American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"The Aviator" (2004)


Howard Hughes Addresses the Senate War Investigating Committee




Senator Ralph Owen Brewster: The committee will come to order. Ladies and gentlemen, I must insist that we maintain quiet during these proceedings. All right, Mr. Hughes will you stand to be sworn?

Do you solemnly swear that in the matter now pending before this committee you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

Mr. Howard Hughes: I do.

Senator Brewster: Pardon me for speaking loudly, but I understand you have some difficulty hearing.

Mr. Hughes: Oh, that’s -- that’s oh that's that's quite all right. I mean, everybody knows I'm deaf. I'm not gonna try to hide it.

Senator Brewster: Mr. Hughes, it is the intention of this committee –

Noah Dietrich: Mr. Hughes has a statement.

Senator Brewster: All right. All right. You -- you may -- you may proceed with this statement, Mr. Hughes….Mr. Hughes, do you have a statement?

Mr. Hughes: I'm gonna -- I’m gonna attempt to be honest here. I mean, my reputation’s being destroyed so I might as well lay the cards on the table. Senator Brewster, if you hadn't of gone too far overboard, if you hadn't put the red-hot iron in my side, I might have been willing to take a shellacking in this publicity spree of yours. I might have been willing to sit back and take a certain amount of abuse simply because, well -- well, I am only a private citizen, whereas you are a senator with all sorts of powers.

But I think this goddamn circus has gone on long enough.

Senator Brewster: Quite sufficient --

Mr. Hughes: You have called me a liar, sir, in the press! You have called me a liar and a thief and a war profiteer!

Senator Brewster: The witness will restrain his comments --

Mr. Hughes: Why not tell the truth for once, senator? Why not tell the truth that this investigation was really born on the day that TWA first decided to fly to Europe, on the day that TWA first invaded Juan Trippe's territory.

Senator Brewster: Sit down, Mr. Hughes.

Mr. Hughes: On the day that TWA first challenged the generally accepted theory that only Juan Trippe’s great Pan American Airways had the sacred right to fly the Atlantic!

Senator Brewster: We are not here to make a speech. I asked for silence! I asked for quiet in this room and we’re going to have quiet. Now, I mean it….

[scene cuts to later in the hearing]

I have in my possession receipts in the amount of $170,000 acquired from Mr. John Meier. Mr. Meier works for you, does he not?

Mr. Hughes: He does.

Senator Brewster: And what is his official title?

Mr. Hughes: Well, I -- I don't exactly know, senator. A lot of people work for me.

Senator Brewster: Can you explain why your press agent would pay out more than a $170,000 to representatives of the United States Air Force?

Mr. Hughes: Well, I don't know. I suppose you'd have to ask him, senator.

Senator Brewster: Well, would you produce him?

Mr. Hughes: Produce him?

Senator Brewster: Will you cause him to appear?

Mr. Hughes: Well, senator, you had John Meier on the stand for three days last week.

Senator Brewster: Well, be that as it may, we would like him to reappear here. Would you ask him to -- to return?

Mr. Hughes: No, I don't think I will.

Senator Brewster: Will you try to have him return?

Mr. Hughes: Well…no, I don't think I'll try.

Senator Brewster: You don't think you'll try?

Mr. Hughes: No. I don't think so.

[scene cuts to later in the hearing]

Senator Brewster: $170,000 paid out to the Air Force in the form of hotel suites, TWA stock, female companionship. Now, is it possible that these can be considered bribes?

Mr. Hughes: I suppose you could call them that, yes.

Senator Brewster: Would you repeat that?

Mr. Hughes: I said I suppose you could consider them bribes, yes.

Senator Brewster: Well, would you like to explain that, Mr. Hughes?

Mr. Hughes: Well, I'm afraid you don't know how the aviation business works, senator. You see, wining and dining Air Force dignitaries is common in our business. It's because we all want the big contracts. All the major aircraft companies do it now. I don't know whether it's a good system or not. I just know it is not illegal. You, senator, you are the lawmaker. If you pass a law that states no one can entertain Air Force officers -- well, hell, I'd be happy to abide by it.

[scene cuts to later in the hearing]

Senator Brewster: ...submit your questions to the chair.

Mr. Hughes: Senator Brewster, your story is a pack of lies and I can tear it apart if allowed to cross-examine you.

Senator Brewster: We're not gonna have this bickering --

Mr. Hughes: Yes --

Senator Brewster: back and forth –

Mr. Hughes: Somewhere between two and five hundred. If you'll just let me get started --

Senator Brewster: Now, if you believe that because of your great wealth and power you can intimidate any member of this committee, I want to advise you that you're mistaken. Now submit your questions to the chair.

[scene cuts to later in the hearing]

Mr. Hughes: Now, now, I'll put this very simply. On February 12th, at the Mayflower Hotel, did you or did you not tell me that if I were to sell TWA to Pan Am that this entire investigation would be called off?

Senator Brewster: No, I did not. And I have asked you repeatedly to submit your questions in writing.

Mr. Hughes: Well, how long have you known Juan Trippe, senator?

Senator Brewster: I've known Mr. Trippe for some time now and, that’s not the question --

Mr. Hughes: Well, is it not -- is it not true that Juan Trippe donated $20,000 to your last campaign? I mean, he spoke to me as if you worked for him.

Senator Brewster: I have a personal friendship with Mr. Trippe that is --

Mr. Hughes: Is it not true that you accept free tickets from Pan Am so you can circle the globe in support of your CAB [Civil Aeronautics Board] bill?

Senator Brewster: No, no it is not true.

Mr. Hughes: Well, who wrote that bill, senator?

Senator Brewster: No, we're asking the questions --

Mr. Hughes: Who actually wrote the CAB bill, the actual words in the bill? Did you write them?

Senator Brewster: This is not how these hearings are going to be conducted, Mr. Hughes.

Mr. Hughes: Well, I -- I have it right here. Maybe it'll refresh your memory. Bill S.987 to amend the Civil Aeronautics Act. Now, you introduced this bill to the Senate. A lot of words. You write all them? Did you write any of them, senator?

Senator Brewster: Now, look, Mr. Hughes --

Mr. Hughes: Now, this entire bill was written by Pan Am executives and designed to give that airline a monopoly on international travel. And you've been flogging [whipping] this bill all around the world on their behalf, have you not?

Senator Brewster: I have duties that take me all over the world, Mr. Hughes.

Mr. Hughes: Well, what the hell does a senator from Maine need to visit Peru for?

Senator Brewster: I was -- I was seeking outlets for our trade -- our trade goods.

Mr. Hughes:: Ah. Buy a lot of lobsters down there, do they? Senator Brewster, how many times have you visited Juan Trippe's office in New York in the last three months? Huh? Would you like me to tell you, senator?

Senator Brewster: All right. This has gone on long enough. Juan Trippe is a great American. His airline has advanced the cause of commercial aviation in this country for decades. Juan Trippe is a patriot. Juan Trippe isn't a man who's interested in [just] making money.

Mr. Hughes: Hmm. Well, I'm sure his stockholders would be happy to hear that.

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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.