All-Star Panel: Reaction to Sony's decision to show 'The Interview'

'Special Report' All-Star panel weighs in


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 23, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JOHN ROBERTS, ANCHOR: Scenes from the new Sony movie "The Interview" which had been pulled from theaters will be screened in some art and independent theaters across the country on Christmas Day. And we're back with our panel. Jonah's is here along with Chuck and Charles. So what do you think about this idea that it wasn't necessarily Sony pictures that did this, it made the film available. But there were some independent and art theaters who stood up and said we are not going to take this. We're going to show this film.

JONAH GOLDBERG, AT LARGE EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I think it's fantastic film for almost everybody of the makers of "The Interview" because now it will be found out that it's not a very good movie. But I think that this is great news. I think this was a truly cowardly moment in American culture. And one of the things I love about this is that the reaction to it showed that there actually is an American culture, that from the far left to the far right, the general reaction was, hey, wait a second, when some psychopathic tries to stop us from doing what we want to do we are not going to stand for it.

ROBERTS: Certainly, the two stars in the movie were happy about it.  Seth Rogan tweeted "The people have spoken. Freedom has prevailed. Sony didn't give up. "The interview" -- that can be debated -- "The Interview" will be shown at theaters willing to play it on Christmas Day." James Franco, his co-star, tweeted "Victory. The people and the president have spoken, Sony to release "The Interview" in theaters on Christmas Day." Do you think it was because the president said you're a bunch of weenies you should be showing this?

CHARLES LANE, OPINION WRITER, WASHINGTON POST: They pushed back against him, Sony Pictures did, when he said that. I don't know. There is a whole theory that the real reason Sony pictures withdrew or didn't release the film to theaters was not that the theaters didn't want it but that Sony was afraid of more release of their e-mail secrets by these hackers. So there is a lot we still don't know.


But I'm inclined to agree with Jonah that this is a great country because you can do a lot of things to us if you are a foreign dictator, but if you try to take away our junky movies, that really gets us upset. And god bless the independent art houses out there. These are the quirky, free speech people who put on, you know, French films that nobody else wants to screen and watch, no offense to France. And sometimes it takes those plucky little small business people out there to remind everyone what the Constitution is really all about.

ROBERTS: Jonas suggested, and it is interesting, Charles, that this would be the sort of focal point of this great debate over freedom of speech and artistic impression. Variety magazine said of "The Interview," quote, "It is alleged satire that's about as funny as a communist food shortage and just as protracted."

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: First of all, I would say why not offend the French.


KRAUTHAMMER: Whenever you can get a free shot at them, take it.  No, this is a famous victory. This was very good. Sony has done what it should have done three weeks ago. But I think we may actually rue the day.  It was Wellington -- you like that, Jonah -- as Wellington save a battle lost is quite so melancholy as a battle won. Well, we won the battle, now we have to watch the movie.


LANE: Wellington would like this film.

KRAUTHAMMER: In the vain you are talking about, you know, we have a long history of censoring works of art either for reasons of being prudish or for threats. D.H. Lawrence, Henry Miller, Salmon Rushdie, and onto the pantheon we are going to add Seth Rogan. I'm not sure we are going to like what we see, and if this is going to be the great cultural export that stands for American liberty I wish we had done a bit better.

But nonetheless, I will agree, it is Christmas so let's celebrate a victory for free speech.

ROBERTS: Now, one of the reasons Sony gave about pulling this movie from distribution was that North Korea or whomever the hackers were, threatened 9/11 style attacks on theaters that showed this movie. What if something happens?

KRAUTHAMMER: But, that was ridiculous from day one. The North Koreans obviously have cyber ability. But does anybody actually believe that they have sleeper cells all over America waiting to spring? I'm sure even our intelligence agencies were highly skeptical that was serious at all. And, if it is going to be a problem, then we have resources. We have enormous Homeland Security Department. Its job is to stop stuff like this and you put them outside every theater.

LANE: I think what North Koreans may understand is that we have lots of lawyers in America. And lawyers would be telling theater owners, wait a minute. Be careful about your liability in a situation like this. And there would be a huge chilling effect just from that.

Unfortunately in this country we have had had incidents where crazed gunmen, for example in Aurora, Colorado, break into movie theaters for crazy reasons and kill 12, 15 people all at once. We have to hope that nobody is going to use this turn of events as an excuse to do the same thing.

GOLDBERG: Sunny Punch at The Washington Examiner made this point quite well. It is outrageous that we live in a legal regime when a foreign power can commit an act of war on our soil and chief beneficiaries of it are the trial lawyers. This was an opportunity for real -- you know, for a real teaching moment for the country where Obama or somebody could have stepped forward and say, this must stop. That's crazy.

ROBERTS: We have got to go. Thanks so much, guys. Really appreciate it. Good to see you today.

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