TV Filmmakers Defend ‘Seal Team Six’
By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN
(CNN) — The filmmakers who made a TV movie about the successful raid that killed Osama bin Laden, which is scheduled to air on the National Geographic Channel just two days before Election Day, rejected suggestions that the timing of the release is political.
“This film is about history, not politics,” said movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, in a statement to CNN.
But the November 4 air date for the movie, which retells the drama of a military operation that the Obama campaign has highlighted as a reason to re-elect the president, has come in for some criticism.
“Any time you’ve got a movie coming out two nights before the election – and being made by Harvey Weinstein, who is a prominent Democrat and a huge supporter of Obama’s – of course it raises eyebrows,” said Republican strategist Ana Navarro, a CNN contributor.
Weinstein has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Democrats over the past few cycles, although in his statement to CNN he pointed out that he also has given to Republican George Pataki and independent Michael Bloomberg.
Director John Stockwell says Weinstein, after buying the movie, recommended mixing in more actual news footage – of Afghanistan, of Pakistan, some White House footage, and clips of Americans celebrating when news of the raid got out. But, he said, “no one put more Obama in, or anything that made Obama look any better.”
CNN has not seen the movie. While “Seal Team Six” is primarily an action movie about the dangerous mission to Pakistan by American special operations forces, it also portrays the tension in Washington over whether to authorize the mission – which Pres. Obama ultimately did.
“If anything, the movie is pretty tough on him,” said Stockwell, “because it really raises all the what-ifs. What if the compound had been rigged to explode? What if there had been Stinger missiles? What if that helicopter crash had resulted in Americans dying? And the biggest what-if: What if he wasn’t there? And I think there would be no second term if he wasn’t there.”
But some conservatives, including media critic Brent Bozell of the Media Research Center, are crying foul.
“This smacks of politics,” he said. “It certainly is going to influence the political equation.”
By focusing on a mission that turned out to be one of the administration’s biggest successes, Bozell said, “it’s going to portray the president in the highest light possible, with a message that highlights the high-water mark of this presidency.”
A blog post on the conservative news site Breitbart.com calls the movie “a multi-million dollar, two hour pro-Obama campaign advertisement.”
The National Geographic Channel insists the movie and its timing are not political. And Stockwell points out that the channel’s corporate stakeholders don’t exactly look like Obama supporters.
“National Geographic is partially owned by Fox, and I’m not sure that they have any secret agenda to get Obama re-elected,” he said.
Bozell argues that if the channel is not politically motivated, it should postpone the air date by a few days until after the election. But National Geographic said their deal allowing Netflix to stream it November 5 leaves them no room to postpone.
Navarro, the Republican strategist, says regardless of whether the film was intended to help Democrats, in the end she thinks it won’t.
“We have to give the American voters credit,” she said. “I don’t think the American electorate is fickle enough to make up their minds based on a Hollywood movie.”