HBO On Defense: Writer Danny Strong Claims No Agenda Behind Palin Film

HBO is one of the most liberal entertainment outlets ever conceived, but at the very least you had to respect them for not trying to hide that agenda. So why go all spineless now? Part of HBO’s absurd, intelligence-insulting denial is simply disingenuous. The network’s “agenda” took a pretty big hit when Governor Palin chose not to run in 2012, but the timing of this docu-drama, which is based on a political book written my John Heilamann and Mark Halperin, was always obvious: Drop this bomb in the heat of the GOP primary.


In a politically polarized country, the people behind HBO’s upcoming movie on Sarah Palin’s vice presidential campaign are being careful not to take one side or the other.

“There is no agenda here,” Danny Strong, writer of the film “Game Change,” said at a news conference Friday. Filmmakers said they sought historical accuracy.

The movie debuts March 10. It is based on John Heilemann and Mark Halperin’s book about the 2008 presidential campaign, but focuses specifically on Palin. Director Jay Roach said he wrote a long letter to the former Alaska governor seeking an interview with her to help the film, “but I got a very quick email back from her attorney saying, `I checked, she declined.'”

Roach and Strong were the team behind HBO’s Emmy-winning “Recount” about the disputed 2000 presidential election.

“I don’t think this movie is going to change people’s minds one way or another,” Strong said. “People are very polarized. It’s not designed to change people’s minds.”

Of course, what HBO won’t tell you is that the source material chosen to tell this story is in and of itself agenda-driven. So egregious was “Game Change” in its lack of sourcing that even liberal news outlets were critical:

Critics questioned the lack of explicit sourcing in Game Change, which was done on “deep background” with no sources being identified in any way. This followed the approach made famous in many of Bob Woodward’s books. A Poynter Institute journalism ethics scholar said a danger of this method is that “both accuracy and fairness can be in jeopardy when anonymous sources are overused and misused” and that deep background sources “cannot be held easily accountable.” Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times wrote that the authors of Game Change “serve up a spicy smorgasbord of observations, revelations and allegations — some that are based on impressive legwork and access, some that simply crystallize rumors and whispers from the campaign trail, and some that it’s hard to verify independently as more than spin or speculation on the part of unnamed sources.” Kakutani and Marc Ambinder of The Atlantic both said that at times the book veered into gossip.

Finally, Danny Strong, the film’s writer who is doing the “too much protesting,” was also behind HBO’s “Recount,” the Republican-bashing and wildly unfair look at the 2000 presidential election that HBO broadcast right in the heart of the 2008 election.

If you want a look at how much money the film’s participants have donated to Democrats and Obama, click here.