CBS has turned down a portion of a multimillion-dollar ad buy by Sony Pictures Classics for Truth, the Sony specialty label’s drama about the 60 Minutes II scandal involving an eventually discredited story about President George W. Bush’s military service. A CBS investigation resulted in the firing of producer Mary Mapes and three others and the eventual departure of Dan Rather.
The Associated Press, which broke the news of the flap today, said the buy at CBS targeted Late Show With Stephen Colbert, the CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning and 60 Minutes. The AP quoted the agency that places ads for Sony, NY-based Callan Advertising, as saying the ads instead would appear on ABC, NBC, Fox and multiple cable networks.
Cate Blanchett and Robert Redford play Mapes and Rather in the movie, which opens today in limited release. Sony Classics is positioning the pic for an awards-season run, platforming it in six theaters in LA and New York before rolling it out wider. It premiered in September at the Toronto Film Festival.
Sony Classics co-founder and co-president Tom Bernard declined comment today on CBS’ decision, referring questions to Callan.
“It’s astounding how little truth there is in Truth,” CBS spokesman Gil Schwartz — who was chief spokesman during that 2004 scandal and is a character in the movie — told the AP today. “There are, in fact, too many distortions, evasions and baseless conspiracy theories to enumerate them all. The film tries to turn gross errors of journalism and judgment into acts of heroism and martyrdom.
“That’s a disservice not just to the public but to journalists across the world who go out every day and do everything within their power, sometimes at great risk to themselves, to get the story right,” he said.
There is little precedent for an ad buy being rejected by a network for a movie that is about that network, so this is new territory. Blanchett did appear on Colbert last week to promote the film.
“I don’t think anyone expected them to send flowers,” one of the film’s producers, Brad Fischer, told the AP today. “To get an official statement from them that is negative was not surprising to anyone involved in the film. I think the one thing that surprised everyone was the tone and the emotional nature.”