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Courtney: "Guess I'll have to watch the Oscars now."

The U.S. Congressman believes his debate with Hollywood regarding inaccuracies over the way Connecticut was portrayed in the vote on the 13th Amendment in the Academy award-nominated film "Lincoln" has produced results.

On a long train ride back to Vernon recently, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney tried to put his new career as a movie critic in perspective.

"Guess I'll have to watch the Oscars now," he said.

Who knows if Courtney will be part of the on-stage discussion when the Academy Awards are presented Feb. 24?

But he found himself in the middle of a discussion over a Best Picture candidate — "Lincoln" — when he told those who made it that there were historical inaccuracies over the way Connecticut was portrayed in the vote on the 13th Amendment.

So Lincoln is on Courtney's mind this President's Day.

“I am pleased that Mr. Kushner conceded that his ‘Lincoln’ screenplay got it wrong on the Connecticut delegation’s votes for the 13th Amendment," Courtney said. "My effort from the beginning has been to set the record straight on this vote, so people do not leave the theater believing Connecticut’s representatives in the 38th Congress were on the wrong side of history. This is a positive step toward that end, and I still hope a correction can be made in advance of the film’s DVD release."

Courtney was referring to screenwriter Tony Kushner, who has acknowledged that some cinematic license was taken.

“It is true that Connecticut, like all states, had some opposition to President Lincoln and his policies, as well as a conflicted approach to the slavery question," Courtney said. "In a democracy, that is the constant state of being that in many respects Lincoln and the Union cause were defending. Across the Civil War, Connecticut lost more than 4,000 soldiers to disease, poorly-treated wounds and in combat. Their sacrifice emphatically demonstrates Connecticut's fidelity to the struggle to preserve the Union and end slavery, which is represented in ‘Lincoln’ dramatically by the House’s vote on the 13th Amendment. The four members of Connecticut’s delegation reflected that commitment on January 31, 1865, and they deserved a better legacy than the screenplay portrayed.”

Courtney's office produced a response from Kushner.

"Rep. Courtney is correct that the four members of the Connecticut delegation voted for the amendment.  We changed two of the delegation’s votes, and we made up new names for the men casting those votes, so as not to ascribe any actions to actual persons who didn’t perform them. In the movie the voting is also organized by state, which is not the practice in the House. These alterations were made to clarify to the audience the historical reality that the Thirteenth Amendment passed by a very narrow margin that wasn’t determined until the end of the vote. The closeness of that vote and the means by which it came about was the story we wanted to tell. In making changes to the voting sequence, we adhered to time-honored and completely legitimate standards for the creation of historical drama, which is what Lincoln is. I hope nobody is shocked to learn that I also made up dialogue and imagined encounters and invented characters.

"I’m sad to learn that Rep. Courtney feels Connecticut has been defamed. It hasn’t been. The people of Connecticut made the same terrible sacrifices as every other state in the Union, but the state’s political landscape was a complicated affair … I’m sorry if anyone in Connecticut felt insulted by these 15 seconds of the movie, although issuing a Congressional press release startlingly headlined 'Before The Oscars…' seems a rather flamboyant way to make that known."

Flowers February 18, 2013 at 08:38 PM
I took this film to be an historically accurate presentation of events. What other liberties did Mr Kushner take with this script? Can I believe anything that I saw? Why didn't he put in a car chase and some kung fu?
Bob Fawkes February 18, 2013 at 08:54 PM
I'm old school when it comes to films. Give me "Gone With The Wind", "Dr. Zhivago" or "Once Upon a Time In The West". For the younger crowd, Jacobo recommends "Cocaine Cowboys".
bibledoctor02 February 19, 2013 at 03:54 PM
politicians are wusses today, since congressman ryan got shot in jonestown nearly 35 years ago. they hide in the sand like dodo birds say i haven t seen one when the blizzard hit except for despot malloy. lincoln was a statesman a king of adversity.
glen q February 20, 2013 at 04:13 PM
It saddens me that, when people apologize, they use ambiguous terms, such as, "...IF anyone was offended/hurt..." etc., etc. Do they actually consider this an apology? If you stepped on five people toes, would you say, "IF anyone was hurt when I stepped on their toes, I apologize." If you "misstepped," then an apology is simply good manners and expected. One need not flagellate onself or immolate oneself. Mr. Kushner's response is dissembling. He describe a scene, that, I, as a Black man, found disappointing when I saw the movie. Not that I expected Connecticut to be a paragon of virtue in those times, but I WAS shocked that they voted against the amendment - and it stuck in my mind. To now learn that they actually voted in favor of the amendment is a psychological "lift" for me. I find the congressman's press release no more "flamboyant" than Mr. Kushner's taking liberties with history. If he (the congressman) had simply corrected the film's inaccuracy about the state that he represents (and presumably, is proud of) at a news conference, would that have made it less "flamboyant"? What IS the correct way to say to a screenwriter, "Sorry, but your facts....aren't. Facts, that is. They're inaccuracies." It's fine to take liberties when striving for drama: but then, to react - seemingly unapologetic - when someone who knows the truth points it out, seems ungracious. Just say, "Of course you're correct. We just happened to pick Connecticut."

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