Jack Dunn had to threaten suit to clear his name. The movie producer of Spotlight finally admitted on the cusp of facing a costly suit that Dunn never said the words attributed to him. This admission was not done until after the Oscar for best picture was given to Spotlight. It was thought best to hide the lies until then. That the movie admitted lying about him calls into question its whole truthfulness: lie in one thing lie in all.
It’s worse though. One Globe reporter, Walter “Robby” Robinson who knew that Dunn never said those words was quoted as saying about the meeting where Dunn is shown making those statements: “I remember it quite well.” He said the scene is faithful to what occurred in the meeting — “That’s what happened in 2002, and that’s what the scene is about.”
We know now that could not be the case.
We also do not know what the other Globe reporter, Sacha Pfeiffer, also at the meeting said about it. According to what was reported in the paper when the issue came up: “The filmmakers based the scene on the recollections of Robinson, which were vetted by Pfeiffer.” Did she too allow the lies to linger? The Boston Herald’s headline read: “Globe reporters defend portrayal of Jack Dunn in movie.”
How much of the Spotlight is based on fabrication? I’ve heard that it portrayed the Globe reporters as courageous; but as we’ve seen in real life they lacked the courage to acknowledge the truth. A leopard does not change his spots. These reporters let a good man twist in the wind and allowed his reputation to be shredded based upon an admitted fiction. It brings back memories of the Globe reporters dealing with Billy Bulger.
This time, its victim was not a public figure like Bulger. The law is such that there is almost no chance of a public figure to sue and win against a newspaper. It is otherwise when a private individual is libeled. The victim here, Jack Dunn, had a very good chance of winning.
To right the wrong to him Dunn hired a prestigious law firm in Boston Todd and Weld. They told the producer of Spotlight, Open Road Studio, admit you lied or suffer the consequences. Open Road knowing it had fabricated Dunn’s role in the movie admitted its wrong.
“As is the case with most movies based on historical events, ‘Spotlight’ contains fictionalized dialogue that was attributed to Mr. Dunn for dramatic effect.” The producers also agreed to donate money to certain charities.
In the movie the words put in Dunn’s mouth were: “It’s a big school, Robbie. You know that. And we are talking about seven alleged victims over, what, eight years?” Also, “This is ridiculous. You are reaching for a story here.” And then, “We know you care about the school as much as we do.”
There were two articles in the Globe about this matter at the time. One, previously mentioned was on November 25, 2015, where the reporter defended the fiction. The other on November 22 by a columnist noted Jack Dunn after seeing the movie’s false portrayal of him at the meeting with the two Globe reporters threw up. The columnist brushed off his complaint saying screenwriters and filmmakers “make stuff up.” He said “the real problem . . . is that fictional dialogue . . . was put in the mouth of a real person.” Apparently in his mind lies, “fictional dialogue”, in a film purporting to represent a true situation is fine.
The columnist emailed the director who co-wrote the screenplay about Dunn’s complaint. In an email response the director wrote: “We spent an enormous time researching in-depth what happened in Boston . . . we feel confident . . . the movie captures with a high degree of authenticity the nature of events, personalities, and pressures of the time.” We now know that too is false. The columnist ended his column by taking a gratuitous shot at Cardinal Bernard Law.
The Globe noted the film producers admission that Dunn’s dialogue was made up. Others also noted it. But that leaves much to be done.
Isn’t Dunn owed an apology by the Globe? Shouldn’t those reporters who knowingly let the lie linger suffer something for the wrongful suffering they caused Jack Dunn? How do we believe anything they say when they knowing let a false statement cause harm to a person and all they had to do was admit the truth. It would have cost them nothing. Does this lack of character infect all of their work. And, what does it really say about Spotlight?