American Scandal

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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.

Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.

Encore: Interview with Filmmaker Alex Gibney | 5

Encore: Interview with Filmmaker Alex Gibney | 5

Tue, 03 Dec 2019 10:00

Host Lindsay Graham talks with Alex Gibney, director of “Client 9,” a documentary that examines the rise and fall of Eliot Spitzer.

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I'm Lindsey Graham and this is American Scan. Today we wrap up our series on corruption in the state capital of Albany, New York. We started the series with the rise and fall of former New York Attorney General and Governor Elliott Spitzer. His very public demise made national headlines and was also the subject several years later of the documentary Client 9, The Rise and Fall of Elliott Spitzer. In 2018, I spoke about that film with its Oscar winning director Alex Gibney. And the course of making the film Gibney interviewed Elliott Spitzer himself and many of his enemies, providing a much richer understanding of the scandal and of the corrosive effects of power, especially in Albany. In addition to Gibney's multiple Emmys, a Grammy, several Peabody Awards and more, he is also won an Academy Award for best documentary feature in 2007 for the film Taxi to the Dark Side, which he wrote and directed. He's the president and founder of Jigsaw Productions and has been named by the New York Times and Esquire Magazine as the most important and prolific documentarian of our time. Alex Gibney joins us from Jigsaw Studio in New York City. American scandal is sponsored by the new ABC drama Alaska Daily. When an Indigenous woman goes missing in Alaska, it sparks new questions about other missing and murdered Indigenous women. And that's where the thrilling new ABC drama Alaska Daily begins and where it's headed will have you on the edge of your seat. Two time Academy Award winner Hillary Swank stars as Eileen, a veteran reporter who joins a team of local journalists working to bring the truth to light. From Academy Award winning screenwriter Tom McCarthy, Alaska Daily premieres Thursday, October 6th on ABC and streams next day on Hulu. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes and conspiracy theories together and we'd love for you to join us. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or wherever you listen to podcasts. Alex Gibney, thank you for joining me on this interview episode of American Scandal. Thank you, Lindsey. Good to be here. Your work really spans the gamut from documentaries on Scientology to musicians like Frank Sinatra and James Brown. And you've even executive producer cooking series on Netflix. So given such breath, what draws you to a project? What about a subject gets you thinking this needs to be a film? Very often I'm drawn to stories that look behind the headlines. You know, once the caravan of the 24.7 news cycle has passed by, a lot of evidence and a lot of detail and sometimes the very essential meaning of the story is left behind. People have decided what the story is about and they've moved on with a 24.7 caravan. So I'm intrigued at what the real story is and what people missed. And so in the case of the Elliot Spitzer tale, I found a number of interesting things about it. I was offered this story by a group of people who thought I should take it on. And I was initially not so interested because it just seemed like a garden variety, sex scandal. But the more I thought about it, the more interesting it became. I mean, this was the sheriff of Wall Street who goes down just a few months before the world economy explodes. That timing seemed interesting to me. And then the whole idea of there was a kind of murder on the Orient Express quality to this, which is to say that Spitzer was going after some of the Titans of industry and banking. And as a group, they end up taking him down. So it seemed to me a pretty interesting story about power and how power really works. And how we like to think that people in government are more powerful than private industry. Maybe it's not so. And maybe it's more of a bare knuckled brawl than we think. And then there was the whole issue of how we went down, that is to say the sex scandal. And I was interested in the sexual politics as well as the electoral politics. So for all those reasons, it seemed a very interesting story to explore. In 2007, Elliott Spitzer is elected governor. He spent eight years as New York's attorney general and earned the moniker, the sheriff of Wall Street, fighting corruption in the financial industry. He was a hero for a lot of people and seemed too big to jail. Right. Were you living in New York at the time? Were you an admirer? I was in the New York area. I mean, I live in the great and corrupt state of New Jersey. But I work in New York. So of course, I was intensely interested in what was going on in New York. And I certainly wasn't admirer of Spitzer. I thought he was fulfilling an important function. Now he may have been legislating from the attorney general's office. But frankly, I thought he was doing something that needed to be done, which was to hold the power of Wall Street in check. Because they were repatiously violating the rules that we regard, you know, in a kind of idealistic way as essential to the functioning of good markets and fairness in the economy. And he was going up and punching a lot of these people in the nose and basically saying, you can't just be corrupt. I'm going to come down on you. I'm going to come down on you hard because as the attorney general of New York state, I have purview over the financial industry. And so he was one of the few people willing to take down those people on, which I found really interesting. And I think frankly, he could have been president. He was one of the few politicians, democratic politicians who pulled higher among men than women. So because he was a law and order guy, guys like them and women like them too, because he was trying to stick up for the underdog. So I think he had an opportunity, he not fallen so far to become president of the United States. I think he was on his way. Then of course, just a year after becoming governor, he's connected to a prostitution ring, which really no one was expecting given his law and order background. When you were researching this and thinking about the sexual scandal aspect, what was interesting about that portion of the story from a filmmaker's perspective? Was there one single question you needed to answer? I wouldn't say there was one question, but there were a number of questions. The first thing was why escorts, why not have an affair? And then I also wanted to know a lot more about the world of escorts. When we say escorts, I mean very high end high price prostitutes or sex workers. So they cater to the financial industry. And of course, as it turns out, they also cater to the attorney general and governor. So I was interested in why would a crusading and law abiding attorney general, why would he turn to an escorts service, which is of course illegal in New York State? And then I also wanted to know more about it, like who was this Ashley Dupre? And it turned out that actually she was not at the heart of the story. She was a rather peripheral character, but I did find somebody who is at the heart of the story. So there were a lot of interesting threads to pull on in order to be able to understand the sexual part of the spitzer scandal. And who was it that you found that you thought was at the heart of the story? And I found a woman who's not named. She's called Angelina in the film. But this was a woman who had a great many assignations with spitzer. And indeed, would travel to meet him when he was on the road, which was one of the reasons that she was in the sites of the Department of Justice, because the Department of Justice, weirdly, was trying to make a man act case against spitzer. And the man act is a much reviled piece of legislation, which makes it illegal to travel with a woman across state lines for immoral purposes. It's what ultimately nailed Jack Johnson way back in the day. And because he traveled across state lines for immoral purposes with this escort, who he requested a number of times. And he ended up having a relationship with, as opposed to a kind of Wambam sexual encounter, which is how he started his experience at the, at the Empress Club VIP. That brought me into finding this woman. And it took me a long time to get there. When I finally found her, she agreed to talk, but, but not on camera. And indeed, because her voice is distinctive, didn't want to talk on audio. What we had to do was I recorded extensive conversations with her. I edited them. And then I actually hired an actress named Ren Schmidt to portray her. And at least initially, that's not disclosed, though ultimately it is disclosed in the film. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion, or you woke up in the morgue, or you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening, asks our listeners this very question, while we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening, brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit, and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives. Even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. Another person you interviewed in this documentary is Elliott Spitzer himself. And we would like to play a clip here. He seemed pretty candid throughout his conversations with you. Of course, uncomfortable at times, though. Here he is talking about the perception of the scandal. It is to a certain extent a very classic tale, perhaps of an individual who from the exterior appears to have been captured by hubris, a sense of standing for virtues and I think working very hard to articulate and work towards establishing rules and boundaries. But then himself slipping and failing and this goes back to the days of Greek mythology. This is not a new story. He's pretty much just summed up what many people thought the headline version of his fall. Why do you think he agreed to be interviewed? And when in the interview process did he come to this summary? That was early. And that part is very much the controlled Elliott Spitzer. And I had a number of interviews with him. And I think over time we got a little bit deeper than that. That's Elliott Spitzer talking about himself and the third person and also comparing himself to Greek gods. That's the Elliott Spitzer that's very much the public Elliott Spitzer. I think he ultimately wanted to do and but we ultimately got a lot deeper than that I think. I think he wanted to do this in part and it took a long time to persuade him to agree to speak. And we were the first people to get him to talk about this publicly. I think he agreed to do it because he didn't want the scandal to be the last chapter. He wanted an opportunity to be able to not just give his side of the story but to also tell the whole story. So it was not just a fall from grace. It was a rise in fall story. He wanted people to remember the rise as well as the fall. And so on that basis. And I was interested in that part too. So on that basis we agreed to talk. And talk we did. And I think it was a series of five interviews at the very last one when we finally finished. He turned to me and quipped. So same time next week. Do you think his desire to tell the full story the rise and fall. I mean it's understandable that everyone will remember the fall. And it's understandable that he would want people to know about the rise. Does he make his case? Was he compelling that his whole arc should be remembered? Yes, I think he was compelling. I think if you look at his career as attorney general, it was a terribly impressive career in terms of being the sheriff of Wall Street and being kind of the de facto regulator. And so in a system where the SEC and Congress was unwilling to hold Wall Street to account because Wall Street has so much money. If you're a politician, you need Wall Street's money to get elected. Spitzer was very rich. He didn't need their money. And frankly, the way our economic system is structured, it's almost intentional in terms of the weakening of regulatory bodies that attempt to, you know, hold the financial industry and check. So there was nobody minding the store until Spitzer. So I found what he did in that realm to be very impressive. And indeed, you know, as an attorney general, he did what attorneys general are supposed to do, which was to protect the weak against the strong. So look at people who are running scams against people who couldn't afford to fight back and he would fight back for them. So I found it very powerful. In these interview segments with L.A. Spitzer, he looks like he's sitting on a living room couch. It feels familiar and close. Where was that film? And what was your intention in that setting? I think the intent we wanted to find a place. And I think that's part of the reason why he said same time next week. We've wanted to find a place that was secure. I knew I was going to interview him over a number of different times. And I want to control of that space. So it was the apartment. It was the parent's apartment of one of my producers. And we treated it. And because the parents were mostly overseas, we had access to it over a period of time. And we were able to make it into a kind of a set. But we wanted to feel very comfortable. And therefore the couch and the day core. But it's at once both comfortable and a little bit severe. In shooting the Spitzer interview and frankly in shooting the Angelina interview with the actress. Those are the only two people with whom I use the device called the Tony Tron. It's a device, a series of mirrors you put over the housing of the lens, which allows you to be looking at the speaker in this case, Spitzer. But because he's looking into a mirror over the lens, he appears to be looking directly into the barrel of the lens, which in fact he is doing. And so that gives it a kind of intimacy that's unlike the all the other interviews. So it's as though those are the only two people that that have that kind of direct eye contact with the viewer. The title of the documentary is Client 9. Just briefly, where does that name come from and why did you decide on that? It seemed a little bit like citizen came, but in a very different way. Client 9 is taken from a document compiled by the Department of Justice when they were investigating Spitzer. Or they were theoretically investigating the Emperors Club VIP. And in so doing, they discovered a number of clients. Certainly clients went through eight and there were many after nine. Interestingly, the only name that leaked to the press was Client 9, Elliott Spitzer. But there seemed to be something sort of universal about it. He was just Client 9, anonymous, yet at the same time, of course, he was Elliott Spitzer. So there was a certain poetry to it, a certain cruel poetry, I should say. And frankly, it was also salacious and intentionally so, because this was a story about a scandal. But interestingly, Client 9, even that phrase, has a number of different meanings. I mean, there's a salacious quality to it because he's a client of an escort service. But there's a law enforcement quality to it too. And that document is something that the Department of Justice used to leak to the, to various news organizations, particularly the New York Times, as a way of giving them a series of breadcrumbs that they could follow in order to be able to find out that the governor was using an escort service. They did that instead of indicting him, which was probably more effective than in destroying his political career than indicting him. And frankly, I'm not sure they had grounds to indic him on a federal level. Well, this leads into something I was going to ask you. You mentioned earlier, the Fed's were theoretically investigating the Amperer's Club. And you just seem to indicate that this theoretical investigation was just a means to get to Spitzer. Do you think that's really the case? Yes, I don't think there's any question about it. It wasn't as if the federal government, the federal government as a rule does not take on the busting of prostitution rings, you know, city, city attorneys take that on sometimes state attorneys take that on, but not the federal government generally speaking. So they were following a trail. And then once they found that the trail led to the Amperer's Club, they began to investigate the Amperer's Club, but it was really following Spitzer. It was not an investigation into a prostitution ring that just happened to stumble on Elliott Spitzer. Now, this is this I should say takes place at a time when there was a great deal of controversy over whether or not the US Department of Justice was being rapidly politicized by the Bush administration. And indeed, the US attorney in the Southern District of New York was in a man named Michael Garcia, who ultimately, I think as a reward for taking out Elliott Spitzer was rewarded with a partner's position at, I believe Kirkland and Ellis, you guys that have to check that. But that's a very prominent, if I'm right, and you should check it, if I'm right, that's a very prominent, very prototypically pro Republican firm from which a lot of the Republican power brokers in legal terms often emerge. This gets to the question of Spitzer's enemies, certainly he made enemies of a lot of very powerful and very wealthy people on Wall Street. You would think or hope that the federal government itself has no direct animus towards him, but perhaps the people in install positions might you made some discoveries about these enemies of Spitzer, but then left it a mystery on who might have been involved in the downfall. Do you have a thesis on what happened and who was behind it? Yeah, so I should say two things about this. One is I do have a thesis, but I only went as far in the film as I felt the facts would take me. So I go right on up to the edge of the thesis, but I can't say definitively that I know exactly what happened because the key perpetrators and this murder on the more or an expressed story didn't confess. But since the film, you know, a number of people have told me that I was right, at least in terms of some of the key figures who were in business that went after Spitzer, notably Ken Langdone. Maurice Hank Greenberg, who was the head of AIG and Dick Rassow, who ran the New York Stock Exchange. You know, I had a number of sources tell me that they toasted Spitzer's demise with a magnum of champagne at the 21 Club. And Langdone denies ever hiring private eyes to look after Spitzer. But we know that private eyes were the reason that Spitzer was ultimately the people got enough clues to understand that something might have been wrong. And then, you know, through banking records, you know, a parallel investigation takes place and the Department of Justice becomes involved. And I do think that there was, there was an animus towards Spitzer because he was arrogant. And I think the Department of Justice felt that sometimes he was muscling into their territory and also that he wasn't being, he wasn't observing the proper role of an attorney general. He was trying to legislate from the attorney general's office. So I think there was a certain amount of ill will towards Spitzer from the Department of Justice. In addition, I do think there were elements in an extremely politicized Department of Justice who were gunning for Spitzer. So all these people got together. That's why I think murder on the R&X press is such a good analogy. All these people got together to plunge in the knife into Spitzer. But the thing that really takes them, so I think it starts with a private investigation into Spitzer to just see what Dirt can emerge. Once a little bit of Dirt is revealed, the Department of Justice takes over. And then they produce a thorough investigation, which they then leak to the press. And that in short terms is how Spitzer went down. One of Spitzer's largest and most public enemy was not a Titan of Industry, but in Albany, Joe Bruno. He was a Senate Majority Leader of New York for more than decade and certainly during Spitzer's times governor. They had a bitter rivalry, especially after what became known as Truppard Gate. Here's a clip from the documentary in which you talk to Bruno about their relationship. You know, what was strange with Elliott Spitzer was he could be pleasant and charming and act very caring when my wife was reported to be in Seriously El. He called me several times. And this is right in the height of some of our worst exchanges. Couldn't have been any more pleasant. But when he came after me in what was called Truppard Gate, then it was apparent that this man really intended to destroy me. So my first question is it's obvious that the two of them are from different backgrounds and different political parties. But why do you suppose he and Spitzer had such a hard time getting along? Well, I do think there are a number of reasons for that. One of them is I think Spitzer was in some ways a great public figure, but a terrible politician. Some of his own advisors would tell me with great anguish that they could never get Elliott Spitzer to play the political game in which you try to seed with somebody you need as an ally. An idea, even though it's your idea and let them take credit for it. And once they've absorbed it as their idea becomes a lot easier to make it happen. They think it's theirs. And so they they want to take credit for it. And Spitzer would always say things like, well, why should I let him take credit for it was my idea. And everybody would sort of slap their foreheads like you idiot. That's not how the game is played. The game is played by making other people feel good. That was the game that Clinton was so masculine and his own way, Joe Bruno, gentleman Joe Bruno. He was great. You know, he's a very charming man. I wouldn't say Elliott. I mean, there are things I find charismatic or charming about Elliott, but generally speaking, he's not a charming guy. Bill Clinton walks into a room. He seduces everybody. Not so Elliott Spitzer. Elliott Spitzer uses force and he learned that in the attorney general's office. That's not always such a great way of, you know, getting legislation through particularly in a kind of high bound environment like the Senate and assembly in New York state, which is deeply corrupt. So he wasn't good at glad handing and instead he would punch people in the nose and he'd be surprised that people would remember that he had punched them in the nose when it came time to cut him some slack. You know, we think about a number of people who went through big sex scandals and survived, including a man named David Vitter from a senator from Louisiana who ordered prostitutes during roll call votes in Congress. And yet all he had to do was to pray to God that, you know, and note to everybody that that he was a sinner and but God had forgiven him and then he goes on with his political career. It was completely analogous to Spitzer Clinton would be another one or John Edward, well, John Edwards fell, but Clinton survived his political scandal. Why? Because Clinton had friends. Spitzer at the time of his scandal had no friends. I don't think he was a very good political player at all. He didn't know how to make friends. He knew how to make enemies. It's 2018 and it doesn't look like much has really changed an Albany since Spitzer resigned. Many of these characters that were instrumental in his fall have fallen themselves Bruno forced to resign. And just recently earlier this month former New York State Assembly Speaker, Sheldon Silver, one of the three men in the room with Spitzer was granted his request for bail and to stay out of prison until his appeal of his conviction of corruption charges. And then you have former New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skellows and his son Adam who had also had their sentencing trial. A lot in the news about the current governor, Cuomo as well. What is it about Albany that that persists that even despite you know Spitzer's steamrolling charge to change it Cuomo's attempt to do the same. Why is Albany corrupt and why is it intractable? That's probably a really good question for William Kennedy in terms of the culture of Albany. But I suspect you know that the culture of Albany is as corrupt as it is because it's a representative body of a very wealthy state. And yet these people don't really get paid enough to survive. So they're doing there. They're sort of businessmen representatives who have access to enormous treasures if they play the game well. And so you see incredible corruption. And it will be surprising if that corruption can be rooted out. You noted properly that a number of the key players in the Spitzer scandal or the Spitzer story have become the scraced themselves and fallen. One exception to that is Andrew Cuomo. Andrew Cuomo was actually pivotal in terms of bringing Spitzer down if you go back and think about it. He was the one who was really writing very hard on the investigation into Trooper gate, which at least in my view was kind of a trumped up episode, and it was kind of a great thing to do with him. He was a little bit more agitated by Joe Bruno just to make Spitzer look bad. But I think Cuomo saw his own rival, you know, Spitzer as an opportunity to make that more than it was. That's my own personal view. That's not something that's deeply embedded in in the film. That one of the key financial and political supporters of Cuomo, particularly when he first runs for governor is Ken Langone, who is Spitzer's arch enemy, the man who said, you know, if he's going to try to put a stake in my heart, he better make it steel because wood will break. So the alliance between Ken Langone and Andrew Cuomo is one that people should probably pay a little bit more attention to. You've had opportunity to interview and converse with a lot of people of power. Albany is a place of power. What do you think it is about power that makes people think that they can get away with things. It's an aphorism. It's easy to say the power corrupts. But what's the mechanism of power that gets into the bloodstream of these people? I think two things happen simultaneously and it's a toxic mix. One is when you get a lot of power, you begin to believe your own bullshit. You begin to believe that you are as great and as wonderful as other people say that you are and they say that you are because you have a lot of power, you know, surrounded by flatters and the next thing you know you want to believe them. I also think that people with power tend to be on a mission. And when you are on a mission, you believe more strongly in the purity of the end than the goodness of the means to achieve that end. And you somehow believe that the pure end can justify an ignoble or corrupt means. And so this this combination of, you know, a sense of enormous belief in your own strength of character as a result of those who flatter you. And this sense that the end justifies a ruthless means allows you to be corrupt. I think that, you know, whether it's Elliott Spitzer, who imagined that, you know, look, he was doing so much good for the people of New York and ultimately the people around the country, surely he deserved a little bit of fun. And, and, and, and I think that, and that he could do as a former crusading attorney general could engage in activities for which he prosecuted other people. That's a kind of suspension of, of, of a belief that is, is hard to really understand. It's a sort of extreme cognitive dissonance. But I think people in power are afflicted with a blindness. And a sense of invulnerability that ultimately, interestingly and ironically often causes them to lose that power. This affliction, the sense of invulnerability most often infects those in positions of public power, politicians, celebrities, certain flashy CEOs. But there's another sort of power, a power you've alluded to, the power of influence behind the scenes and the power of influence of the public narrative. In terms of, in terms of power or in terms of this story, there's an intriguing character that plays a kind of minor role in this film. But who has since played a more fundamental role in the rise of Donald Trump, and that is Roger Stone. It's unclear who hired Roger Stone to tag or target Elliott Spitzer. I suspect it was either Ken Langone or Hank Greenberg or one of their cutouts. But what's interesting about Roger Stone is not only how often and how easily he lies, much like his friend Donald Trump. But also how effective those lies are because they contain an entertainment value that proves so seductive that they then get circulated and recirculated over and over and over again. And it's not worth perseverating too much about this in terms of the specifics of the client nine story, but as a metaphor, I think it's terribly important. The whole idea of Elliott Spitzer and his black socks, that is to say the idea that he wore those black socks to bed when he had these assignations with escorts, is something that was wholly made up by Roger Stone. I know because I talked to the escorts. But it's such a delicious story that even reputable outlets like the New York Times would reprint it. And it's a story of incredible political power because it demeans Spitzer. It makes a mockery. It makes a laughing stock out of him. Now fast forward to the Trump campaign when Trump can insinuate and or actually make up the most outrageous untruths. And yet because of their entertainment value, they get redistributed and recycled over and over and over again until they have enormous political force. That to me is something that's that's scary. But also worth looking at and and and and a key feature of the client nine film. The other thing I would say and this is probably going to get me in trouble, but I'll say it anyway. The other thing that I always wondered about the client nine story and I don't know for sure whether this is true. But there's another shadow figure that I wasn't able to include directly in the film. But that is David Boyce, the lawyer, the famous lawyer. David Boyce is the attorney for Hank Greenberg. I always wondered given what we know now about David Boyce reaching out and procuring a ruthless private eye firms for Harvey Weinstein, whether or not that was a job that he was given on the Spitzer case. I have no way of knowing whether it's true. I just in retrospect, I wonder about it. Roger Stone is just a character and I can't believe he's been doing it so long. His tactics, I think you are right, have suddenly become mainstream. They were dirty tricks, but now they're perhaps just the way things are done. That's right. I think that's absolutely right. In terms of a comment about politics, Roger Stone has managed to make dirty tricks that used to take place in the shadows of the political arena. He's brought them into the Big Ten. You're a documentarian and filmmaker. Your father was Frank Gibney, a long time journalist, editor, and author, famous in part for books that looked at power suspiciously, like in Communist Poland and the Soviet secret police. How did your father influence your work and your mission as a documentary filmmaker? First of my father, I think my father influenced me greatly. He was very proud of his career as a journalist. Even when he had become a businessman, he was the vice chairman of the Board of Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, which, while it had its own editorial mission, was also very much of a business job. But he was very proud of his work as a journalist, both as a kind of a truth seeker and as somebody who was eternally curious. I think also in terms of his career, I'm afflicted with his same character flaw, which was that instead of the classic road to power, which is to suck up and kick down as you're climbing the ladder. He had a tendency to suck down and kick up. And so as a result, he was fired from a number of his jobs at time, newsweek, and life, et cetera. I think perhaps I was wise enough in my career, mostly to work for myself, because I think I would have had a hard time working for other people. But I think I was lucky along the way in terms of seeing some of my colleagues who in some of their early films were flattered, very extraordinarily, because some of their early films were great and much heralded. I had a much longer tougher road to get to a position of prominence in my career. As a result, by the time I got there, I wasn't as willing or susceptible to believe the bullshit. So I think I had that advantage. And I do think, one of the things I think about now, and I make a documentary about somebody, and I make a lot of documentaries about abuse and power. The Spitzer film is one of those ones that I'm particularly proud of, because I think I gave everybody their say, you know, Ken Langone, I heard him tell other people that he loved this film. He comes out with very different conclusions than I would come out of it with, but he feels I got Spitzer right and I got him right. And I feel very proud of that, because it seems to me, you have to make films, particularly when people are willing to trust you with their testimony. That you have to be true to what it is they're trying to tell you and to embrace the contradictions of that testimony, so that you feel you could watch that film while sitting next to them in a movie theater and be able to defend everything that you did. I think that's a hugely valuable exercise that that that that to seat movie theater exercise where when you're watching a cut and thinking, man, I'm really taking it to this guy right now. You think to yourself, wait a minute, what if he was sitting next to me? Would I be able to look him or her in the eye and say, this is fair? That's my test. You've covered a lot of interesting subjects in your career and a lot of interesting people just casually wondering here, if you had access and budget and everything you needed of anyone living today, who would you do a film about and why? Well, and this isn't impossible to ask, but the person I'd want to do a film about is Barack Obama. But I fear that I would be disappointed because I wouldn't get the Barack Obama that I would want to make a film about. The Barack Obama that I would want to make a film about is one who would be ruthlessly honest, and I don't think he's prepared, willing or able to do that at this moment in his career. But I've never seen such an extraordinary mixture of high ideals and soaring rhetoric. And yet, in my view, hugely disappointing and craven political actions that ultimately led to disastrous policies. And he is a guy who knows the difference between the principles and the actions. And so it always made me wonder why he chose the path that he chose at a moment when he could have gone high, he went low. And yet, at our lowest moment, he was also able to go very high, particularly when it came to trying to unite us in a moment of great rhetorical flourish. So, you know, if he were to be honest, Barack Obama is the person I'd like to make a film about, but I fear it can't be honest. Well, if you happen to make the film, I will be sure to watch it. Alex Gibney, thank you so much for joining us today on American Scandal. Many thanks. Great pleasure. Thank you so much. From Wondry, this is episode five of five of New York State of Crime for American Scandal. On our next series, we look into one of the largest political scandals of the 20th century, the Iran Contra affair. It's a deep, complex story with covert operations, secret bank accounts, hostages, arm steels, and a cover up that implicates everyone, even the Teflon president himself, Ronald Reagan. American Scandal is hosted, edited, and produced by me Lindsey Graham for airship. Additional production assistance for this interview episode by Jacqueline Kim, executive producers Stephanie Jenns, Marshal Louis, and her nonlopes for Wondry.