Aaron Sorkin Calls News Outlets ‘Morally Treasonous’ for Disseminating Stolen Sony Emails

Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin speaks onstage during Tribeca Talks: Future of Film: A Conversation with Aaron Sorkin during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival at the SVA Theater on April 21, 2014 in New York City.
Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

As a result of Sony’s explosive PR and hacking nightmare, more than half a dozen batches of stolen documents and data have been released by Sony’s hackers on file-sharing websites; many news organizations have retrieved and published what they deem to be the most industry-insightful and sometimes shocking pieces of information. Prolific scribe Aaron Sorkin is not onboard with that, however, and wrote a scathing op-ed in the New York Times on Sunday to bemoan what certain news outlets have done in “giving material aid to criminals.” Sorkin argues that by publishing the studio’s stolen data revealed by the hackers, journalists are acting, essentially, as reckless, money-grubbing pawns and traitors.

Specifically, Sorkin writes:

I understand that news outlets routinely use stolen information. That’s how we got the Pentagon Papers, to use an oft-used argument. But there is nothing in these documents remotely rising to the level of public interest of the information found in the Pentagon Papers. Do the emails contain any information about Sony breaking the law? No. Misleading the public? No. Acting in direct harm to customers, the way the tobacco companies or Enron did? No. Is there even one sentence in one private email that was stolen that even hints at wrongdoing of any kind? Anything that can help, inform or protect anyone?

Sorkin doesn’t lay out an alternative or call to action for journalists. But he does call out his ilk with a couple of suggestions to help remedy the problem:

This is a town of powerful people — leaders and risk-takers who create things that have the power to start and change conversations. So why has it been so awfully quiet out here? We create movie moments. Wouldn’t it be a movie moment if the other studios invoked the NATO rule and denounced the attack on Sony as an attack on all of us, and our bedrock belief in free expression? If the Writers Guild and Directors Guild stood by their members? If the Motion Picture Association of America, which represents the movie industry in Washington, knocked on the door of Congress and said we’re in the middle of an ongoing attack on one of America’s largest exports? We’re coming to the end of the first reel; it’s time to introduce our heroes.

Over the weekend, Sony lawyers warned reporters to destroy material culled from the studio’s stolen trove of internal information, which hackers have been disseminating steadily since the end of November. An early “Christmas gift,” however, has been promised by hackers. Variety also pointed out an instance of legal precedent, which essentially calls news organizations detached third parties, that could encourage reporters and news organizations to keep their noses to the grindstone. (What would Will McAvoy do?)

Sorkin Calls News Outlets ‘Morally Treasonous’