Mark Harris of New York magazine interviewed Aaron Sorkin about his new HBO series The Newsroom and thrilled to upcoming lines from the liberal anchorman Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, such as "I’m a registered Republican—I only seem liberal because I believe that hurricanes are caused by high barometric pressure and not by gay marriage." Sorkin also wishes Mitt Romney would tell the "homophobes" to "drop dead."
"The thing that I worry about more is the media’s bias toward fairness. Nobody uses the word lie anymore," Sorkin complained to New York. "Suddenly, everything is ‘a difference of opinion.’ If the entire House Republican caucus were to walk onto the floor one day and say ‘The Earth is flat,’ the headline on the New York Times the next day would read ‘Democrats and Republicans Can’t Agree on Shape of Earth.’"
I don’t believe the truth always lies in the middle. I don’t believe there are two sides to every argument. I think the facts are the center. And watching the news abandon the facts in favor of "fairness" is what’s troubling to me.
And, I want to make it clear, I’m not a political activist. I’ve met political activists, and they’re for real. I’ve never marched anyplace or done anything that takes more effort than writing a check in terms of activism. Honestly, I’m a storyteller. I’m just as happy doing this as writing Sports Night or The Social Network or anything else. I don’t have a political agenda. I’m not trying to change your mind or teach you anything. I’m not able to teach you anything.
But back to my point. It seems very important that if someone on the right in the news screws up in a really bad way, that the media find someone on the left who screwed up in some kind of way so that we can have a "One From Column A, One From Column B" kind of situation. And that if there are five from Column A, there can’t be only three from Column B, because then they’ll be accused of liberal bias.
No one should expect this show to be fair and balanced about what conservatives are doing to the country with their contempt for facts -- and yet, Sorkin strangely denies he's making something political:
NEW YORK: Will’s take is that liberals don’t know how to win and conservatives are wrong and often ignorant. The left will like that version of fairness more than the right will.
SORKIN: All I can say is this: First of all, my biggest concern always is, was it a good story, well told? I’m not thinking about the politics at all. But I don’t want to make the same mistake that I accuse the media of making, which is that they all better be equal accusations on all sides, that fairness is somehow a virtue in art. It’s not. Fairness and balance don’t have anything to do with art. This isn’t journalism, and it doesn’t have to live by those rules. It’s meant to have a subjective point of view and an authorial voice.
Unsurprisingly, Sorkin is basing his liberal "Republican" anchorman Will McAvoy character on actual fake Republicans. He even names Mark McKinnon (who refused to work for the Republicans in 2008 because of his deep adoration of Obama) and Andrew Sullivan (who favored Democrats John Kerry in 2004 and Obama in 2008).
For the last year or so, but really since Obama got elected, I’ve found the most interesting op-ed political writing to be from Republicans who are looking at the extreme right and saying, "Those guys aren’t with us. I don’t know what happened here, but they’ve kind of co-opted our brand name. But these aren’t Republican values." Guys like David Frum, Mark McKinnon, Andrew Sullivan.
Sorkin admitted: "If Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing was the Democrat that Democrats would love to see, I think that Will McAvoy is the Republican that Democrats would love to see." But he knows liberals don't do well in Republican primaries:
NEW YORK: I’m sure you’ve been following the campaign. A few months ago, I was watching one of those eight-way Republican debates and I thought, I wonder which of these guys Aaron Sorkin would most like to write?
SORKIN: If I wrote Newt Gingrich, I would be accused of creating a completely unrealistic Republican straw man...I guess, for me, the most interesting person to write would have been Jon Huntsman.
NEW YORK: Ideologically, he is closest to Will.
SORKIN: Right. He is.
NEW YORK: And look where it got him.
SORKIN: Did you ever read Mad magazine as a kid? Do you remember the feature called "Scenes We’d Like To See"? I always loved that. So: Romney had a gay foreign-policy spokesperson who resigned. And the tweet or the post from the family-values guy who was really upset that Romney had a gay spokesperson was, "Romney has just said to the family-values community, ‘Drop dead.’ " What would have happened if Romney had said, "I’m not telling the family-values community to drop dead. I’m telling homophobes to drop dead"? Where would he be? First of all, it’s the right thing to do, let’s agree on that. But second of all, wouldn’t independents have flocked to him? Wouldn’t he own the news cycle? Wouldn’t it be good for him to do that? Who’s going to argue with him? Who on Fox News is going to say, "This man has betrayed everything conservatives believe in by denouncing homophobia"? As soon as I saw that tweet, I thought, I know exactly what the next line of dialogue should be!
Sorkin was also asked if he ever wanted to be a "sideline coach for Obama," and he said he’d like to make a "rhetorical suggestion" or two, like framing higher taxes for the rich as a "patriotic sacrifice." Hasn’t he watched the Democrats try that one?