February 15th, 2010
05:36 PM ET

Oscar's most controversial man

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Stars are dining on Oscar's tab today, at the annual Luncheon for Academy Award nominees in Beverly Hills.

Sandra Bullock's here, looking lovely as can be. Also lunching are Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, George Clooney, Colin Firth, Woody Harrelson, Vera Farmiga, Quentin Tarantino and James Cameron, among many others.

One of the most controversial people here isn't a nominee, but a guest. Daniel Ellsberg, the subject of the Best Documentary nominee "The Most Dangerous Man in America", joined the Oscar-nominated co-directors of the film, Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith. If you're old enough, you'll remember he's the man who famously leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, making him possibly the most important whistleblower in American history.

The Papers seriously undermined claims by the Johnson and Nixon administrations that the Vietnam War was progressing well and victory over North Vietnam was achievable. A furious Pres. Nixon personally ordered a campaign to discredit Ellsberg.

Ellsberg stopped by our poolside camera position at the Beverly Hilton for an interview before having lunch. At age 78 he's looking great, although apparently he's a bit hard of hearing (he wore a couple of hearing aids). CNN's Brooke Anderson, co-host of Showbiz Tonight, had a great chat with him about being thrust into the Oscar race. Look for details on their conversation in the coming days on CNN and CNN.com.

I wonder if anyone bugged him for an autograph?

soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. Debra R

    Courage? Please! He wanted attention.

    My Uncle went to 'Nam, served his country lost everyone in his unit due to a bomb and when he came back someone spit on him.

    You think this guy is a hero? Why don't they do a documentary on JFK who was the one who got us into Viet Nam? Or on the treason committed by Jane Fonda? People like her and Ellsberg gave comfort to the enemy in the middle of a war and helped to demoralize and entire generation of men....what nearly destroyed our country was the fact that we did not support our military and the cowards who either went to Canada or burned their draft cards are now running the country....

    February 17, 2010 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. nick

    It itook a remarkable act of courage on Ellsberg's part and yet a simple act of conscience. This film reveals how a profound transformation is possible even in the most unlikley of places. Many lives were spared then and more could be saved now with this is as a template for today.
    Hopefully individuals,who know of the deceptions that allow the present wars to be justified, will find the courage to speak.They will need the same support to discredit our constant warmaking folly.This kind of honesty is needed now more than ever.Request others to show this important work and ask others to view it with an open mind Is our media is snoring too loudly?

    February 16, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. avatar

    treason, yes. Not daniel's, but that of those both so evil and so proud of ignoring the constitution. What happened in Vietnam nearly destroyed our country. Now the same is happening again with these lat thirty years of right wing domination (I include Clinton, who cared for private affairs than public policy

    February 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jake

    Completely disagree ....that was a horrible war with politicians pulling the wool over people's eyes ... whether this man did it to make himself feel good is moot but he did a justice for the American people to see through the political BS. Bravo for the courage to do that.

    And I think its just stupid to speculate on his motives ...you don't know ...that's that. He could have personally hated Nixon and didn't give a crap about the war, he could have hated the war and wanted to save American lives ....whatever the case may be I think the end result is a good one.

    February 16, 2010 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lori

    I don't always agree with the Supreme Court (they put Bush in office) but to right the wrong of the Vietnam War (it was a civil war we got involved in), how many more names did you want to add to the memorial in Washington if the war continued....

    February 16, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Debra R

    Bruin: and we all know the supreme court is always correct right? I'm sure you also agreed with the Dredd Scott decision.....

    February 16, 2010 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  7. Bruin

    Debra – An interesting opinion, but the courts disagree with you.

    Thief: Yes. Ellsberg freely admitted stealing the papers.

    Whistleblower: Yes. The depth of the US' involvement had been kept from the American public since the Truman administration, but was only brought to light during the Nixon years.

    Traitor: No. While the Supreme Court was divided, Ellsberg was never charged or convicted with treason.

    February 16, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jim B

    39 years ago, Ellsberg made a personal decision to release the "Pentagon Papers", classified information about the Vietnam War. Ellsberg was viewed as a hero by many, a traitor by others. The simple truth is that he released classified information to the public, something he was not authorized to do. He broke the law and he got away with it. Regardless of the propriety of the classification on the material, Ellsberg was not a declassification authority. He broke the law. He should have been tried in the appropriate federal court and, if convicted, sent to prison. I think his driving purpose for doing what he did was a personal sense of self-rigjteousness.

    February 16, 2010 at 10:24 am | Report abuse |
  9. Debra R

    I would have bugged him. I would have asked why he is such a traitor. Whistleblower? No Biggest traitor since Benedict Arnold? Yes.

    February 16, 2010 at 6:16 am | Report abuse |

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