Bruce Greenwood is getting a crash course in journalism for his latest role.
The character actor recently wrapped his scenes in “Truth,” which revisits how Dan Rather’s career capsized after his report on President George W. Bush’s military record got exposed by conservative blogs like Power Line.
Greenwood, who plays Mapes’ boss in the film, contends what we know about Rathergate is mostly fiction, and he knows why.
The incident “reflected poorly, ultimately, on CBS and Viacom who were unwilling to pursue the truth because there was legislation forthcoming that if they didn’t play ball with the [Bush] administration the legislation would have cost them millions and millions and millions of dollars,” Greenwood says. “Rather than allow Mary Mapes and Dan Rather to support their story, they allowed this avalanche of right-wing resistance to swamp the real story.”
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Greenwood’s take on Rathergate’s fallout? Modern journalists are “under the thumb” of the powers that be, not the news cycle.
“[‘Truth’] reminds you the stories that are told on CBS, NBC and the major networks, to some degree, are a function of what their brass is willing to address, and what their brass is willing to address has everything to do with their bottom line,” he says.
He complains that even Wikipedia has it wrong when it comes to Rathergate, according to his viewpoint.
“It’s a reminder that if bull-expletive is repeated often enough it becomes perceived truth, conventional wisdom,” he says.
CBS News’ 2004 report relied on documents from an ex-Texas National Guard officer casting a harsh light on Bush’s military record. Those documents were quickly attacked as forgeries by new media journalists, a charge neither Rather nor Mapes could realistically refute.
An independent investigation led by former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh and former Associated Press President Louis Boccardi found CBS’s report didn’t “follow basic journalistic principles.” Four CBS employees lost their jobs in the Rathergate fallout, including Mapes.
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Rather announced he would be retiring from his anchor chair prior to the investigation’s release. He later sued CBS for $70 million, claiming the network unfairly pinned the blame for the maligned story on him. The suit was dismissed in 2009.
Rather continues to defend the report, but despite hiring private investigators to find the truth has yet to produce evidence to back up his claim beyond the debunked documents.
Greenwood admits Rather and Mapes didn’t perform their duties flawlessly in the case.
“Could they have been smarter about how they pursued it and how they presented it? Oh sure,” he says.