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40 Years After “All the President’s Men,” Redford Plays Another Journo Challenging Power in “Truth”

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Forty years ago, the legendary actor Robert Redford starred in one of the most celebrated journalism films of all time: “All The President’s Men.” Redford and Dustin Hoffman portrayed Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein investigating the Watergate scandal that eventually brought down President Nixon. In his most recent film “Truth,” Robert Redford portrays another journalist—this time CBS reporter Dan Rather. The film is based on CBS producer Mary Mapes’ 2005 memoir about how she was fired and Rather was forced to resign after they reported that George W. Bush received special treatment in the U.S. Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. Redford joins us in Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival, which he founded in 1978.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to Robert Redford, the legendary actor. Forty years ago, in '76, he starred in one of the most celebrated journalism films of all time, _All the President's Men_. He and Dustin Hoffman portrayed Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein investigating the Watergate scandal that eventually brought down President Nixon. Well, now, in his most recent film, Truth, Robert Redford portrays another journalist—this time CBS reporter Dan Rather. The film based on CBS producer Mary Mapes’ memoir about how she was fired and Rather was forced to resign after they reported that George W. Bush received special treatment in the U.S. Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. This is the film’s trailer.

MIKE SMITH: [played by Topher Grace] Why did you get into journalism?

DAN RATHER: [played by Robert Redford] Curiosity. Why did you get into it?


ANDREW HEYWARD: [played by Bruce Greenwood] Ladies and gentlemen, I give you my friend, Dan Rather.

MARY MAPES: [played by Cate Blanchett] I’m the producer. I put the team together. We have Lucy Scott to run point. Colonel Roger Charles worked Abu Ghraib for us. Mike Smith, who was a researcher for us back in 2000.

DAN RATHER: What’s our next move?

MARY MAPES: I might have something for the election.

LUCY SCOTT: [played by Elisabeth Moss] The president of the United States may have gone AWOL from the military.

LT. COL. ROGER CHARLES: [played by Dennis Quaid] He never even showed up.

LT. COL. BILL BURKETT: [played by Stacy Keach] Those parts of the file they didn’t like, they tossed in the waste basket.

MARY MAPES: Do you have these documents?

MIKE SMITH: These really are the holy grail of documents.

BETSY WEST: [played by Rachael Blake] You’ve got three hours.

JOSH HOWARD: [played by David Lyons] We’re out of time.

MARY MAPES: Start outputting. Go.


MIKE SMITH: Go, go, go!

DAN RATHER: Tonight, we have new information on the president’s military service.

Here’s to a great story.

BETSY WEST: Hey, Mary, these blogs are saying that the memos can be recreated in Microsoft Word.

REPORTER: Several experts have raised serious questions.

DAN RATHER: They’re going to start an investigation.

MIKE SMITH: This is bad.

MARY MAPES: They do not get to do this! They do not get to smack us just for asking a question!

JOSH HOWARD: They want to talk to your source.

LT. COL. ROGER CHARLES: Now, it’s bad.

MARY MAPES: I never should have asked questions.

MARK WROLSTAD: [played by John Benjamin Hickey] You’ve got to make your case, honey. You have to fight.

DAN RATHER: Somebody has got to confirm those memos.

DICK HIBEY: [played by Andrew McFarlane] This isn’t a trial. This is a hunt.

LAWRENCE LANPHER: [played by Dermot Mulroney] What we are talking about is you bringing your politics into your reporting.

MARY MAPES: I did nothing of the kind.

LAWRENCE LANPHER: Where does politics not enter into this?

MARY MAPES: Our story was about whether the president fulfilled his service. Nobody wants to talk about that. They want to talk about fonts and forgeries. And they hope to God the truth gets lost in the scrum.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the trailer to Robert Redford’s most recent film, called Truth. Well, I met up with him at the Sundance Film Festival on Monday, where he founded the film festival in 1978. I began by asking Robert Redford to talk about the film Truth.

ROBERT REDFORD: It was basically the story of Dan and his producer, Mary Mapes, and what happened in that time when he got fired. And what I remember at that time—I think it was working, doing a film. And what I remember was that he was at the top of his game. There were the main anchors. There as—he followed Cronkite, and then there was Brokaw and then Jennings. And he was the top dog and had a huge following. And what I remember was they were going—vaguely, they were going after a story about Bush’s Air National Guard record, which was full of holes. And they were beginning to dig into that, and it was threatening the administration, which was Bush at that time. So the Bush administration was putting pressure on CBS to back off. I didn’t know the details of all this. All I knew was that there was this story coming out and that it stopped, you know, open and shut real—and I always thought, “Well, I wonder if there’s more to that story?”

So, anyway, here was the chance, because Jimmy Vanderbilt opened it up to tell the fuller story. Well, obviously, it wasn’t going to put CBS in a rosy position, so you expected them to go after it, which they did. But, for me, it was a chance to say, ah, OK, so this was maybe—I don’t know if it was the first time—if you’re thinking about All the President’s Men. I don’t know if it was the first time that you had a conjunction between corporate America, journalism and—corporate America, journalism and entertainment. Those three things that used to be separate came together. And so I felt that was a story that was really worth telling.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to show you back playing Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men.

BEN BRADLEE: [played by Jason Robards] Surveillance, who’s doing it?

BOB WOODWARD: [played by Robert Redford] It’s been done. People’s lives are in danger, maybe even ours.

BEN BRADLEE: Wait a minute. What happened to that justice source of yours?

CARL BERNSTEIN: [played by Dustin Hoffman] Well, I guess I made the instructions too complicated, because he thought I said “hang up,” when I just said “hang on.”


BOB WOODWARD: The story is right. Haldeman was the fifth man to control that fund, and Sloan would have told the grand jury.

CARL BERNSTEIN: Sloan wanted to tell the grand jury.

BEN BRADLEE: Why didn’t he?

CARL BERNSTEIN: Because nobody asked him.

BOB WOODWARD: Nobody asked him. The cover-up had little to do with the break-in. It was to protect covert operations, and the covert activities involve the entire U.S. intelligence community.

BEN BRADLEE: Did Deep Throat say that people’s lives are in danger?


BEN BRADLEE: What else did he say?

BOB WOODWARD: He said everyone is involved.

AMY GOODMAN: So that’s you, Robert Redford, playing Bob Woodward in All the President’s Men, this 40-year arc as journalists try to take on power, take on the presidency. I mean, it worked in All the President’s Men. Here, Dan Rather was crushed, and Mary Mapes.

ROBERT REDFORD: Well, the difference—in terms of the two, the difference that I could see is that in All the President’s Men these two reporters were doing very much what Dan and Mary were trying to do. They were trying to dig underneath what was being covered up. They were trying to get underneath the cover-up, say what’s the real truth, what’s the real story. So they succeeded because they were given—they were given permission, and they were given license by The Washington Post. So their bosses stood behind them. In Dan’s case, his boss did not. So, CBS did not stand behind Dan and Mary.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, they were going through a corporate takeover at the time.

ROBERT REDFORD: That’s right. And so, they were not supported. But in All the President’s Men, what those guys could have done, if they—couldn’t have done, if they didn’t have the support of the paper, because the paper was going against an administration that was trying to knock them out. So, to me, that was the big difference.

AMY GOODMAN: Is having your media institution behind you.

ROBERT REDFORD: Support you.

AMY GOODMAN: And the power of a media that’s holding those in power accountable.

ROBERT REDFORD: Uh-huh. Oh, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think there’s a problem with that these days, especially—not only when it comes to government, but when it comes to corporations and corporate power?

ROBERT REDFORD: Well, I think it speaks for itself, doesn’t it? I mean, yes, I do. I think it’s changed drastically, not to the better, but it’s changed drastically. And so, the position of the media and the position of corporate control, to me, that—and then, when it comes to politics, you can see what that’s about, when—I think things are always changing. It’s inevitable that things are going to change. So, what happened here, we got Citizens United, which changed the picture, so now you have PACs and things like that, with all that—so money did step into politics in a major way, which I don’t think is healthy. And then you had the political division between the two parties, where there was no—there’s no longer a time when the two parties come together to work on something, which during the Watergate time they did. That’s gone. So we have this polarization. You’ve got this kind of—it’s like a war zone. And it makes me sad for journalism, but it makes me sad for my country to see how it’s been divided up by this vitriol.

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