‘Vice’ Accuracy: How Much of the Dick Cheney Movie Is True?

Getty Dick Cheney looks behind James Baker during an arrival service for the late George H.W. Bush.

One of the biggest criticisms among reviewers about Adam McKay’s Vice movie about Dick Cheney is that it’s only partially accurate. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the inaccuracies pointed out so far.

One of the major complaints is that the movie seems to point to motivations based mostly on money or simply power for power’s sake, Slate points out. For example, the movie seems to hint that Cheney just wants power and really doesn’t believe in anything. However, he had deeply conservative ideologies that drove him and others — not only to obtain the role of Vice President, but also to push for regime change in Iraq.

In addition, the movie seems to overlook the big role that the first Gulf War played in George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq, after his father left Saddam Hussein in power. Hussein’s history with the Bushes is unique in and of itself. As The Washington Post reported in 2006, Bush Sr. and Hussein began as allies in the 1980s, when Hussein was at war with the United States’ enemy at the time, Iran. Media in 1992 suggested that Bush Sr. had advised Hussein to intensify bombings of Iran. But then Hussein became less stable and couldn’t be trusted, and invaded Kuwait in 1990. Bush Sr. did not invade Iraq, believing he would ultimately be overthrown, The Washington Post reported. In fact, when Bush Sr. went to Kuwait in 1993, a group of Iraqis crossed the border and media said at the time that it was a thwarted attempt to kill Bush Sr. Although George W. Bush was not there,  his wife Laura and mother Barbara were, and their lives were endangered. This, some guessed, was part of the reason George W. wanted to invade Iraq many years later. It’s not known, however, if that is true. Peter Ricketts, a top British official, said in a 2002 memo that Bush’s regime change sounded more “like a grudge between Bush and Saddam.”

Slate also points out that the narrator implies no one knew much about Cheney when he became Vice President, but in truth he was well known from his role in the Gulf War.

GettyFormer US vice president Dick Cheney arrives with his daughter Mary Cheney at the centennial birthday celebration for former US president Ronald Reagan in 2011, when he would have been 100.

Some things are very accurate, Slate adds. Cheney’s devotion to his family, including his support for his daughter Mary and her marriage to Heather, was true. Heather and Mary have two children together, and Dick and Lynne Cheney have been strong and open supporters of gay marriage.

Viewers might also bemoan how quickly the movie portrays Cheney’s infamous shooting accident in the woods. The horrific accident got so much national attention at the time that games modeled scenes after the shooting. But in the movie, the actual scene is just a few seconds long and shown in quick cuts.

Interestingly, the lawyer that Dick Cheney shot in the face — Harry Whittington — actually gave a press conference apologizing to the Cheneys, strange as that may sound. Whittington was 78 when the shooting happened, and today he’s 91. They were hunting quail in 2006 in Riviera, Texas when the accident happened. At the time, the accident was nicknamed “Quailgate.” Cheney said he fired at what he thought was a bird, but accidentally shot about 150 birdshot pellets at Whittington. Whittington had a heart attack from the lead making its way into his blood vessels, Indiewire reported.

Cheney did ultimately admit that what he did was wrong, despite reports that he never apologized, CNN reported.  In 2006, Cheney said: “I am the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. That is something I will never forget.”

Cheney said that yes, Whittington was shot because he rejoined the quail-hunting party without announcing himself. But Cheney said he was ultimately responsible. “Ultimately, I am the guy who pulled the trigger and fired the round that hit Harry. You can talk about all the other conditions that existed at the time, but that’s the bottom line. It’s not Harry’s fault. You can’t blame anybody else.”

Here’s the video where Whittington apologized to Cheney:

If you want to really compare Vice‘s accuracy to a real-life account, many viewers suggest watching the documentary called The World According to Dick Cheney. In this documentary, Cheney talks about his career and all the controversies surrounding his life. You can watch it on Showtime, or on Amazon with a seven-day free Showtime trial.

Did you notice anything in the movie that you felt was inaccurate? Let us know in the comments below.