Hollywood’s a bit inconsistent when the topic is the press. It was a righteous guardian of the truth against the Catholic Church in “Spotlight” and against Richard Nixon in “The Post.” But now, in the new movie “The Front Runner,” it is painted as the villain — when its target was Gary Hart.
He was expected to be the Democratic nominee in 1988 before those photos surfaced of him on the yacht Monkey Business with Donna Rice sitting on his lap. They surfaced after he challenged reporters to tail him and see he wasn’t cheating on his wife. No matter. They still shouldn’t have blown the whistle on him.
The New York Times movie review explained that the film’s director, Jason Reitman, “depicts his hero as a man struggling to protect his privacy and that of his family against the predatory prurience of the news media.”
Was it “predatory prurience” when The Times and others pursued President Trump’s accusers? Or is that just for accusers of Democrats?
The journalist villains in the movie are based on real people who caused Hart’s 1987 collapse, like Miami Herald reporter Tom Fiedler. But one is a fictional, composite Washington Post reporter, instead of the “true” villain of legend, Post reporter Paul Taylor, who was roundly condemned for asking Hart, “Have you ever committed adultery?”
In Taylor’s 1990 book “See How They Run,” he quoted an anonymous “pen pal” who perfectly captured the Hollywood left’s mindset: “To have destroyed Richard Nixon, I applauded you. … For what you did to Gary Hart, I damn you all to hell.”
The movie is based on a 2014 book by left-wing former New York Times Magazine political writer Matt Bai titled “All the Truth Is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid.” The Boston Globe book review summarized the theme: “Bai says what is obvious — that the Donna Rice furor irreparably hurt Hart — but he also says what is less obvious, and very wise: that it hurt us all.”
America was deprived of Hart, the brainy visionary, and was left instead with George H.W. Bush.
But there’s an enormous historical flaw in this logic. If caring about adultery was going to limit the talent pool in presidential politics, how do you explain these same media outlets straining to avoid causing any harm to Bill Clinton in 1992, lecturing the American people (as Time magazine did) to “grow up about sex”? Clinton was much more shameless than Hart.
To accompany this movie, the CBS program “Sunday Morning” interviewed Gary Hart, now 82 years old. Rita Braver polished the apple fiercely. Hart became the front-runner “because of his visionary ideas.” Hart claimed, “I saw as early as anyone else the shift of the economic base of America from manufacturing to information and technology.”
Braver added: “You were actually worried that we were heading toward a war in the Persian Gulf and that nobody was trying to defuse the situation, especially vis-a-vis terrorism … Hart was considered brilliant but also a bit aloof.”
Hart lectured that forcing him out of the race in 1987 meant we would “get the kind of leaders we deserve,” adding, “You can’t have rules that were applied to me, applied to American politics, and get people of quality.” Braver didn’t ask if he thinks Clinton and former President Barack Obama were “people of quality.”
These sentiments were a strange posture for CBS, the network that aired the “60 Minutes” episode with Bill Clinton in 1992 in which he was questioned about “causing pain” in his marriage, and that recently aired Anderson Cooper’s sensationalistic interview with Trump-bashing porn actress Stormy Daniels.
One more thing: Who the hell cares about Gary Hart at this point anyway? Answer: some old leftists in Hollywood who didn’t get Camelot 2.0, and CBS, which just doesn’t get it, period.
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L. Brent Bozell III is the president of the Media Research Center. Tim Graham is director of media analysis at the Media Research Center and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org. To find out more about Brent Bozell III and Tim Graham and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.