time when it was obvious the transparency of the government was nonexistent. These journalists exposed a corrupt president but the mass media protected the villain, who just happened to be the President of the United States. This is why the “Truth” movie warned of the power of the government in the mass media because it ruined the careers of Rather and Mapes.
Opinion by Kristina Lasher
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Sony Pictures Classics and RatPac Entertainment: “Truth”
IMDb: Truth (2015)
Consortium News: The Dark Truth in the Movie ‘Truth’
Image Courtesy of Gage Skidmore’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License