The love affair between leftist Hollywood and the mainstream media will soon produce another child.
This time the product of the love affair will be a movie tentatively titled The Post, directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, that lauds The Washington Post’s efforts to publish the Pentagon Papers.
The Pentagon Papers were a compendium of documents delineating how the U.S. government had handled the situation in Vietnam from the time of the Truman Administration through the Johnson Administration. The papers were leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, who had worked on the project. The Nixon Administration was not mentioned in the papers, as they were compiled under the direction of LBJ’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in 1967. There was speculation that McNamara had turned against the war and wanted the project to aid his friend Robert F. Kennedy, who was thinking of challenging LBJ for the presidential nomination.
President Nixon initially thought the release of the papers should be unchallenged but was convinced by his national security advisor Henry Kissinger to act on “this wholesale theft and unauthorized disclosure.” Kissinger later acknowledged in his memoirs, “The massive hemorrhage of state secrets was bound to raise doubts about our reliability in the minds of other governments, friend or foe, and indeed about the stability of our political system.”
The New York Times had published three installments of the papers when Attorney General John Mitchell and Nixon obtained a federal court injunction forcing the Times to cease publication. That prompted the case New York Times Co. v. United States.
The Post then began publishing its own series of articles, prompting Assistant U.S. Attorney General William Rehnquist (later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court) to ask the Post to cease publication. When the Post refused, Rehnquist sought an injunction in U.S. district court, which was denied. The government appealed the decision. The Supreme Court then agreed to hear that case jointly with the New York Times case, ultimately ruling for the newspapers.
A Post editorial said at the time, “The story that unfolds is not new in its essence—the calculated misleading of the public, the purposeful manipulation of public opinion, the stunning discrepancies between public pronouncements and private plans—we had bits and pieces of all that before. But not in such incredibly damning form, not with such irrefutable documentation.”
Spielberg’s movie will be the first time Streep and Hanks have starred in a film together. Streep will play Post publisher Kay Graham, and Hanks will play editor Ben Bradlee.
Streep has been attacking President Trump for his criticism of the press for months; she said at the Golden Globes in January, “We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call them on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in our constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the committee to protect journalists. Because we’re going to need them going forward. And they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.”
Hanks has donated an espresso machine to the White House press corps three times; once during George W. Bush’s administration, replacing it in 2010, then a third time at the end of February with an attached note reading, “Keep up the good fight for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. Especially the Truth part.”