The Corner

Film & TV

Does Clint Eastwood’s New Movie Take Trump’s Side?

Director Clint Eastwood at the premiere of Richard Jewell in Los Angeles, Calif., November 20, 2019. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

I’ve never been the villain of a Clint Eastwood movie before, but no hard feelings. I very much enjoyed Eastwood’s new drama Richard Jewell, despite it taking the side of a guy who sued me. I’ll post a review next week.

I don’t know to what extent people who weren’t sued by the late Richard Jewell remember him, but he was the security guard who reported an unclaimed backpack at a concert celebrating the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. A bomb expert discovered the bag contained a pipe bomb and Jewell and other security personnel cleared the area as best they could in the span of a few minutes. One person died in the blast and more than 100 were injured. In looking into the case, the FBI discovered a lot of odd things about Jewell, who had been fired from a previous job for harassing college students and even pulled over motorists, completely beyond his authority. The idea took root that he was an attention hound who fit the profile of someone who wanted to be known as a hero. Reporters, led by one at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, discovered the FBI was looking into Jewell as possibly being the guy who had planted the bomb, the rest of the media reported this information, and Jewell sued a lot of news outfits later, after he had been cleared. (Most of the suits were settled. I wasn’t personally sued but my then-employer the New York Post was, over some stories I had written. A rendering of a Post front page about Jewell appears in the film.) The actual bomber was Eric Rudolph, who also bombed two abortion providers and a lesbian bar and is serving life in prison.

The idea seems to be taking hold on both left and right that Richard Jewell is somehow about Donald Trump, who does not appear in the film, is not mentioned or alluded to in the film (not even in a wink-wink way, as far as I can tell), and was anyway a Democrat back then. A Daily Beast review derides Richard Jewell as “a poisonous pro-Trump effort” that is essentially a series of pro-Trump talking points. Huh? The FBI does indeed come off badly in the film but that’s because it really did smear an innocent man, by leaking Jewell’s name to the media. I must have missed the memo that said the mistakes of law-enforcement types are suddenly unmentionable because the FBI are now the good guys.

The showbiz site the Wrap asks, “Did Clint Eastwood troll pro-impeachment Democrats with a ‘quid pro quo’ line in his latest film Richard Jewell?” Eastwood is notoriously fast-working, maybe the fastest major director in recent Hollywood history, but he isn’t that fast. Nobody particularly associated the phrase “quid pro quo” with Trump until eight or ten weeks ago.

Breitbart celebrates the film as a demolition of “fake news,” but that’s not quite right. The FBI actually was investigating Jewell. We reported that.

I wonder what it’s like to have your mind taken over so completely by Trump that everything you see, hear, read, taste or smell becomes a sort of emotional referendum on your feelings about the president. I think it must be very tiring.

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