CNN's Piers Morgan, 'Obama Fan,' Quite Dismayed at Guantanamo Remaining Open

On Monday night's "Piers Morgan," the CNN host professed his admiration for President Obama – but like any good liberal, sounded his disappointment that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp is still open. He tried to get his guests to share similar sentiments.

"I am quite an Obama fan, but I was quite disappointed that he did the big U-turn on Guantanamo, actually," Morgan admitted.

Hosting cast members of the upcoming film "The Conspirator," Morgan asked if the ethical issues in the plot – the post-Civil War trial of an accused co-conspirator in Lincoln's assassination – mirrored the ethical and constitutional questions of military trials of terrorists at Guantanamo, shortly after another American crisis.
 

"In the sense that when a country comes under attack or is in chaos, as America was when your film is set," Morgan explained to director Robert Redford, "chaos creates fear, and people take advantage of the fear in government to try to resolve it in a way they want to." Morgan added that the film's setting reminded him "of what happened in America after 9/11."

He then asked Redford point-blank if the "actions taken by the Bush administration, for example, after 9/11" mirrored the plot of the movie. Redford replied that the comparison was not exclusive. "There's always been some attempt to mess around with the Constitution," Redford told Morgan.

The host also tried to get actor Kevin Kline to give a direct historical parallel. "I suppose the most obvious parallel is what's been going on at Guantanamo Bay, where you know it comes down to military tribunals, the – you know, a civil law case and so on," Morgan set up the question. "Do you believe, looking at what happened in your movie, that what's going on now with Guantanamo is fundamentally wrong, that it's unjust?"

Kline responded that "everyone is going to draw different parallels, but I think, yes, there will be a resonance that people will see the relevance of post-9/11 and the tribunal versus the civil trial." Though he added that "our military tribunals today are very different than they were then."

Later, Morgan commended Kline on his "good sinister sort of Dick Cheney-ish face"

"I'm not sure who you're going to kill next," he added.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on April 11 at 9:14 p.m. EDT, is as follows:

PIERS MORGAN: And joining me now from the cast of "The Conspirator," the beautiful Robin Wright, who plays Mary Surratt, the woman accused of conspiring to kill President Abraham Lincoln. Also joining us, extremely talented young James McAvoy, from "My Home Country," who plays a lawyer who struggles to defend her.

Gentlemen, lady, I watched the movie on the plane last night. Riveted. I watched it straightforward. And it raises some fascinating ethical issues, doesn't it? Because it reminded me -- in a certain way it reminded me of what happened in America after 9/11.

In the sense that when a country comes under attack or is in chaos, as America was when your film is set – I think you said it, Robert, in a previous interview that it creates chaos, chaos creates fear, and people take advantage of the fear in government to try and resolve it in a way they want to. And the question then becomes is, what is the greater cause, I guess? Did you see a parallel between actions taken by the Bush administration, for example, after 9/11, and what you saw in your movie?

ROBERT REDFORD: I don't think it was exclusive. Those kind of actions weren't necessarily exclusive to the Bush administration. I think they'd been going on since the last 150 years. There's always been -- depending on some crisis, there's always been some attempt to mess around with the Constitution. I mean it's just an ongoing thing. It still happens.

(...)

MORGAN: On the politics of it, it's interesting to me, we're talking earlier about any parallels here. I suppose the most obvious parallel is what's been going on at Guantanamo Bay, where you know it comes down to military tribunals, the -- you know a civil law case and so on. What is your view of that? I mean do you believe looking what happened in your movie, that what's going on now with Guantanamo is fundamentally wrong, that it's unjust?

KEVIN KLINE: Well, I wouldn't -- I mean the parallel is there --

MORGAN: And you play the bad guy in the movie. So -- I'm not asking your character, I'm asking Kevin Kline --

KLINE: What I think. Well, you're asking me to defend my performance or the man I played.

MORGAN: Well, you played a Dick Cheney role, don't you really?

KLINE: Or Rumsfeld or a combination thereof. Listen, people -- nobody sees the same movie. Everyone's going to draw different parallels but I think, yes, there will be a resonance that people will see that the relevance of post-9/11 and the tribunal versus the civil trial.

But our military tribunals today are very different than they were then. There is more -- I mean there was no burden of proof in those days. There are -- it has changed. So I wouldn't -- I think the movie is about more than that. But I think that's -- comes popping right now.

REDFORD: And let me see if I can give my take. I think that the parallels in the film were obvious. There are several. And I think it's for the filmgoers -- critics and the filmgoers to find because they're there and they're there by historical document. They weren't -- they're not anything that I invented.

My interest was in the characters that were tied to that story, tied to those events. That's what interested me was the emotional core that sat underneath all that, but the parallels, and when I start talking about the parallels, it'll suddenly be a leftist film and they're probably going to have already predisposition about the film.

(...)

MORGAN: Would you say you're a liberal? You categorize yourself as a liberal.

REDFORD: No, I think that I'm for reason. I'm for --

(...)

REDFORD: The two -- if they would just debate the ideas they have, I think it's legitimate you have different ideas. If they just debate them instead of -- it's a war zone. I mean they don't debate. They just trash each other and that's a -- that's a discredit and a dishonor to the American people, I think. They deserve better.

MORGAN: And how would you view a country ran by Sarah Palin?

REDFORD: I wouldn't -- I wouldn't even view it.

MORGAN: Would you be out of the country or --

(LAUGHTER)

REDFORD: Probably Switzerland. I --

(...)

MORGAN: It is interesting, in the Kennedy miniseries, you play Joe Kennedy. And obviously the Kennedys are -- you know, many people here have considered them the royal family, if you like, of American politics. What did you think of that constitutional issue, which is really at the heart of this movie?

I mean, the Kennedys, I would imagine from what I have read about them, often flirted with the Constitution in a way that could be seem to be overriding it. It's not first time. Nixon certainly did. Clinton possibly did. I mean, there's a long history of presidents misbehaving.

(...)

MORGAN: I think a lot of Europeans feel that Guantanamo is a symbol of shame for American justice. I am quite an Obama fan, but I was quite disappointed that he did the big U-turn on Guantanamo, actually. I think that a lot of people were. and I think that given the premise of your movie, Robert, I mean, do you share that discomfort that your president right now has allowed Guantanamo to continue, when he said that he'd shut it down?

REDFORD: In terms of the Guantanamo issue, I'm going to now be political and tell you, I don't -- I'm not comfortable because of the film. I would not want to be talking too much about what the parallels are, because I wouldn't want the film to be pushed into that category.

For me, the story is about the characters that are underneath the issues.

(...)

MORGAN: You kind of wrenched it a bit in this movie. I want to see you do these dramatic roles. I think you're very suited to them. You do a good sinister sort of Dick Cheney-ish face.

KLINE: Thank you.

MORGAN: I'm not sure who you're going to kill next.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014