Having not seen the Frost/Nixon play, I decided to watch the original David Frost interview of the disgraced former President over Christmas. Frankly, I am amazed that David Frost claimed in his interview in Sunday Times Culture section yesterday that he got a '99.9% apology' from Richard Nixon.
He did not if you watch the original recording. He did not even get a confession out of President Nixon of any importance. Nixon 'confesses' to a political cover-up but not a legal cover-up or a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice (of which he was absolutely guilty.) He says that he 'let people down' which is not the same thing as an apology.
Apparently, he does apologise in the film which I have to say makes me far less likely to go to see it. It is the reason why Ben Bradlee who was Editor of the Washington Post at the time of Watergate is so furious with it.
Does this matter? Surely it's just dramatic licence? No, it absolutely does matter. Richard Nixon never stood trial for his crimes as he was pardoned by President Gerald Ford. He shattered American democracy and corrupted everything the nation stands for. Why on earth should the film, which ultimately will become the popular historical record, exonerate someone who is guilty and was never tried by distorting the truth?
There is no reason for Sir David Frost or anyone else to distort anything. The interviews are incredibly gripping and a seminal TV moment. At one point David Frost penetrates the inner emotional sanctum of the former President. He seems to realise the enormity of what he has done and there is a glimpse of a soul and shame. That is priceless viewing and I would whole-heartedly recommend taking the time to watch it.
But there was no confession of any meaning. There was no apology. For that reason I may just have to give Frost/Nixon a miss. I'll go to watch Milk instead.