There they go again. Liberals, that is. The left is fuming over CBS’s decision to pull “The Reagans” miniseries, crying censorship and the like.
Of course it’s not censorship when a commercial network decides to pull a product that might lose money and certainly would have tarnished its reputation. But that hasn’t stopped the carping.
USA Today TV critic Robert Bianco—who thankfully did not use the “c” word—called CBS “cowardly” for its “shameful” decision to “rob viewers of a chance to decide the movie’s merits for themselves.” But that’s the thing: the “merits” were often fictitious, even by the filmmakers’ own admissions.
Notice the language used in a typical defense of “The Reagans”: Drexel University dean Jonathan Estrin whining, “The right to free expression of opinion is damaged by this.” The film was not supposed to be “opinion,” but fact. Therein lies the real problem.
The prime example of the filmmakers’ imagination was having James Brolin, playing the former President, say that HIV-AIDS patients deserved to die. “They that live in sin shall die in sin”—a line that the movie’s makers admit was created out of whole cloth.
There is nothing wrong with opinion journalism—something in which this columnist regularly engages—but facts must be treated as the stubborn things that they are. Leftist magazines such as the Nation, Mother Jones, and Washington Monthly take regular potshots at Reagan and his legacy—but they can’t create facts to bolster their cases.
Sure, Hollywood never has adhered to the strict rules of the publishing business. “The Reagans,” though, was being billed as an historical biography, which necessarily implies truthful and accurate depictions of Reagan’s two terms. But by all accounts, the film wasn’t.
The film’s backers, in fact, went out of their way to emphasize to the press that theirs was a fair portrayal of the Reagan years. An executive for the production company behind the miniseries said in June, “It’s a well-rounded look at these two people… and in the end, it’s going to be a balanced story.”
The filmmakers could have followed in the footsteps of Oliver Stone and crafted a fictionalized tale that included historical fact. It could have even carried the tag “inspired by true events,” just like the current Hollywood blockbuster, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” But doing so would have interfered with the apparent primary objective of the miniseries: smearing the reputation of the Alzheimer-stricken Reagan.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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