Mark Paoletta has a vested interested in HBO's "Confirmation."
Paoletta was an Assistant Counsel to the President in the George H.W. Bush White House and worked on Clarence Thomas’ Supreme Court confirmation. He also reached out to Thomas at the time, a communication that became an enduring friendship.
And Paoletta understands that HBO’s take on the high-profile confirmation could influence a generation that didn’t grow up watching the hearings on TV.
So HollywoodInToto.com reached out to Paoletta regarding the film, debuting at 8 p.m. EST April 16, as well as his ties to the production.
HiT: How did HBO contact you initially, and what was your reaction when you read the project’s script? Did HBO directly supply that to you?
Paoletta: I received a voicemail from a consultant for HBO asking to meet with me about this movie. Given HBO’s track record, I thought the movie would be a hit piece and did not return the call. When I read the script, I knew my instincts had been correct. I did not receive the script directly from HBO.
HiT: Projects like this don’t always follow the truth to the letter. There’s creative license in play, particularly for dramatic effect. But it sounds like the script you read had serious conflicts with the truth. Can you describe one or two moments that jumped out to you?
Paoletta: There is dramatic license and then there is dishonesty and deceit. Based on the script I reviewed, which is from pretty late in the filming process, the agenda of this movie is to rewrite history by making Anita Hill more credible than she was during the actual hearings. Her story did not add up, and her so-called corroborating witnesses were incredibly weak.
The American people watched these hearings end to end, transfixed to their television sets, and had the opportunity to make their own assessments of credibility without the liberal spin machine telling them what they should think. By the end of those hearings, the American people believed Thomas by a 2-1 margin. The left has been trying to re-write this history ever since. This is just another chapter in that effort.
With respect to a few scenes, it is what they leave out that’s most important. For instance, one of the key problems with Anita Hill’s story is that she followed Clarence Thomas to another agency, even after he allegedly sexually harassed her. Who follows their harasser to another job? And this was a Yale-educated lawyer.
Anita Hill’s answers explaining why she followed Clarence Thomas to another agency were not at all credible and were proven to be false. These exchanges really damaged Hill’s credibility. And none of them were in the script I reviewed.
The movie’s portrayal of Hill’s interaction with the Committee is also misleading. Based on a rumor she helped to start, Anita Hill was initially evasive when first contacted by Senate staffers. It was only after she spoke with Jim Brudney, a Democratic staffer who had gone after Thomas for many years, that she tried to take out Thomas with an anonymous smear.
The Committee staff told her that the FBI would have to interview her and Thomas about her allegations before the Committee could move forward, and she at first refused. Those exchanges are not in the movie.
Indeed, Jim Brudney was not in the script I reviewed at all. He collaborated with Anita Hill and many believe he is the one who leaked her confidential statement to the Committee and started this whole circus. But the movie just ignores it entirely.
HiT: Have you spoken to others who were connected to the hearings about the project? What have they said about it?
Paoletta: I have spoken with two Senators who were involved in the hearings and both thought that it was a hit job on Thomas. Senator Alan Simpson summed it up best when he told The Hollywood Reporter: “Anita Hill looks good, Clarence Thomas looks bad, and the rest of us look like bumbling idiots.”
HiT; If you were writing “Confirmation,” what critical story elements would you insist be part of the narrative, moments that best allow audiences to understand what really happened?
Paoletta: How Thomas had been a controversial figure for years, earning the ire of left-wing interest groups for taking tough stances on affirmative action as a black conservative Chairman of the EEOC.
I would show how Anita Hill began this rumor and how she attempted to use the system to take down Thomas with an anonymous allegation. I would show the many, many times Hill was confronted with inconsistencies in her testimony. I would show how weak her so-called corroborating witnesses were.
I would show the testimony of all of the dozen women who used to work with Thomas and testified on his behalf. They gave extremely powerful and moving testimony about Clarence Thomas’ decency and how Hill’s allegations were ludicrous. Many waited until the middle of the night before they were allowed to do so. By contrast, not one of Anita Hill’s former co-workers testified in support of Hill’s allegations at the hearings.
HiT: Have you been contacted by reporters regarding the film’s release? Have they treated you fairly, objectively?
Paoletta: I have been contacted by many reporters and I have been treated fairly by and large. I think there is an interest in knowing the real facts of what happened.
What people forget is that Anita Hill, in the 1990s, vigorously defended Bill Clinton from the numerous sexual assault and sexual harassment allegations against him. She belittled the claims of Paula Jones – who President Clinton eventually paid $850,000 in a settlement – as well as Monica Lewinsky and Kathleen Willey.
Many women have come forward with strong evidence of sexual assault conduct by Clinton, conduct that is far worse than anything ever alleged against Clarence Thomas. But the women’s groups give Clinton a free pass – because he’s a liberal.
Anita Hill went on “Meet the Press” to discuss the Paula Jones case in 1998 and said that there are “larger issues than just personal behavior,” to consider, essentially saying that if you are pro-choice, we will forgive you for any sexual harassment. That’s pretty stunning.
HiT: Who is Angela Wright, and what do viewers need to know about her before watching the film?
Paoletta: Angela Wright, the so-called second woman who would testify to having experienced similar treatment as alleged by Hill, is made more credible in HBO’s movie than she was in reality. Wright had a very spotty employment record, including being fired by Thomas for using a homophobic slur against another colleague.
She had made baseless allegations of racism against a previous supervisor at another agency, and when that supervisor was nominated to a new job, Wright leveled those same baseless allegations to the Senate Committee considering her old boss’ nomination.
Additionally, a friend of Wright told the FBI that Wright had told her in August of 1991 (when Thomas’ nomination was pending) that she still wanted to “get back” at Thomas for firing her. None of this is in the movie. Wright eventually declined to testify on the advice of counsel, apparently because she knew her past record would be exposed and her credibility would be tatters. The Democrats were happy to not have her testify.
But ever since the hearings ended, the Democrats have tried to argue that Wright was somehow prevented from testifying, and that if she had taken the stand, Thomas would not have been confirmed.
HiT: Early ‘Confirmation’ reviews suggest then-Sen. Joe Biden is treated with respect, not criticism. Is that a fair depiction?
Paoletta: Based on the script I read, that is absolutely false. He is treated as being hostile or insensitive to Hill’s allegations. In reality, Biden was trying to prevent his committee from being used as a star chamber, where a nominee is not allowed to confront his accuser.
HiT: HBO executives are defending the project, claiming the script you saw was an early version and that the film is fair and balanced. Response?
Paoletta: The version I reviewed is dated in late July. According to news reports, principal filming took place in late June in Atlanta and was expected to finish in early August. They may have made tweaks but it will be fundamentally the same product I reviewed. It is still geared toward falsely increasing the credibility of Hill so that her allegations are more believable. I will have a review once I have watched the movie.
HiT: HBO has every right to produce movies like this … and slant them however they wish. What is the proper response from those who strongly disagree with the channel’s point of view?
Paoletta: I have decided to create a website, www.confirmationbiased.com, that will provide information and context that I think is missing from this movie and help provide a more accurate depiction of what happened 25 years ago, and why the American people believed Clarence Thomas by a 2-11 margin. The site will have explainers, source documents, and videos from the actual hearings. This is a fact-based site, not a Hollywood movie.
HiT: Why do you think HBO is going through with this project now?
Paoletta: HBO is a studio with a history of hit jobs against Republicans – just look at “Game Change.” This movie is just another part of the left’s efforts to marginalize Clarence Thomas – especially since, after the death of Justice Scalia, Thomas is now one of the dominant conservative voices on the Supreme Court.
It may also be seen as an attempt to reboot the bogus GOP “war on women” narrative during this election season as Hillary Clinton is running for the White House.
If HBO were interested in making a topical movie on sexual harassment, why not make a movie about the Clintons’ war on women? It could examine how cleaning up after Bill’s philandering led Hillary to run the Clinton campaign’s damage control operations to discredit many women during Bill’s run for the White House in 1992. Many people would watch that movie!