HBO Show the Newsroom is Committed to Realism, But Not In the Way You Think

If you watch HBO’s The Newsroom, you may have seen The Cato InstituteInstitute forJustice, and others get a quick namedrop in relation to the Citizens United Supreme Court case. Actor Jeff Daniels misstates the holding of the case, claiming that Citizens United “allowed corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to any political candidate without anyone knowing where the money was coming from.”

This shows Aaron Sorkin’s unwavering commitment to realism in his shows. Reporters regularly get the holding of Citizens United wrong. After all, if reporters were crystal clear that Citizens United cleared the way for all manner of groups to use “corporate treasury funds” to fund broad and overtly political statements about candidates, they would inevitably conclude that their own right to make those kinds of statements would be jeopardized by much of the campaign finance regulation on the books prior to Citizens United. It’s hard to demonize libertarians when they’re fighting for the rights of everyone, including reporters and entertainers who work for subsidiaries of Time Warner (CNN, HBO), Viacom (CBS), Disney (ABC), Comcast (NBC, MSNBC), General Electric (NBC, MSNBC), News Corp., and (FOX, Fox News).

As to the claims about secrecy in political speech, Cato Institute senior fellow Nat Hentoff has a few thoughts on disclosure and the jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas.