US Network CBS Bans Ads for New Film That Exposes Its Inaccurate Reporting

US Network CBS Bans Ads for New Film That Exposes Its Inaccurate Reporting © AP Photo/ Steven Senne

03:12 17.10.2015(updated 09:00 17.10.2015) Get short URL

CBS has banned promotional materials for an upcoming film that details a controversial moment in the US network’s history.

The Sony Pictures Classics film Truth, which stars Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett and saw a limited US release on Friday, explores a discredited 2004 story CBS ran on its 60 Minutes II program that questioned then-US President George W. Bush’s Vietnam-era military service record.

CBS defended its move to refuse advertising the movie, claiming “Truth” contained anything but.

“It’s astounding how little truth there is in ‘Truth,” said Gil Schwartz, chief spokesman for CBS Corp. and a character in the movie. “There are, in fact, too many distortions, evasions and baseless conspiracy theories to enumerate them all. The film tries to turn gross errors of journalism and judgment into acts of heroism and martyrdom.

“That’s a disservice not just to the public but to journalists across the world who go out every day and do everything within their power, sometimes at great risk to themselves, to get the story right,” he said.

The film is based on the bestseller “Truth and Duty,” written by 60 Minutes II producer Mary Mapes, played in the film by Blanchett, who was behind the scandalous story together with anchor Dan Rather, played by Robert Redford. It tells the story, from Mapes and Rather’s perspective, of an investigation into Bush’s commitment to service in the Texas Air National Guard that did a number on the network’s reputation, after documents used in the story were called into question and couldn’t be verified. CBS issued an apology and fired Mapes and three news executives.

The scandal also hastened the end of Rather’s career at CBS; he left the network on bitter terms in 2006 and unsuccessfully sued the network. He and Mapes have maintained that despite the discredited proof, the underlying story they reported about Bush was true.

A multi-million dollar ad buy campaign for the film sought to promote it on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show, the CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning and 60 Minutes, but the network’s top managers rejected it, according to Sherri Callan, president of Callan Advertising, the company that places ads for Sony Pictures Classics.

Rival networks ABC, NBC, Fox and several cable networks are currently advertising film. CBS confirmed their rejection of the campaign, and told Callan it was not comfortable running them because of inaccuracies and distortions it portrayed, and that it risked offending longtime CBS News employees, the Associated Press reported.

Brad Fischer, one of the film’s producers, was surprised by CBS’ decision.

“I don’t think anyone expected them to send flowers,” Fischer said. “To get an official statement from them that is negative was not surprising to anyone involved in the film. I think the one thing that surprised everyone was the tone and the emotional nature.”

Mapes and Rather, who were accused of having a political motivation to go after Bush, had supporters at CBS News who slammed the network’s news executives for being pressured by Viacom, the mass media holding that owns CBS, who they say was reluctant to worsen relations with the president’s administration.

“I’m excited for people to see the film, and talk about the issues and ask the questions themselves,” Fischer said, “because I don’t think the movie really draws a conclusion about these things. I don’t think it’s our job as filmmakers to draw a conclusion, but rather to pose the questions.”

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