CNN’s "American Morning" devoted four minutes of air time, and free advertising, to a faux documentary that includes a digitally created assassination of George W. Bush. The network, which has refused to air commercials for the controversial "Death of a President," instead featured the film’s director on the Friday edition of its morning show. Anchor Miles O’Brien opened the interview with some free promotion in the form of a 13 second clip of the movie. The film's director, Gabriel Range, certainly understood the benefit of what a CNN appearance offered him. He explained late in the interview:
Miles O’Brien: "Some of these theaters that have said no to your film, in the end, all the buzz surrounding this, I guess that might be good for business, huh?"
Gabriel Range: "I think the distributor, New Market, are keen to -- they've got the film out in a lot of theaters. And they're very confident that it will reach a wide audience. I hope the fact you and I are talking about it today will mean that a lot of people will want to see the film. I would say, it's not what you think. Judge it for yourself."
For a movie that centers around the murder of the President of the United Staes, O’Brien’s tone throughout the interview was extremely mild and genial. His first query during the segment, which aired at 8:53a.m., seems to fit the definition of a softball question:
O’Brien: "A controversial new film, a faux documentary, portrays the fictional assassination of President George Bush. "The Death of a President" opens in U.S. theaters on Friday. But some theater chains are refusing to show the film."
(13 second video clip of "Death of a President")
O’Brien: "Gabriel Range is the director of the film. He joins us now. Good to have you with us, Gabriel."
Range: "Good to be here."
O’Brien: "Why did you make this movie?"
Range: "I think imagining the assassination of President Bush just struck me as being a very potent and very striking way of posing some questions about the way the war on terror has been handled, about some of the consequences of, of the last five years, really."
The CNN anchor then shifted the discussion to one of the film’s plot points, a subplot which seemed to implicate Dick Cheney in some nefarious act:
O’Brien: "In this case, for example, there is a suspect who is a Syrian national, who is singled out, arrested and put on death row. As part of this, vice president, in this movie becomes the president, Cheney, tries to focus blame on this person for other reasons. Explain that, that little plot line there."
Range: "Well, there's certainly a sense in which, in the last few years, many of the terror suspects have certainly been held up by the current administration as poster boys for terrorism. That, in part, has been out of a desire to create the sense that the war is here in America, that we are fighting this war, that it's a war that is being fought in every American city. And so in a way, the, the experiences of this particular character in the film, the Syrian character, are in some way inspired by the experiences of some real life terror cases. The film is fictional. But pretty much every twist and turn is inspired in some way by real life events."
Again, O’Brien doesn’t appear to have a problem with the fact that these are real people and the film apparently implicates Vice President Cheney with some sort of a smear against a Syrian character. Remember how enraged the media became over Ann Coulter's comments about the 9/11 widows? And yet, the CNN host is positively serene in discussing this film’s fictional murder of President Bush and other twists.
Mr. O’Brien followed up by challenging the movie in a very mild way, wondering if the director thought he was being "fair" and "responsible."
O’Brien: "All of it put together, along with the combination of trying to weave this altogether, some voice interpretations makes it all seem very real. Is it, is it fair to do that to people? To, to take things completely out of context, rework them, pop them into a fictional thing like this?"
Range: "Well, I think I wanted to make a film that absolutely felt like a world that you would recognize, a world that we live in. It was very important, for example, to make the film about the assassination of President Bush, rather than about the assassination of a fictional president. Precisely because I wanted the film to feel like a world we recognize. Although it is set in the near future, and although it is fiction, it is very much, I hope, about some of the issues that really have come to the fore in the course of the last five years. So, I, I think, I think it's telling a story in this particular style, I think is, makes the audience react to it in a very different way to, you know, a regular narrative piece of drama."
O’Brien: "Do you think what you're doing is responsible? Does this inspire, perhaps, somebody who might wish to do harm to the President?"
Range: "I think anyone who sees the film, there is no way in which this film can be seen as an incitement to commit an act of violence. The assassination is portrayed as a horrific event, with terrible consequences. And I really, really think the film explores, more than anything, the sort of pernicious effects of violence. I don't think it could inspire anyone to commit this, this act."
Notice that Mr. O’Brien does not follow-up with any of his questions. Range said that it is fair to take existing quotes and audio clips out of context. Sure, okay. The director asserted that "Death of a President" is responsible and could no way incite violence towards President Bush. No problem. Shouldn’t O’Brien press the filmmaker a little more on this issue? We are, after all, talking about a realistic looking "documentary" that features footage of the murder of a sitting president.
O’Brien closed his interview by questioning whether theaters that pull the movie will ultimately end up helping its cause:
O’Brien: "Some of these theaters that have said no to your film, in the end all the buzz surrounding this, I guess that might be good for business, huh?"
Range: "Well, I think the distributor, New Market, are keen to -- they've got the film out in a lot of theaters. And they're very confident that it will reach a wide audience. So, I hope the fact you and I are talking about it today will mean that a lot of people will want to see the film. I would say, it's not what you think. Judge it for yourself."
O’Brien: "Gabriel Range, the director of the film. Thank you very much for your time."
Range: "Thank you."
O’Brien: "And we should tell you, CNN has decided not to air commercials for ‘Death Of A President’ because of the extreme nature of the movie's subject matter."
One has to wonder if Mr. O’Brien would have such a calm, restrained manner towards a film that speculated about a future murder of ex-President Clinton. But that would different. Things are always different when they involve CNN and Democrats.