The Hollywood Reporter: ‘Confirmation’: Drama Plays Out Behind the Scenes on HBO’s Politically Charged Movie

…Behind the scenes, a drama is playing out that might be as politically partisan as the hearings were themselves. Some involved in the hearings are complaining that HBO has manufactured a hit job against Republicans, while the network maintains it is telling an important, non-partisan story about an event that forever changed the definition of sexual harassment.

Mark Paoletta, a lawyer in the Bush White House who worked to ensure Thomas’ confirmation 25 years ago, says HBO’s motivation has nothing to do with historical accuracy and is instead meant to sway political opinion eight months before Americans vote for a new president. He cites HBO movies like Game Change, which he says disparaged former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, as evidence of bias at Time Warner’s premium network.

“HBO made this movie in an election year to support Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, which loves to claim that a mythical ‘war on women’ is underway by Republicans,” says Paoletta, who hasn’t seen Confirmation but read a script last revised in late July.


The back and forth between HBO and Republicans started with an Aug. 13 “memorandum” from retired Missouri Sen. John Danforth written to Grant, Washington, London and others, in which he complained about specific scenes in the script he said never happened in real life. The Yale Law School graduate ended his four-page memo with: “Insofar as the script you sent me pertains to me, it is untrue, and it is malicious. If shown on television, it would greatly damage my reputation.”


Perhaps the most common complaint registered by Republicans, though, is the portrayal of Angela Wright, the so-called “other woman” who had been fired by Thomas and was set to testify that she, too, had been sexually harassed by him years earlier. In the HBO film, it’s mainly Republicans (with a little help from Biden) who prevent Wright from testifying.

“You portray Angela Wright as a corroborating witness who is bullied against testifying by ‘unethical’ tactics of Republican senators. This is not true,” Danforth wrote in his memo.

Alan Simpson, a retired senator from Wyoming who also played a pivotal role in ensuring Thomas’s confirmation, is much more forceful.

“HBO says Angela Wright is the great second coming who we wouldn’t allow to testify, but she was plenty flawed. Clarence fired her because she called a co-worker a ‘f—-t.’ She wanted revenge. I thought, ‘Bring her on. I’d love to cross-examine her,'” Simpson tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It was Democrats on Anita Hill’s side who didn’t want her. That’s the irony. Republicans were waiting with bated breath, and her people knew it.”

Simpson says of the script in general: “Anita Hill looks good, Clarence Thomas looks bad, and the rest of us look like bumbling idiots.”


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