‘Newsroom’ Recap: Operation Genoa Just Got Real

Before we even get to The Newsroom recap, I think it’s important to restate the facts of Operation Tailwind, the real-life mission that Operation Genoa is based upon. Tell me if this sounds familiar:

Operation Tailwind was a 1970 covert incursion in which U.S. Army Special Forces went in to Laos for reasons that aren’t important here, except that at some point, the company had to be extracted. During the extraction, three Montagnards were killed and 33 wounded while all 16 Americans were wounded. That’s not in dispute, nor is the fact that chemical weapons were used. What was in dispute, however, is whether the U.S. military used sarin gas or tear gas to extract the Americans.

Twenty eight years later, CNN aired a special report, Valley of the Death, that accused the U.S. Military of using sarin gas, also claiming that over 100 men, women, and children had been killed during the extraction. A platoon leader and three of the participating sergeants provided testimony supporting the assertion that sarin gas was used. Admiral Thomas Moorer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of Tailwind also appeared to state nerve agents had been used, but 1) Moorer later claimed he had been bombarded by trick questions and had no actual knowledge of sarin gas being used, and 2) Moorer was 86 years old at the time and living under assisted care.

How is that tracking so far with Genoa? ACN had several pieces of evidence, including an eyewitness account from a sergeant, but the clincher was the testimony of three-star General Stanislaus Stomtonovich (Stephen Root), who clearly a bit of a screw loose and had his testimony altered by Jerry Dantana. However, we also know that Charlie Skinner, after airing the special, realized that the entire thing was untrue.

In Operation Tailwind, the Pentagon conducted an investigation, which lead to an internal investigation at CNN, in which the network — while not completely retracting the story — conceded that the allegations “could not be supported.” I think with Operation Genoa, the Pentagon investigation was skipped, and the network went straight to the internal investigation, and ultimately, ACN will fire Jerry Dantana, as CNN fired the producers responsible for the Operation Tailwind story. Those producers turned right around and sued CNN, which mirrors what is clearly happening in The Newsroom: Jerry Dantana is suing, and Rebecca Halliday (Marcia Gay Harden) is being brought in to defend the network.

The fallout in the upcoming weeks should be interesting. Let’s see if ACN does what CNN did, and settles the lawsuits out of court (in one case, for $1 million, and in another, for an undisclosed amount).

Meanwhile, it was another strong episode, even outside of the Operation Genoa story. I’m in the bag for Sorkin, so I often fail to pick up on what the scene or exchange many of the other critics will pick up on to destroy Sorkin the next day, and this is one of those episodes where I have no idea where major fault can be found. The Will and Sloan stuff was solid, culminating in Will humiliating himself on a morning show, breaking up with Lady Macbeth, and having what I thought was a pretty great moment with Sloan that will hopefully bring him back to smug form for the final three episodes of the season (the final two of which take place on Election Night).