Don Hewitt, the founder of “60 Minutes,” blasted former colleague Lowell Bergman this weekend over Bergman’s version of events portrayed in the film “The Insider.”
Hewitt, the founder of “60 Minutes,” said that Bergman should not be allowed “within 100 miles of a newsroom and 1,000 miles of a journalism school,” because Bergman had not accurately recounted the events surrounding the film.
Bergman, reacting to Hewitt’s keynote speech at a journalists’ conference, defended the movie’s accuracy and called the self-censorship a “plague that colors our work and our credibility.”
The film depicts “60 Minutes” and Hewitt giving in to pressure from the tobacco industry to not air a report from former tobacco Jeffrey Wigand.
Bergman, who had produced the 1995 report, quit after CBS would not air it, and later consulted on the film.
Hewitt, speaking at the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual convention, took issue with what he portrayed as the film’s “second-rate adaptation” of a Vanity Fair article by Marie Brenner and contended that Bergman had not quit his job, as was depicted in the film, after the episode.
He also told the audience of about 1,000 that if the movie had told the story more accurately, it might have won several Academy Awards rather than being shut out last March.
Hewitt — who had not commented extensively about the movie previously — defended his decision not to quit over CBS’ refusal to air the report initially. In that way, he claimed he was able to continue the program’s work in exposing corruption and, as he put it, “live to fight another day.”
Bergman issued a statement from California in which he defended the accuracy of “The Insider,” and disputed Hewitt’s claim that Bergman had asked for his job back. He noted that Hewitt “buckled without a whimper,” once CBS attorneys warned about potential legal problems, and he pointed out that Hewitt had “no regrets” about that decision.
“All of this is reported in the film,” Bergman added. “No wonder Don Hewitt does not like it.” Bergman also said that no one claimed that “The Insider” was a documentary.
“It is a kind of historical novel,” he said. “And in that sense it is philosophically and emotionally dead on accurate. My hope was that the story that is told in the film would get these issues out on the table once and for all and maybe Hewitt’s virulent reaction will help do that.”
— Dave McNary
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As the Screen Actors Guild strike heads into its seventh week, the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers may be asking the unaskable.
The AICP wants producers to attend its awards show on June 7 in Gotham at the Museum of Modern Art. But, AICP officials realized, those producers may have to cross a picket line or even several picket lines to get there.
“I paid $400 for a ticket, but I feel like hell crossing the picket line,” said one commercials producer from the Midwest.
SAG has indicated that a picket is possible in front of the awards show that some call the Oscars of commercials, but no plans have yet been made.
“It’s more than likely,” said Greg Krizman, acting director of communications for SAG, who pointed out that “right now our energies are focused on actions against AT&T.”
“I could assume that they might want to,” said Matt Miller, AICP prexy. “I would think they would see it as a target. They’ve picketed and demonstrated in stranger places.”
Miller, however, quickly pointed out that the AICP is not a signatory to the SAG contract, so technically picketing shouldn’t be an issue. And, he added, SAG neglected to picket the Clio Awards last month.
Miller and the AICP may well be unaware of the Museum of Modern Art labor woes. The museum has been facing a strike of its own from its curators and workers, who are demanding health benefits.
The museum workers are planning a picket protest of their own, which could give black-tied producers another blockade.
— Dan Cox