The activist, who released the Pentagon Papers in 1971, joined the film's writers for the honor on Friday night in Los Angeles.
The third annual Veritas Awards, hosted by the Los Angeles Press Club, honored the writers and figures behind The Post on Friday.
Daniel Ellsberg, who famously made copies of the Pentagon Papers and classified nuclear documents during the Nixon administration and leaked the documents to the press, joined The Post writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer to praise the film's defense of the first amendment.
The Veritas Award, chosen annually by members of the L.A. Press Club, stands as a testament to journalists’ hopes for the free press moving forward. The award show created a platform for Ellsberg to recount his experiences within the U.S. government, and to speak to his concerns caused by the current political climate and the recent Nunes memo.
“The critics can’t refute because the memo is classified,” Ellsberg said during the panel. “The Democrats and the FBI who are saying this is totally misleading can’t get the evidence because they would be accused and potentially prosecuted for putting out classified information, which the President doesn’t want out.”
Ellsberg’s comments were met with nods and rustling support from the members of the L.A. Press Club in attendance. The concerned yet passionate energy of the room increased when he compared the political tension of today to his copying of the Pentagon Papers and classified nuclear documents.
“Nixon was making nuclear threats at that time,” Ellsberg explained. “I had to do whatever I could, just what I would hope that somebody in that position right now in the White House, who can see us moving towards a two-sided nuclear war with North Korea, would be willing to go to prison for life would do.”
Directing the conversation of the evening back to The Post and its accomplishments both cinematically and in content, moderator and L.A.Press Club president Chris Palmeri spoke with screenwriter Hannah about her “remarkable” experience.
“I read Kay Graham’s book in my early twenties, I saw myself in her own insecurities,” said Hannah. “I didn’t have an agent, I had two managers who had stuck by me forever, and I wrote it.”
Hannah detailed the moment in which she was sitting in producer Amy Pascal’s office, sick with a fever, when she found out that not only did Steven Spielberg want to direct the film, but that Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep were to star as Ben Bradlee and Katherine Graham, respectively.
An overwhelming yet inspiring experience, Hannah expressed her appreciation to the L.A. Press Club for recognizing The Post and its contributions to an ever-growing conversation. “This movie was made for two reasons,” she told The Hollywood Reporter. “The first was and is the fight for the truth. The second is to show a woman finding her voice.”
Both Hannah and Springer spoke to the power of telling the story of the Pentagon Papers through the personal arch of Graham. Springer said that although the story could’ve been told “in a million different ways,” Graham’s journey was both personable and moving.
With the panel drawing to a close, Hannah expressed what she hopes the film will accomplish. “I hope that this film will inspire people to turn to the person next to them and have a conversation,” she said. “I think we have been blindly screaming at each other. This film has to give you hope. What else is there now?”