Confirmation Is Facing Some Truly Harsh Attacks From Conservatives

Image: Via HBO.
On April 16, HBO will debut a new film about a very iconic moment in American politics. It's not a biopic, or a documentary. Rather, it's a reminder of how — not so very long ago — women were still patronized and harassed in the workplace, without being able to do much about it. That is, until Anita Hill came along.

Portrayed by Kerry Washington, Hill is the central subject of Confirmation: a real woman and law professor who stepped forward and shared her testimony about being sexually harassed by then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. While Hill worked under Thomas, he was allegedly lewd and suggestive: In 1991, she testified to specific instances when he made inappropriate advances, talked about the size of his penis, and also his oral sex skills, among other offenses.

Thomas was ultimately confirmed, and remains an associate justice on the SCOTUS. But Hill's testimony — which she has never wavered on — ultimately began an important conversation about gender inequality in the workplace, one that was sorely needed — and that we still see benefits from today.

Of course, criticism of the film began as soon as news leaked that the movie was indeed happening. Republican politicians and right wing insiders have called the movie out for having a democratic agenda, among other things. Former Bush administration lawyer Mark Paoletta lambasted HBO in March for making a movie that biases audiences against conservatives.
"HBO made this movie in an election year to support Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party, which loves to claim that a mythical ‘war on women’ is underway by Republicans,” Paoletta said in late March. At the time, he hadn't watched the film, but had read a version of the script in July 2015.

Since then, Paoletta has launched a website railing against Confirmation, a site which attempts to debunk factual errors from the HBO project as well as tells the "other side" of the story. (The site also contains a section where it will do a "minute by minute" fact checking of the movie, upon its release.) also targets the producers — including Washington — for telling a biased version of the story because of their democratic ties. "These are the people who want you to buy their version of history," the section descriptor reads. "Don’t take their word for it."

Paoletta is far from the only person who isn't pleased with the way certain scenes and characters are depicted in the film. Fox News commentator Katie Pavlich wrote: “Confirmation is a liberal hit job produced by DNC operatives, not an accurate portrayal of history," while former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson said, in summation, “Anita Hill looks good, Clarence Thomas looks bad, and the rest of us look like bumbling idiots.”

"The film contains scenes that never happened and conversations that never occurred. Some scenes that did happen are portrayed with significant inaccuracies," Former U.S. Senator John Danforth weighed in. Rush Limbaugh chimed in, too, asserting that HBO is trying to rewrite history for people who might have missed the hearings the first time around. "They're doing it because there's a whole generation of people who do not know what happened. The Millennials were not alive in 1990," he said, "and it's time they were brought up to speed.”​

Earlier this month, Kerry Washington told Refinery29 that she wasn't surprised that the movie was already receiving so much criticism, despite the fact that a lot of the callouts were coming from people who hadn't even seen it yet. "I think whenever you work in the world of historical drama, that's going to happen because you only tell stories that are filled with conflict," she shared. "Because that's what the story is."

True enough — but even if HBO did have an agenda in producing the film, it's a private company telling its heavily fact-checked version of events. And the team behind it didn't gloss over one prominent democrat who reacted poorly at the time — and went on to become the Vice President of America. "Republicans are often the sole victims of political productions," wrote Roll Call columnist Matt Lewis this month. "This one could also tarnish the legacy of at least one prominent Democrat, Vice President Joseph R. Biden.”

True enough: Biden definitely does not get off scot-free in Confirmation. But it seems like that fact might serve to indicate that HBO really has done its homework here. That the network is less concerned with keeping a sterling reputation from tarnishing than it is telling the truth. That's not just good storytelling: It's good politics, too.

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