By Carley Stavis
Oliver Stone’s newest movie “W.” is entertaining and timely, to be sure.
The story of George W. Bush’s rise to the highest office in America delivers comedy and drama while inspiring a certain surprising level of empathy. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. The film lives up to Stone’s intention of reminding voters, prior to the big day on Nov. 4, just what the last eight years have done to this country.
Whether this film wholly represents the truth, however, is not so cut-and-dry. Here’s a fact-check of some of the representations made in the film.
The movie: During the 1970s, Bush knocks up a pretty young woman named Fran, proposes to her in a drunken slur at a Texas bar, and is soon-after seen asking his father to “take care of” the situation for him.
The facts: In a CNN “Crossfire” interview on Oct. 20, 2000, Hustler president Larry Flynt claimed to have evidence that Bush was “involved in an abortion in Texas” in 1971, with a woman named Robin Lowman, when Texas still prohibited the act. The validity of the assertion was extensively questioned. Flynt promised that if he had not had correct information, he would never have made the claim. He asserted that he had all of the details of the situation from a reliable source: a friend of Lowman’s and the former girlfriend of the man who allegedly arranged the procedure, Bush’s friend and longtime supporter Robert Carl Chandler. Flynt claimed that the woman could not be coerced to come forward herself because she had been threatened by the Bush camp.
The movie: Early in his political career and soon after meeting Laura Bush, George fumbles in a debate and asks Laura about his performance in the car on the way home. Angry with her response, he crashes his car into the house, frightening Laura.
The facts: In a 2002 USA Today interview, Laura admitted that her husband could be extremely testy when it came to his speech, debate and campaign performances. On a few occasions, Laura told the paper, George asked her “how his delivery was going over.” On one occasion, Laura responded that it was “terrible.” George responded by driving his Pontiac Bonneville into the wall of their garage.
The movie: Press secretary Ari Fleischer briefs Bush on a conversation he had earlier with a journalist, Helen Thomas, who questioned the president’s reasons for going to war. Bush responds, “Did you tell her I don’t like motherfuckers who gas their own people? Did you tell her I don’t like assholes who try to kill my father? Did you tell her I’m going to kick [Saddam Hussein’s] sorry motherfucking ass all over the Mideast?” Fleischer replies that he “only told her half of that.”
The facts: According to journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn in their September 2006 book “Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal and the Selling of the Iraq War,” two out of these three lines from Bush’s tirade are correctly recounted in context. The line about Saddam Hussein trying to kill Bush’s father, however, was an insertion made by the film’s screenwriter based on words spoken by Bush at a 2002 fundraiser in Houston.
The movie: While he is the governor of Texas, Bush tells Earle Hudd, his minister, that he has been called upon by God to run for president.
The facts: Bush’s belief that he was called upon by God himself to be president of the United States appears to be truthful, as he has expressed such a sentiment on multiple occasions throughout his life. One such instance was on the religious PBS television show “Life Today,” when Bush told host James Robison, “I feel that I’m supposed to run for president. I don’t wanna do that. I didn’t wanna be governor. But I believe I’m supposed to. I can’t explain it, but I believe my country’s gonna need me.” As for the Earle Hudd character called upon in the film, he was created by the screenwriter as a compound of religious figures such as Billy Graham and Houston pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell, who have long been a part of Bush’s political life.
While there is truth behind “W.,” Stone took many liberties with the character, painting him as more of a caricature of the man still in office — perhaps exaggerated to fit the picture that many Americans have of him.