In its failed attempt to validate discredited CBS reporting on President George W. Bush's alleged preferential treatment in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War, the new movie "Truth" is flopping at the box office and failing to convince viewers that news anchor Dan Rather got his facts straight.
Months before the 2004 presidential election, CBS's "60 Minutes Wednesday" ran a story which claimed that Bush, the son of a congressman, was given special treatment during the Vietnam War. It alleged that Bush was taken into the Texas Air National Guard to avoid being sent to Vietnam, that he failed to complete his assignments and that he had been released early so that he could go to business school.
However, the report was based off National Guard documents and memos that were widely believed to be forgeries. As the narrative didn't include opposing views concerning the documents, many believed the report was a partisan attempt to smear Bush and cost him re-election. The report ultimately resulted in the demise of Rather's career and also cost producer Mary Mapes her job.
Based off of Mapes' book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power, the movie "Truth" was released in over 1,100 theatres in the U.S. last weekend. However, the film doesn't settle the question of the documents' authenticity and instead runs with the premise that even if the documents weren't real, Bush was still given preferential treatment.
Although Sony Pictures Classic acquired a star-studded lineup — Robert Redford as Rather, Cate Blanchett as Mapes and Dennis Quaid as Colonel Roger Charles — the film has tanked thus far at box offices.
"Truth" was just the 16th highest-grossing movie of the weekend, earning a mere $875,935. Combined with proceeds from the previous two weeks when the movie was out on limited release, the film has grossed just $1,126,512 in the first three weeks since its release.
Additionally, moviegoers and critics have not been impressed with the film. An average of nearly 1,000 viewers on IMDb rated "Truth" with only a 5.9 out of 10, while Metacritic gave the movie a 66 out of 100. Meanwhile, Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 58 percent.
With the film still relying on documents allegedly taken from the personal files of Bush's commander, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Killian — which typewriter and typography experts deemed to be forgeries — some critics claim the movie doesn't have the right to call itself "Truth."
"The movie came across as self-serving tripe, with the insulting audacity to call itself Truth. That's the marketing equivalent [to] pissing in the audience's ear, and telling them it's raining," one critic for The Rebel wrote. "Audiences don't mind stupid movies as long as their entertaining, but they won't pay to see a stupid movie that also calls them stupid."
William Campenni, a retired engineer and 33-year Air Force/Air National Guard fighter pilot who served in the same unit as Bush, wrote a lengthy op-ed for The Daily Signal explaining how it's impossible for the Killian documents to be anything more than fakes.
Campenni explained that he first came across the alleged Killian documents months before the CBS report when he stumbled on a blog called "The AWOL Project," which was run by a Democratic activist from Philadelphia named Paul Lukasiak. He further explained that the blogger did "yeoman's job in assembling released Bush Air Force records and relevant Air Force regulations."
"He distorted and dissembled them to reach egregiously wrong conclusions to incriminate Bush," Campenni asserted. "It was like examining the Old Testament in great detail and then concluding that Moses was an Egyptian who helped the Pharaoh cast the Jews into barren lands in some ancient holocaust."
"Those of us who actually were in the Texas Air Guard quickly pointed out other discrepancies and impossibilities in the memos exclusive of the typos and fonts … wrong dates for exams; orders to report on a date the base was closed; use of outdated serial numbers; and our personal knowledge of Jerry Killian, his actions, and his behaviors, which conclusively flagged these memos as sick frauds," Campenni wrote.