Carlson criticized defenders of 2003 Reagan movie for decrying "censorship" but now uses same term to attack critics of ABC film
Research ››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER
On Tucker, Tucker Carlson falsely claimed that when CBS chose not to air 2003 biopic The Reagans, he had "sort of agreed" that the move constituted "censorship," just as he now argues that it will be "censorship" if ABC is pressured into not running The Path to 9/11.
During a discussion with Media Matters for America president and CEO David Brock on the September 7 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson falsely claimed that when CBS chose not to air the 2003 biopic, The Reagans, he had "sort of agreed" that the move constituted "censorship," just as he now argues that it will be "censorship" if ABC is pressured into not running The Path to 9/11. In fact, in 2003, Carlson specifically denied that CBS' decision to pull The Reagans was "censorship," saying that the use of the word in the context of CBS' Reagan movie "devalue[d] the term" and defending CBS' decision to pull the film because it was "inaccurate."
As Media Matters has noted, The Path to 9/11 is a two-part miniseries about events leading up to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that reportedly contains numerous outright falsehoods and distortions. Additionally, ABC has acknowledged that "the movie contains fictionalized scenes" of events that purportedly took place during the Clinton administration. During his discussion with Carlson, Brock noted that "ABC ... admits the film is inaccurate, and when CBS found inaccuracies in their Reagan biopic, which was, you know, a docudrama, they pulled the movie." Carlson responded by falsely claiming that, at the time, he "didn't argue" with the CBS film's defenders who claimed CBS' decision to pull The Reagans was "censorship" and proceeded to accuse Brock of "acting on the side of people who would censor the truth."
From the September 7 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:
CARLSON: I just think this history is important, and there are people --
BROCK: It is important.
CARLSON: -- [Center for American Progress president and CEO] John Podesta [who served as Clinton's chief of staff from October 1998 to January 2001], [former Clinton national security adviser] Sandy Berger, who were there at the time, who have vested interest in presenting their side of the case. And I think it's important that our viewers know that, that this is coming from a specific perspective. It's not just some disinterested historian --
BROCK: It's not.
CARLSON: -- trying to correct the record.
BROCK: It's coming from the writer/producer of the film who says Sandy Berger never hung up the phone. It's coming from ABC that admits the film is inaccurate, and when CBS found inaccuracies in their Reagan biopic, which was, you know, a docudrama, they pulled the movie.
CARLSON: They pulled the movie because of pressure, political pressure from conservatives and former Reagan administration employees who said they didn't want their hero presented in this way. And at that time, liberals had a fit. They said, "This is censorship; this is outrageous." No one claimed this is a docu -- they're making the same argument that I am making now. And I actually didn't argue with them because I sort of agree. I mean, people have a right to take poetic and artistic license to get a true point across and, in this case, you're acting on the side of people who would censor the truth.
BROCK: So, you're saying that facts can be wrong if some overall point is true. Is that what you're saying?
CARLSON: No. That's not -- that's not at all what I'm saying. I am saying that this docudrama does not purport to be a documentary.
But on the November 5, 2003, edition of the now-defunct CNN show, Crossfire, Carlson directly objected to then-co-host Paul Begala's claim that CBS' decision to pull The Reagans was "censorship" and backed CBS' decision not to air the biopic:
BEGALA: The right wing has a new favorite weapon: censorship. Wingnuts have pressured CBS into censoring a movie about Ronald Reagan, which truthfully portrays the former president as being callous about AIDS and influenced by astrology.
And the Bush administration is airbrushing out our heroic war dead, refusing to allow the press to cover the return of the flag-draped coffins from Iraq.
Well, of course, needless to say, this is all Bill Clinton's fault. Bush aides say that the reason our beloved leader is censoring return ceremonies and refusing to attend military funerals is because he was so appalled by President Clinton's public empathy. Baloney.
Yesterday, Mr. Bush was happy to hug victims of California's wildfires in full view of the camera. Well, the fires, of course, are not Mr. Bush's fault. The debacle in Iraq is, and I think that's a difference.
CARLSON: Let me just put myself on the record by saying: I'm against all public hugging. No matter who it's done by.
I will say, you devalue the term censorship when you apply [it] to the CBS scenario. CBS admitted this thing was inaccurate. That's why they pulled it. Moreover, government had nothing to do with it when gay groups were against Dr. Laura [Schlessinger] getting a TV show. They pressured networks not to carry it, and they didn't. The right pressured CBS, and CBS didn't.