C for Censorship? CBS Bars Advertisements Of “The Truth” Movie On Bush Military Record

Truth_2015_posterThere is an interesting story coming out of CBS this week where the network has refused to air advertisements for Truth by Sony Pictures Classics. The problem is that the film starring Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford places CBS in a negative light in exploring the network controversy over airing the 2004 news story on former President George W. Bush’s military service record. The story was discredited and CBS fired producer Mary Mapes. Anchor Dan Rather later retired from CBS. [For full disclosure, I worked for CBS as an on-air analyst with Rather and thought very highly of him in our work on the Bush v. Gore coverage].

Dan_Rather_PeabodyThe movie has received high critical acclaim. Redford plays Dan Rather in Truth and Blanchett plays Mapes in recounting the investigation into Bush’s Vietnam War-era commitment to service in the Texas Air National Guard. The film tells the story from the perspective of Mapes and Rather. Rather left in 2006 and later unsuccessfully sued the network.

CBS views the movie as inaccurate and denounced it as a disservice to the public and journalists. However, that does not answer the question of a media company barring advertisements based on the content of a film. It seems to me rather hypocritical for an organization dedicated to free speech. Sony is advertising on ABC, NBC, Fox and several cable networks, but not CBS.

150px-CBS_Eyemark.svgCBS has an obvious conflict of interest in dealing with the film, which is precisely why I would have argued for neutrality in allowing the advertisements to air. There is no bar on CBS reporting on the film and challenging the accuracy. However, the blackout on advertising leaves the appearance that CBS wants to quash access or knowledge of a film that is inherently critical of CBS leadership in stomping on Mapes and Rather. CBS could well be right about the story and their work. However, that is a matter for public judgment and CBS should not be in a position of censoring advertisements when it does not like the content of a work.

When journalists are seen as censoring information because they disagree with a point of view, the result is an erosion of credibility and integrity of the field as a whole. Media has long subscribed to the view that the solution to bad speech is more speech. Here CBS is seeking to actively shield the public from knowledge of a film that is critical of its management. That is a far worst message than anything that the film make represent or misrepresent.

What do you think?

Source: CBS

53 thoughts on “C for Censorship? CBS Bars Advertisements Of “The Truth” Movie On Bush Military Record”

  1. Paul C. Schulte
    phillyT – what you forget is that National Guard and Reserve units were called up for active duty.

    Phillyt I guess these guys are too young to know the truth….
    Paul NO National Guard units were EVER sent to Vietnam! That is the irony of the whole thing! Bush’s congressman Daddy got him into the air-guard when the Guard units were FULL of people trying to avoid the draft. And then when Bush became President HE SENT the National Guard to fight his wars!!
    And then he strutted across a carrier deck in a flight suit, like he had EVER been in a war!!

    As for Bush’s military record it was lost,,,remember? THEN after a big stink, because the only records “lost” seemed to be in his time frame….and THEN Wa-La, they suddenly appeared again…Gee they weren’t “lost” at all… LoL

    1. John – National Guard units can be called to active duty in their state by either the governor or the President. You need to read more closely.

      1. Paul C. Schulte National Guard units can be called to active duty in their state by either the governor or the President. You need to read more closely.

        No, YOU need to read more closely.

        I said “Paul NO National Guard units were EVER sent to Vietnam!” I know they were called out to quell protests, and ended up shooting & bayoneting people to death! But the Guard units are not supposed to be sent overseas, they are a RESERVE unit. Only going after regular forces are sent.

        1. John – kinda funny about being sent oversea as a member of the National Guard. Until the mid-80s you needed the permission of the governor to take them out of state anywhere. Now you don’t. Today Obama could activate TANG and send it to Iraq.

          My point was that reserve and National Guard units got called to active duty all the time. Not that they got called to Vietnam. That was the point you completely missed. BTW, I became eligible for the draft in 1961, so, like everyone in my generation, I knew all the options.

  2. Here’s a snippet from Wikipedia on the fightin 147th fighter group W. joined:

    One well known champagne unit was the Texas Air National Guard 147th Fighter Interceptor Group, at Ellington Field in Houston. During the Vietnam War many well-connected sons landed in this posting, sometimes with the help of politicians such as Ben Barnes.[4]

    Lloyd Bentsen Jr., son of Lloyd Bentsen
    George W. Bush, son of George H. W. Bush
    John Connally III, son of John Connally Jr.
    the son of John Tower
    James R. Bath
    seven members of the Dallas Cowboys

  3. Bill Clinton didn’t break the law, he just avoided the draft, like Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney. What Bush did is ACTUALLY illegal and punishable.

    Fewer than 9,000 guard and reserves were called to serve in Vietnam–less than half a percent of the total number who served. So that’s just bogus. Here’s what Colin Powell said about the guard and Vietnam:

    “I am angry that so many sons of the powerful and well placed and many professional athletes (who were probably healthier than any of us) managed to wrangle slots in Reserve and National Guard units. Of the many tragedies of Vietnam, this raw class discrimination strikes me as the most damaging to the ideal that all Americans are created equal and owe equal allegiance to our country.”

    1. phillyT – interestingly enough Clinton was part of the ROTC program which kept him from being drafted. Fulbright got him into the ROTC unit.

  4. Joining the National Guard was a way of avoiding going to actual war back in the day. We all knew it, and anyone who says otherwise is flat out wrong. The issue was always Bush going AWOL and failing to complete his service, shoddy as it may have been.

    As I said before, Bush had the opportunity to direct that his entire military record be released and he declined to do so. The reasons why are pretty obvious.

    It’s just like his “Gentleman’s ‘C'” at Harvard Business School. Anyone who’s been to business school knows that if you got the Gentleman’s C, it means you failed the course.

    1. phillyT – what you forget is that National Guard and Reserve units were called up for active duty. The AWOL is a problem, but not as much as the draft dodging of Bill Clinton.

  5. http://www.salon.com/2010/05/20/bushreagan/

    “Take George W. Bush, whose controversial service as a Texas Air National Guard pilot was shrouded in mystery, evidently because he wanted to conceal the basic facts of his privileged admission to the TANG and his strange departure from its ranks. In his 2000 campaign autobiography, ghosted by Karen Hughes, Bush claimed that after completing his training in the F-102 fighter plane, “I continued flying with my unit for the next several years.” That simple sentence was entirely untrue, according to records eventually released by the Bush campaign, which showed that he had never flown in uniform again after his suspension from active duty in August 1972 for failing to show up for a mandatory physical examination.

    In the same book Bush also suggests that he tried to volunteer for service in Vietnam “to relieve active duty pilots” fighting the war. But, of course, the entire purpose of his privileged (and questionable) enlistment in the TANG was to avoid the Vietnam draft, as he hinted in a 1998 newspaper interview when he said: “I don’t want to play like I was somebody out there marching [to war] when I wasn’t. It was either Canada or the service and I was headed into the service.” Two years later, under the tutelage of Hughes, that momentary candor evaporated.”

    1. Inga – Salon does not understand what was going on at the time. If you enlisted, you were in for 3 years before reserves. If you are drafted, you did two years before reserves. However, most draftees went to Vietnam. Few enlistees went to Vietnam.
      Now, if you were drafted, you were a private. In TANG you were an officer.

  6. Paul C. Schulte
    John – Clinton was the draft dodger.

    The left’s evolution reveals it as unprincipled. When Clinton was a candidate they deemed any commentary regarding the draft as off limits since (a) it was widespread and understandable that people didn’t want to go and (b) the draft dodging amnesty was an effort to put it all behind us. This made sense to me and as I recall there weren’t many people arguing otherwise.

    But of course the second the subject was a Republican the media pushed a new standard, and thus they claim his service was a legitimate target even though Clinton’s avoidance was not.

    Hhahahahhahhaha the guy is a draft dodger!!!

    He volunteered to go to Vietnam with TANG. Don’t you people know anything?

  7. What do you think?

    I think the Bush crime family has a lot of pull. If Prescott Bush (Daddy Bush’s Dad) can conspire to overthrow the Government and still not do any time, there has to be a reason.

  8. Quote “Bush’s Vietnam War-era commitment to service in the Texas Air National Guard”

    WHAT “commitment to service”!?!?
    Hhahahahhahhaha the guy is a draft dodger!!!
    But young people don’t even realize it….sad.

    1. John – Clinton was the draft dodger. Joining the Reserves or National Guard was one option to avoid being actually drafted. Another included enlisting. Bush got the same deal that John Kerry got.

  9. selfhelp, Great comment. And, the guy who provided the doctored paperwork was a self described Bush hater. I have found in my personal and professional life, hate makes people do stupid stuff.

  10. In the end, CBS failed to conduct due diligence on the evidence. There’s no question of a strong bias against Bush in the news media, and this “memo” had the stink of “truthiness” to it. Had the powers that be not been suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome, they might have considered that such a powerful smoking gun was just a little too convenient and put more effort into examining it. Instead, since it told them what they wanted to hear, they tossed aside what remained of journalistic standards and ran with it. Rather deserves no break, because as a seasoned news warrior he should have demanded seeing it for himself and demanded corroborating evidence. Instead, he chose to be an overpriced talking head. Had he actually been Joe Nobody, Cub Reporter, he’d still have a job. But because of his reputation, which we now see was for past glory, he deserved the full fury of being shown as a fraud. Seriously, because this document was just exactly what they wanted, a big ol’ smokin’ gun that justified all of the mud slinging they’d been doing for years, an intelligent, reasonable approach would have been to treat it with kid gloves and really examine it and its history. But it was more important to use it as a club against Bush, because a close examination might lead to the discovery that it was a fraud, and it was just too good to let that happen. Even a trivial glance at it makes it obvious that it wasn’t produced when and where it was claimed, that it was the product of a modern word processor. But when you’re on the hunt for shit to fling and don’t care to sniff what you’re grabbing as a quality check, it’s easy to slip in some rubber dog shit and watch it bounce back.

  11. LOL! BDS is still rampant and deranged Dems are still fighting lost wars. Sad and tedious, not necessarily in that order.

  12. Dan Rather got played and he blew it bad. We will probably never know who pulled off the scam, probably one of Rove’s boys, but CBS booted him out before anyone could get to the bottom of it.

    In addition to being a drunk and a cocaine addict, W. also skipped out on his military service. He had an opportunity to release his actual records and “clear things up”, but he refused and because Rather looked so awful, everyone just let it go.

    There is no liberal media in the US, except maybe Mother Jones and Democracy Now. The networks are, and have been, corporate outlets for manipulation of what the public gets to see. It’s all for show, and so much worse since the networks all decided that the news centers needed to be profit centers. Sad, really.

  13. At one time the CBS show “Blue Bloods” (fictional police drama) tried to be more objective and truthful by including an ACLU character and point of view but seem to have abandoned that effort to portray the truth.

    By and large, CBS’ several cop shows have omitted the innaccuracy of our fraudulent “Fusion Centers” that operate blacklisting programs in every state against mostly innocent people violating their constitutional rights on a daily basis. There seems to be a mindset that constitutional policing is bad and ineffective among CBS writers.

  14. BFM, Superb comment @ 3:03p. There are legit journalists, and they were repulsed by what Mapes and Rather did. They are equally repulsed by what the washed up movie star[not actor] Robert Redford has done in trying to rewrite history. Rather could not find anyone but Al Gore’s short lived horseshit news network to hire him after he got the ax @ CBS. Rather lost his lawsuit w/ CBS. “What’s the frequency Kenneth” is his legacy. LOL!

  15. There is a great movie that came out around 2006 titled “Good Night & Good Luck” about Edward R. Murrow when CBS was at it’s best in the 1950’s.

    At that time news networks were being bullied by the FBI, DoD and corporate sponsors to censor the truth. Today the situation is far worse, those networks now have parent corporations that are more beholden to shareholders than to news.

    Also today with cable networks there is less objectivity, you can literally watch only the views that you agree with (ex: If you want yo believe a president is not a U.S. Citizen, there is a network that will tell you that). When there were only three major networks each network had a diverse audience, their audience consisted of viewers from every political party so each network had to be fairly objective. There was also a “Fairness Doctrine” that each network followed.

    Maybe press and media organizations should be made more independent with “unconditional” government grants to be used for objective news reporting. Along with national defense, the U.S. Constitution specifically mentions the Press – maybe they should receive grants based on a percentage of the military budget since a free and independent Press is also vital to our “constitutional democratic republic” form of government?

  16. “There is an interesting story coming out of CBS this week…” Interesting? INTERESTING????

    Whoever wrote this article is clueless as to the sheer depth of this problem and exactly where we’re headed. They’re up in the intellectual clouds. thinking that somehow we can just discuss this like civilized adults and somehow that will make it all better…for a while. And it’s only today that matters right? After this little discussion we can all go back to sleep like good reasonable, logical adults.

    They don’t call it programming for nothing, people. WAKE UP.


    “Fortunately, an increasing number of Americans are starting to WAKE UP up and are realizing that the mainstream media should not be trusted. According to a new poll just released by Gallup, the number of Americans that have little to no trust in the mainstream media (57%) is at an all-time high.”

    I beg to differ that the mainstream media can’t be trusted. They can be trusted to lie, and lie, and lie; by omission and commission. They can be trusted to have your “worst” interests at heart. They can be trusted to be government lap dogs and if you think our government is ‘we the people’ you are infantile and confused.

    “Americans are becoming increasingly hungry for the truth, and they are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the dumbed down pablum that is passing as “hard hitting news” these days.”


  17. This must be wonderful for Dan Rather, seeing headlines everywhere, “Dan Rather’s Lie”.


    “There are many things that real people do to become the subject of sympathetic movies. Make a flawless emergency landing in the Hudson River with a disabled jet full of passengers. Survive a devastating storm atop Mt. Everest. Become the most lethal sniper in the history of the US military.
    Before the advent of the movie “Truth,” no one would have thought broadcasting a shoddy and immediately discredited report that ruined the careers of the journalists involved and gave their storied network a black eye would make the list.
    “Truth” is “All the President’s Men” for reporters who botched their story about the president.”

    “Their report should be taught at journalism schools for a long time to come as an object lesson in how not to attempt journalism.”

    One of the watershed moments of the scandal was how independent fact checkers debunked the story online, forcing CBS to do an internal investigation that proved the entire story was fabricated.

    This must be one of those feel-good movies for people for whom the facts have no bearing on the matter. It’s all about emotion.

    Now, if the movie had been accurate, telling the tale of hard working journalists who fell pray to their own hubris, preconceived notions, and rushing to deadline, that could have been great drama.

    For all those “Truthers” out there:

    “The independent investigation commissioned by CBS concluded that there was no reason for Bush to need to rely on a political favor to get into the Guard, since it needed pilots. And the purported documents demonstrating Bush was AWOL were a disaster.
    The source of the documents, Bill Burkett, repeatedly changed his story about how he had come into possession of them. First, he said that they showed up in the mail; then, that he got them from a man named George Conn; finally, that a woman allegedly named Lucy Ramirez hooked him up with a “dark-skinned man” at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo Show. (Why not go all the way and say he found them on the Grassy Knoll?)

    The characteristics of the documents were consistent with Microsoft Word, not a typewriter in the early 1970s, and whoever wrote them made basic mistakes like referring to an officer who had already retired. CBS had no choice but to summarily fire Mapes and ease Rather out of one of the most prized seats in journalism.”

  18. This movie does not have any “truth” in it. The story was one of journalism malpractice, and “The Truth” tries to rewrite history.

    I would consider it unethical if CBS accepted advertising to promote a movie which fabricated the events that transpired. Of course, such a move is free advertising for the movie.

    It can receive critical acclaim as a work of fiction, but I consider it slander to claim such a work is a true story.

    The journalists involved were not persecuted for asking questions; they faced the consequences of relying on forged documents they failed to properly vet. They were grossly negligent as journalists, and should have faced the consequences for their actions. It is more honorable to admit they completely screwed up, and would be forevermore careful and conscientious in the future, than to write books and movies claiming they were wrongly maligned. Everyone makes mistakes, sometimes big ones. Put your big boy pants on, accept the consequences for your actions, and move on. Dan Rather did make an apology on air, but then he tried to sue CBS anyway.

    In a similar vein, I consider it irresponsible for the Acting Greats Robert Redford and Cate Blanchette to have clearly not researched the facts before lending their considerable talents to the film.

    For the sake of accuracy, critics have not uniformly praised the film. Some take issue with the manipulation of fact in a movie presented as non fiction. However, if it was a fictional film, such acting greats would indeed make for good cinema.

    What is especially troubling is that digging up this story actually further tarnishes the record of Dan Rather. He devoted his life to journalism, and did very good work. This was one bad mistake in a long career of broadcasting. But now, we’re all revisiting his darkest moment again, remembering his errors of judgement when we could be considering his career as a whole.

  19. ” there are some who passionately believe that Mr. Rather and his producer Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) conspired to tarnish George W. Bush’s reputation.”

    When you consider the timing of Rather’s broadcast I thought he was trying to single-handedly throw the election. Yep, I think, he thought he was that big – that he could really pull it off. And I am not even a Bush fan. What ever Rather was in the beginning, by the time this came around he had long since become a political hack.

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