Conn. Congressman Petitions Spielberg To Change State's Voting Record In 'Lincoln'

Steven Spielberg's Lincoln didn't sit quite right with Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney, namely the part of the film that depicts two of his predecessors from Connecticut voting against the constitutional amendment to end slavery. Courtney left the theater, checked the facts and discovered that the movie was in fact wrong: All four Connecticut representatives at the time voted for the amendment. Courtney tells Audie Cornish that he is now asking Spielberg to correct the error before the film goes to DVD.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Now to a different time in the history of the Union.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LINCOLN")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: A motion has been made to bring the bill for the 13th Amendment to a vote.

CORNISH: That's a scene from the movie "Lincoln." It takes place in 1865, when the constitutional amendment to outlaw slavery is being brought up for a vote. Well, when Representative Joe Courtney of Connecticut, a Democrat, saw the movie recently, something about that vote surprised him.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "LINCOLN")

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: We begin with, Connecticut. Mr. Augustus Benjamin, on the matter of this amendment, how say you?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Nay.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Mr. Arthur Bentley.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Nay.

CORNISH: You heard those nays, right? Well, that got Congressman Courtney wondering. And he joins us now. Congressman, welcome to the program.

REPRESENTATIVE JOE COURTNEY: Great to be here.

CORNISH: So you did a little research, right? What did you find?

COURTNEY: That the movie was wrong, that the Connecticut delegation consisting of four members voted unanimously in support of the 13th Amendment against slavery, and clearly not as portrayed in the movie. Three members from Connecticut were Lincoln Republicans. And one was actually a Democrat from New Haven, who also voted in favor of the 13th Amendment. He actually left his wife who was ill at the time to attend the session. And applause broke out in the gallery, because obviously that was a crossover vote in favor of the president's amendment.

CORNISH: So now you've written a letter to the film's director, Steven Spielberg. What exactly are you asking him for?

COURTNEY: Well, knowing his genius - Steven Spielberg and "Schindler's List" and how it really became an educational material for high schools in schools; thinking that "Lincoln" will, I'm sure, probably follow that path, I think it's important that when they get to DVD release that they correct this black and white inaccuracy in the movie. Because coming from Connecticut, which was solidly pro-Lincoln in the elections, that's really a misrepresentation that millions of people will see and probably never have the opportunity to research on their own.

CORNISH: Is there a little bit of you just being a history buff here? I mean, is this kind of worth your time as a lawmaker, given all that's going on?

COURTNEY: You know, it's funny. Talking to people back home who've seen the movie, they have thanked me for the fact that this is something that I've raised as an issue. But yes, I was a history major at Tufts University, that's why I enjoyed the movie so much. And again, I am concerned that, as young people watch this movie - which they will - that at least, you know, in this one area where, again, a state who lost 5,000 Union soldiers in the cause, is going to be more accurately represented.

CORNISH: Well, Congressman Courtney, the Tufts' history department is proud today.

(LAUGHTER)

COURTNEY: Go jumbos.

CORNISH: That's Representative Joe Courtney of Connecticut, trying to correct the record about how the representatives from his state voted on the 13th Amendment. They all voted yea. And Courtney says he's been told that the movie studio, DreamWorks, is reviewing his request.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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