The Yale College Democrats have withdrawn their sponsorship of a screening of “The Tillman Story,”a documentary about the military cover-up of football star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman’s 2004 death in Afghanistan, out of concern that the screening is meant to demonize retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is teaching a course at Yale this fall.
A publicist working with the film’s director contacted the Dems in August about sponsoring the screening, which will be held Sept. 11 at the Whitney Humanities Center and will be followed by a town hall discussion. But upon receiving more press materials, which called the screening a “teachable moment” in light of McChrystal’s new position at Yale, Dems President Ben Stango ’11 said he feared the event would focus on McChrystal as a “bad guy.”
“Clearly the aim was to make this about McChrystal, and that wasn’t something that we were going to sponsor,”Stango said.
Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident in 2004 in Afghanistan, where McChrystal was commander of a Special Operations task force at the time, but the military originally presented his death a result of enemy combat.
Stango said his organization supports the film and its message, but that the Dems, who he said consulted Yale faculty and other advisors about the decision, did not want to use the event as a means to protest McChrystal.
“The Yale College Democrats do not attack war heroes,” Stango said. “We do not attack members of the Yale faculty.”
Yale announced McChrystal’s appointment as a senior fellow in the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs in August, just two months after he was relieved of his command for comments he and his staff made to Rolling Stone magazine that insulted top White House officials. McChrystalis teaching a graduate seminar on leadership this fall.
The film’s director, Amir Bar-Lev, said in an interview that he respects the Dems’ positionbut that “it’s an issue of standards of leadership — the absolute arrogance that Gen.McChrystal showed in his lies before, not only after Tillman death, but as recent at his confirmation hearing for Obama. That kind of arrogance is something that I would challenge anybody to defend. Gen.McChrystal or anybody.”
University spokesman Tom Conroy said everyone has a right to protest and that Yale students will benefit from learning from someone like McChrystal.
Film Studies professor Charles Musser, who will be speaking with Bar-Lev at the screening, said he is gladthe film is being shown at Yale and that it hasbeen positively received in the press.
“I think that I understand why they decided to withdraw, and I think the context of the film studies program can provide a better framework or context for presentation of the film,” he added.
Musser, who invited Bar-Lev to attend, said the screening is no different from other screenings of documentary films Yale holds frequently. Just this month, there will be showings offour other documentary films on campus.
“I think that the film will speak for itself, and what people take from the film and how people want to frame the film is something we can all discuss,” Musser said.
The film is set to screen at at 7 p.m.