Fortune, ABC News

CBS Bans Ads for Movie About 2004 Scandal; ‘Open Warfare’ Predicted as Film Opens Today

Oct 16, 2015  •  Post A Comment

With today’s opening of the movie “Truth” shining a light on a TV news scandal that many of the key players would rather forget, Fortune magazine is predicting open warfare.

The movie, “Truth,” stars Robert Redford and Cate Blanchett, and focuses on Dan Rather’s botched “60 Minutes II” report in 2004 on George W. Bush’s military record.

“In that report — which has become a watershed moment in American TV journalism — CBS anchor Dan Rather accused Bush of having shirked his Vietnam-era guard duty, and CBS was, in turn, accused of shoddy journalism,” Fortune reports. “Dan Rather retired in the wake of the uproar and consequent investigation. The producer behind the piece, Mary Mapes, never worked in TV news again. It’s an 11-year-old case, but the wounds seem as fresh as yesterday.”

ABC News is reporting today that CBS has banned advertising for “Truth.”

“Sony Pictures Classics sought a multi-million dollar ad buy to promote the film on Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show,’ the ‘CBS Evening News,’ ‘CBS This Morning’ and ’60 Minutes,’ but was turned down, said Sherri Callan, president of Callan Advertising, the company that places ads for Sony,” ABC News reports.

The movie is being advertised on ABC, NBC and Fox, along with cable, the ABC News story notes, adding: “CBS, which confirmed the rejection, told Callan it was not comfortable accepting the ads because of inaccuracies and distortions in the movie, and that it would offend longtime CBS News employees.”

The network has been sending out a statement about the movie for weeks, the Fortune report notes, quoting a CBS spokesperson saying in the release: “It’s astounding how little truth there is in ‘Truth.’ 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.”

In their own statement, the producers of “Truth” take a different position. The report quotes them saying: “Although we understand CBS wants to put this episode behind them, it’s disappointing that they seem to be so concerned about our film. The events depicted in ‘Truth’ are still vigorously debated, and that’s a good thing. It’s a fascinating story at the intersection of politics, media and corporate America and features powerhouse performances from Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford and the rest of the cast. We hope people will see the film and judge for themselves.”

Fortune adds: “It will be all but impossible for audiences to determine guilt or innocence, dereliction of duty or devotion to veracity, based strictly on the movie: Its screenplay was adapted by James Vanderbilt from Mapes’ own memoir, ‘Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power,’ in which she strenuously defends her work on what became known as ‘Rathergate’ (or ‘Memogate’). Her position is that the right-wing blogosphere and other forces devoted to Bush’s re-election (he was just behind John Kerry in the polls at that time) conspired to undermine her reportage and that CBS acquiesced.”

We encourage readers to click on the link near the top of this story to read Fortune’s full analysis.

Here’s a trailer for the movie:


  1. This level of arrogance on the part of CBS is a big part of why this incident happened in the first place. CBS’ inability to accept that they did something wrong, even after all of these years, shows that they still haven’t learned their lesson.

  2. The film’s producers should be thrilled with additional publicity this move will generate — worth many millions more than the value of whatever the ad buy on CBS would have offered. A hilarious misstep on CBS’s part, if their intention is to suppress interest in the movie.

  3. ‘Dan Rather knows how to grandstand and gain sympathy. At the Democratic Convention in Chicago he managed to get himself into a situation where he became the victim of police brutality on the convention floor. Way beck in Texas during a hurricane he managed to grab the spotlight on himself as he reported from a hotel (according to his book the camera never blinks) and milk it for all it was worth. He didn’t go after Democrat President Johnson after the Gulf of Tonkin fabrication. But if he could pee on a Republican president from his lofty perch as CBS Evening New’s pulpit, pee he would and did. He drank the Cool Aid and this time it was fatal.

  4. Fred, just leave your head in that dark place. “W” was a privileged no-show and every-one with a single synapse firing knows it. Rather was railroaded by a network that cowardly backed down to the existing administration, and that network is still cowardly hanging on to that today. But, it won’t matter because most of the Neanderthal Republicans will never go and see this movie. Fred, pick up your arms, your knuckles are dragging on the ground, your liable to hurt yourself.

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