Oppenheimer: Did Truman Really Call Him A 'Cry-Baby Scientist'? The Messy Answer

Considering the politically charged topic of nuclear weapons at the center of Christopher Nolan's latest film, it's no surprise really that "Oppenheimer" — which is currently on the path to beating an interesting box office record — is as controversial as it is. However, being that the film is meant to be a biopic for its titular scientist, some are wondering just how accurate the movie is with regard to the real events as they took place.

One particular scene in "Oppenheimer," a film that some critics say sanitizes the bomb, is drawing extra attention, though, and not just because it features frequent Nolan collaborator Gary Oldman. The scene in question sees J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) meeting with President Harry S. Truman (Oldman), and to say that things do not go well would be an understatement.

Reckoning with the effects of his work on the future of mankind, Oppenheimer tells Truman that he feels like he has blood on his hands. This causes Truman to coldly offer his handkerchief and later say that he doesn't want to see that "crybaby scientist" in his office ever again. Was Truman really so crass, though? Well, according to the history, accounts differ on whether he really said precisely that. However, all accounts seem to point to an unpleasant meeting between the two historical figures.

No matter what he said, the meeting did not go well

As noted by SFGate, the problem with narrowing down exactly what Harry S. Truman said to J. Robert Oppenheimer on that fateful day is partially down to Truman himself, who changed his own account when retelling the story. In some retellings, he said, "It will all come out in the wash," while others have him offering his handkerchief, as he does in the film.

However, the meeting plays out a little bit less intensely in the book "American Prometheus" by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherman, which "Oppenheimer" is based on. "I told him the blood was on my hands — to let me worry about that," Truman is supposed to have said. Still, other versions have him ranting to a subordinate afterward, saying, "Blood on his hands, dammit, he hasn't half as much blood on his hands as I have. You just don't go around bellyaching about it."

Though many accounts agree that Truman did inevitably refer to Oppenheimer as a crybaby, this came later and was not actually overheard by the scientist as he was leaving the Oval Office. Either way, while we may never know the specifics of these types of conversations, we can definitely ascertain that the short meeting between the two did not go well.