Fake but Accurate Isn’t Good Enough Posted by: Dale Franks
on Wednesday, September 06, 2006
A lot of people on the conservative side of the political spectrum who have seen the upcoming 9/11 documentary have crowed about it. Former members of the Clinton administration are not so happy with some of the portrayals.
In one scene, CIA operatives working with Ahmed Shah Masud, the charismatic Afghan mujahedin leader who fought al-Qaida and their Taliban sponsors, are assembled on a hillside above bin Laden's residence at Tarnak Farms. "It's perfect for us," says "Kirk," a composite character representing several of the CIA operatives and analysts involved in the hunt for the terrorist leader.
But the team is forced to abort the mission when Berger hangs up on them in the middle of a conference call, after telling them he cannot give the go ahead for the action.
"I don't have that authority," he says.
"Are there any men in Washington," Masud asks Kirk afterwards in the film, "or are they all cowards?"
"The incidents depicted did not happen," said Berger in the statement. "They are not contained in the Sept. 11 Commission report, which is the most authoritative review of the events before and after the attack."
Indeed, the commission's report — although it reveals the Clinton White House was concerned about the possible repercussions of a failed capture effort — says that it was CIA Director George Tenet who nixed the capture plan, which would never have involved U.S. personnel in the assault, and which was canceled before being put into operation.
Look, there's no way to sugar-coat the Clinton Administrations handling of terror in general, and Osama bin Laden in particular. In the case mentioned above, the culprit was apparently George Tenet, not Sandy Berger, so the end result was the same, even if the specifics were different. Let's call that fake, but accurate.
"Fake, but accurate", however, is not a high enough standard. Obviously, some dramatic license is necessary for storytelling purposes. But a film that purports to be a docu-drama—especially about such an important event—and that purports to tell the story of that event, has to make a clear distinction between forgivable artistic license and factual inaccuracy. In at least this scene, which is the one that's primarily causing the uproar, that distinction was blurred.
And blurred unnecessarily. A succession of administrations, both Democratic and Republican, failed. And those failures were egregious enough that I would think the truth would be damning enough, without resorting to blatant inaccuracy.
If this was just marketed as a movie, based on historical events, that would be one thing. But ABC has printed up and distributed educational materials, for use in classrooms, to accompany the docu-drama. ABC is, in effect, saying this is the true story, when in fact, it is, at least in this case, factually incorrect.
As Dean Barnett writes over at Hugh Hewitt's blog:
YOU MIGHT NOTE THAT the defense of the scene offers a rationale that Dan Rather would probably be comfortable with – fake but accurate. I’m uncomfortable embracing such a rationale, and I suspect most other bloggers who have rushed to tout the film will feel the same way once they think it through.
I’m especially uncomfortable with this controversy since it’s so unnecessary. The record of the Clinton administration on terrorism is an embarrassment and a disgrace. All serious studies of the matter have reached the same conclusion...
To be fair, it’s not exactly like Bush spent the 1990’s being a Churchill-esque figure warning America about the gathering storm. And when he took office, his administration’s attitude towards terrorism was strikingly blasé (with the noteworthy exception of Donald Rumsfeld).
“The Path to 9/11” may well be a great film. It’s a compelling narrative, and all preliminary indications are that it’s told quite skillfully. But whether it works as a piece of art and whether it withstands scrutiny as a historical document are two entirely distinct matters.
And I would argue that it is far weaker for any ahistorical embellishments that the filmmakers decided to include.
In addition to that, it has caused unnecessary controversy. had the filmmakers decided to hew tightly to the 9/11 Commission's report, they could have stood their ground firmly on the basis of the film's historical accuracy. But now, they have to fall back on the "fake, but true", explanation, which, in my view, is simply too low to put the bar. It should be better than that.
And because it isn't, it gives the Left's netroots people a prime opportunity to start a deluge of emails to ABC. The netroots campaign overstates the Left's case—which, I think we've all come to realize, is something they can't stop themselves from doing—but it is not an illegitimate campaign.
ABC executives had to have known that the Clintonistas would be watching this very carefully. After all, the 9/11 Commission report didn't cover them with glory. And, on the other side, the president at the time of 9/11 is still the president, and his party has a majority in Congress. So, if the story was told fairly, there was always going to be some complaints from powerful people, on both sides.
The way to avoid that was to be meticulous in their fact checking and presentation so that they could stand firm on the one irrefutable defense: truth. But, at least in part, they didn't, and now they are paying the price for it.
ABC's leadership has no one to blame but themselves.
There’s a reason I avoid docudramas of all stripes like the plague. Might as well call them "Documentaries with lies". If you are telling the truth, go ahead and make a full documentary with high production value reenactments.
Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, the chairman of the Sept. 11 commission and a consultant on the miniseries, defended the program, saying he thought the disputed scene was an honest representation of a number of failed efforts to capture Mr. bin Laden.
“I pointed out the fact that the scene involving Afghanistan and the attempt to get bin Laden is a composite,” Mr. Kean said, adding that the miniseries format required some conflation of events. But, he said, “The basic fact is that on a number of occasions, they thought they might have been able to get bin Laden, and on those occasions, the plug was pulled for various reasons.”
I think he is saying that the particular scene is representative of several attempts to capture bin Laden and that all the attempts failed as the composite scene depicts.
Haven’t seen the film, but unfortunately it is a docu-drama and that means its not a wall to wall documentary. There is a semblance of a plot that needs to be maintained and characters that have to be built up and only so many hours available.
Seems like it was unfair to possibly Berger but not to the Clinton Administration as a whole.
I like this one little detail tumbles the whole story for the left while Fahrenheit 911 is fine. Maybe a double standard there.
Maybe the document makers are correct and the commission report is wrong. Maybe they have inside info that Berger gave the final word on that almost operation. I would not be so quick to condemn them. Personally I take the entire 9/11 Commission with a grain of salt or two, considering who sat on that panel.
This mini-series is purported to be based on the most comprehensive and even handed examination we have of the events leading to 9/11, the 9/11 Commission.
If that is what they claim to base the depiction on, that is what they should base the depiction on.
This claim gains them credibility.
They could easily have based the story on one of the dozens of trash books that are wildly acusatory of either the Clinton and/or Bush administrations,
The truth is that when boiling the events of several years into 240 minutes of video re-enactments, you could be 100% accurate, and still be completely dishonest.
Michael Moore never claimed, nor was anyone foolish enough to believe, that Farenheit 911 was an even handed objective look at 9/11, but by using the 9/11 Commission as the supposed basis, that is in it’s own right a claim to objectivty.
Imagine a documentary that depicts everything the Clinton administration did right, and then everything the Bush administration did wrong, it could be totally accurate, but the net effect would be a complete lie.
I generally try to follow the money, who made the movie, what is their history, are they partisan, are the sensationlists, do they have an agenda?
Here’s some background from a progressive website...
Writer of ABC’s 9/11 ‘Docudrama’ Is Avowed Conservative Activist ABC will air a “docudrama” next weekend called “The Path to 9/11? which blames President Clinton for the 9/11 attacks while praising President Bush.
The writer of the movie is an unabashed conservative named Cyrus Nowrasteh. Last year, Nowrasteh spoke on a panel titled, “Rebels With a Cause: How Conservatives Can Lead Hollywood’s Next Paradigm Shift.” He has described Michael Moore as “an out of control socialist weasel,” and conducted interviews with right-wing websites like FrontPageMag.
The problem isn’t that Nowrasteh is conservative. The problem is that Nowrasteh and ABC are representing “The Path to 9/11? as an unbiased historical drama. Promos for the movie say it is “based on the 9/11 Commission Report.” Nowrasteh claims he “wanted to match the just-the-facts tone of the report,” and describes the project as “an objective telling of the events of 9/11.”
Here’s some of the objectivity you can expect: Nowrasteh says the film shows how Clinton had “frequent opportunities…in the 90s to stop Bin Laden in his tracks — but lacked the will to do so.” He has referenced Clinton’s “lack of response” to Al Qaeda “and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests.” A review today in Salon.com says the film paints Clinton “as a buffoon more interested in blow jobs than terrorists.”
Probably as telling as anything is who this film has been shown to and who it has not been shown to.
It premiered at a conservative film festival. Rush Limbaugh received an advance screening. 900 Advance screening copies have been distributed, but they could not manage to dig up ANY copies for anf of the Clinton administration members who requested them.
But Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the Sept. 11 commission, said genre confusion would not be a problem for commission members, several of whom saw part of the miniseries last week.
“As we were watching, we were trying to think how they could have misinterpreted the 9/11 commission’s finding the way that they had,” Mr. Ben-Veniste said. “They gave the impression that Clinton had not given the green light to an operation that had been cleared by the C.I.A. to kill bin Laden,” when, in fact, the Sept. 11 commission concluded that Mr. Clinton had.
— From Richard Clark....
In particular, some critics — including Richard A. Clarke, the former counterterrorism czar — questioned a scene that depicts several American military officers on the ground in Afghanistan. In it, the officers, working with leaders of the Northern Alliance, the Afghan rebel group, move in to capture Osama bin Laden, only to allow him to escape after the mission is canceled by Clinton officials in Washington.
In a posting on ThinkProgress.org, and in a phone interview, Mr. Clarke said no military personnel or C.I.A. agents were ever in position to capture Mr. bin Laden in Afghanistan, nor did the leader of the Northern Alliance get that near to his camp.
“It didn’t happen,” Mr. Clarke said. “There were no troops in Afghanistan about to snatch bin Laden. There were no C.I.A. personnel about to snatch bin Laden. It’s utterly invented.”
Mr. Clarke, an on-air consultant to ABC News, said he was particularly shocked by a scene in which it seemed Clinton officials simply hung up the phone on an agent awaiting orders in the field. “It’s 180 degrees from what happened,” he said. “So, yeah, I think you would have to describe that as deeply flawed.”
And my favorite...
Online commentators seized on remarks made last week by Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host, who said “The Path to 9/11” had been written and produced by a “friend of mine out in California” named Cyrus. “From what I’ve been told,” Mr. Limbaugh said, according to a transcript on rushlimbaugh.com, “the film really zeros in on the shortcomings of the Clinton administration.”
So if you don’t like Clinton, you’ll like this.
If you like the truth, prepare to be disappointed.
They want to prepare ’educational materials’ with it? That tells me they’re going to show it in schools.
And they’re going to (heaven help me, I’m defending Bill’s administration....) be lying about Sandy Berger, not exactly a Clinton nobody.
Dramatic license be damned in an ’educational’ video.
This sort of thing in a video about Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, etc, where we have to infer some of what went on from info recorded at the time and fill in the blanks, isn’t the same as when all the parties are alive and well and any conflicts in the versions can be ironed out as best as possible with the actual players. Especially when the actual story is KNOWN.
Is this stuff taken as gospel? Damn straight it is - ask any number of impressionable students who watched Moore’s version of history and other consipracy schlock presented as ’mostly’ true. I had to deal with idocy in my own house about the ’plane that never hit the Pentagon’, and ’government conspiracy’ dragged home by a son I thought was bright enough to know better. (Made me wish I had read that book - "Why Daddy is a conservative B*stard" instead of "Berenstain Bears - The Spooky old Tree" to him at an early age.)
Remmeber the special hotline he set up to defend the "accuracy" of his documentary. He always maintained that everything he said there was true.
Oh, so quickly the knee jerks. No memory dysfunction here, just a better understanding of the what truth, accuracy, and objectivity, are.
Moore still maintains that his documentary was accurate, but that’s not the point, the point is that he never, ever, claimed it was objective or even handed. The entire focus of the documentary was what Bush did WRONG, and he made no bones about that. Understand FOCUS, TARGET, as in "ZERO IN ON".
If this mini-series is 100% accurate (which it is not) but made for the purpose of showing what Clinton did WRONG, then it is NOT objective, and should NOT be advertised as such.
Does it focus on what Clinton did wrong?
According to Rush Limbaugh it does...
Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host, who said “The Path to 9/11” had been written and produced by a “friend of mine out in California” named Cyrus. “From what I’ve been told,” Mr. Limbaugh said, according to a transcript on rushlimbaugh.com, “the film really zeros in on the shortcomings of the Clinton administration.”
There’s fake but accurate, then there’s fake and propaganda.
It turns out the official toll of violent deaths in August was just revised upwards to 1535 from 550, tripling the total. Now, we’re depressingly used to hearing about deaths here, so much so that the numbers can be numbing. But this means that a much-publicized drop-off in violence in August – heralded by both the Iraqi government and the US military as a sign that a new security effort in Baghdad was working — apparently didn’t exist.
When it comes to propaganda, ABC has nothing on our leadership.
Gotta agree.....they need to make it very clear this is a dramatisation and NOT factual.
The description leads one to believe that this is a dramatization, not a fictionalization, and more importantly, that it is based on the 9/11 Commission report, which the most controversial segments clearly contradict the 9/11 COmmission findings.
From ABC’s website under the headline, "About the Show".
On September 11, 2001 the world stood still as terrorists used four planes as lethal weapons against innocent Americans. The 9/11 Commission was formed to determine how such an attack could happen, and its report documents the trail from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to the tragedy of that autumn morning. The bipartisan commission effort created a comprehensive record of events and provides valuable insight into what must be done to protect the nation in the future.
ABC will present "The Path to 9/11," a dramatization of the events detailed in The 9/11 Commission Report and other sources, in an epic miniseries event that will air with limited commercial interruption.
Directed by David L. Cunningham ("To End All Wars"), the project stars acclaimed actor and Oscar nominee Harvey Keitel ("Pulp Fiction," "The Piano") as FBI agent John O’Neill, an expert on al Qaeda and on Osama bin Laden at the time of the attacks. His co-stars include (in alphabetical order): Michael Benyaer ("24") as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Ramzi Yousef’s uncle; Shirley Douglas ("A House Divided") as Madeleine Albright; newcomer Mido Hamada as Massoud, one of America’s pivotal allies; Emmy winner Patricia Heaton ("Everybody Loves Raymond") as Barbara Bodine, Ambassador to Yemen; Frank John Hughes ("Without a Trace") as Bill Miller, DSS agent in Pakistan; Penny Johnson Jerald ("24") as Condoleezza Rice; Dan Lauria ("Wonder Years") as CIA Director George Tenet; Golden Globe winner Amy Madigan ("Carnivale") as Patricia Carver, a top CIA analyst who prodded her superiors to take further action against terrorism; Michael Murphy ("Tanner on Tanner") as William Cohen, President Clinton’s Secretary of Defense; Stephen Root ("News Radio") as Richard Clarke, counter-terrorism advisor to four presidents; William Sadler ("The Shawshank Redemption") as Neil Herman, an FBI Supervisory Special Agent who worked closely with O’Neill; Katy Selverstone ("Drew Carey Show") as Nancy Floyd, an agent who cultivated a key informant; Pip Torrens ("Pride & Prejudice") as CIA man Paul Kessler; film star Shaun Toub ("Crash") as Emad Salem, an FBI informant who helped bring down the Blind Sheikh, and Donnie Wahlberg as "Kirk," an undercover CIA agent.
The miniseries will take viewers behind closed doors at the CIA, the FBI and the White House and into the world of Richard Clarke, Madeleine Albright, Condoleezza Rice, Dick Cheney, Sandy Berger and CIA Director Richard Tenet, among others. Viewers will follow the international manhunt for elusive bomber Ramzi Yousef (Nabil Elouahabi, "Eastenders") and meet several key players in the 9/11 saga, including: John O’Neill, the career FBI agent who spent years zealously chasing bin Laden; then-ABC newsman John Miller (portrayed by Barclay Hope, "Stargate SG-1") who interviewed bin Laden; Emad Salem and other key Muslim informants who aided the U.S.; and Ahmed Shah Massoud, commander of the Northern Alliance, a crucial American ally and the person bin Laden feared most.
The 9/11 Commission Report instantly became a national bestseller when it was published in July 2004. Writer Cyrus Nowrasteh ("The Day Reagan Was Shot") uses this historic document as the basis for a powerful story with action as gripping and far reaching as the source material itself. Shot in Toronto, Morocco, New York and Washington, DC, actors portray the famous and infamous, along with the formerly anonymous and often heroic people thrust onto history’s stage.
Beginning with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and ending on the morning of 9/11, the miniseries draws on detailed information from the Report and other sources to take viewers on an unforgettable journey through the events that presaged that fateful day — to understand what went right and wrong, and what can be learned from this crucial eight-year period.
Former ABC News anchor John Miller, now the FBI’s Assistant Director of Public Affairs, was also a consultant on the project. His book, The Cell, co-authored with Michael Stone, was optioned by ABC for use in the teleplay. In addition, The Relentless Pursuit by Samuel Katz was also optioned.
"The Path to 9/11" is executive-produced by Marc Platt ("Empire Falls"). The producers are Hans Proppe ("Anne Frank") and Cyrus Nowrasteh (also the writer). Governor Thomas H. Kean (Chairman, The 9/11 Commission) is senior consultant. The director is David L. Cunningham. The miniseries is a production of UHP Productions, Ltd., and is distributed by Touchstone Television.
That would imply there was any truth in his oeurve to focus on. Too bad the reality FOCUSED community never is.
Aww, you so badly want to change the subject to Michael Moore, I wonder why?
Is it because you cannot address the POINT of THIS discussion?
The POINT being, that it’s fine to make hit piece, you can make a hit piece documentary style, docu-drama style, whatever, BUT if you advertise a hit piece as objective, THEN you are lying. This movie, The Path to 9/11, IS a hit piece.
If you want debate Michael Moore as to the accuracy of his film, knock yourself out. They still have the critiques and rebuttals up on his website.
If the Fairness Doctrine were still in effect, if they aired The Path to 911, ABC would likely have to air Farenheit 9/11 (or Bush’s Brain, or Syriana, in to avoid being out of compliance.
while this may be distressing, it does not imply our gov’t - & i assume you mean the hawk side of our gov’t - is pumping out propaganda.
I’d say there can be no doubt what occurred here.
BAGHDAD — An ambitious military sweep appears to be dramatically reducing Baghdad’s homicide rate, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday — even as violence nationwide killed at least 80 people, including six U.S. soldiers in and around the capital.
Last month, the Baghdad morgue received more than 1,800 bodies, a record high. This month, the morgue is on track to receive less than a quarter of that.
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of military forces in Baghdad, attributed the capital’s declining violence to a sweep involving 8,000 U.S. soldiers and 3,000 Iraqi troops aimed at stopping sectarian violence.
Typical Clintonista response "it’s a hit piece".....dude, it’s more sloppy work than malicious. You’re lucky they did such sloppy work, it provides people like you cover to muddy the waters. If they actually played it straight your boy would’ve looked a whole lot worse.
Typical Clintonista response "it’s a hit piece".....dude, it’s more sloppy work than malicious. You’re lucky they did such sloppy work, it provides people like you cover to muddy the waters. If they actually played it straight your boy would’ve looked a whole lot worse.
Sloppy work doesn’t coincedentally err in the same direction with every error.
Worse yet, as I said before, this movie could be 100% dead on balls accurate, and still be dishonest if it "zeroed in on Clinton’s mistakes".
If I told the story of your life, and only included 100% accurate representations of the worst things you ever did and the worst decisions you ever made, would I have given an honest account of your life, or just an accurate account of the segments that I chose to present?
The fact that it "zero’s in on Clinton’s mistakes" MAKES IT A HIT PIECE, and the fact that it misrepresents situations and invents scenes that NEVER happened makes it a dishonest hit piece, and the fact that it claims to be a dramatization of the 9/11 Commission Report when it contradicts the 9/11 Commission Report makes it a dishonest hit piece that is being falsely advertised.
Farenheit 9/11 was a hit piece, it was advertised as a hit piece, and whether you think the content was accurate or not, it is still more intellectually honest than this movie, because of the three elements described, F9/11 was honest in at least 2 of the 3, while The Path to 9/11 fails ALL THREE.
Here is a letter to ABC which explains the problems that some people have with this movie.
To: National Desk
Contact: Matt Stoller or Jennifer Nix, 303-817-2554 or email@example.com
WASHINGTON, Sept. 7 /U.S. Newswire/ — ABC/Disney is planning to broadcast a $30 million mini-series called "The Path to 9/11" on September 10th and 11th, without commercials and under the imprimatur, "based on the 9/11 Commission," despite the fact that the "docudrama" directly contradicts the bi-partisan report on which it claims to be based.
The program is being promoted by only the Republican co-chair of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Kean, who is a paid consultant on the project, while no Commission Democrats were consulted on, or vetted the film. Kean calls the project "reasonably accurate," but admits that scenes have been fictionalized, and that composite characters were written into the storyline. Critics proved this week that several scenes are not at all based in reality.
Requests for advance copies made this week by former President Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former National Security Advisor Samuel Berger were denied by ABC. However the network did make advance copies available last week to right-wing media personalities such as Rush Limbaugh, and right-wing bloggers. ABC has also denied requests for advance viewings from progressive and liberal bloggers and activists.
"That ABC saw fit to play political favoritism in their advance publicity efforts for this movie speaks volumes, as do the refutations coming from several of the principals portrayed in the project, and those with first-hand knowledge of these events, such as Samuel Berger, Richard Clarke and Richard Ben- Veniste," said Matt Stoller, co-founder of the Open Letter to ABC project. "That ABC/Disney is also disseminating this historically inaccurate "docudrama" to American classrooms, via lesson plans created by Scholastic, is tragically irresponsible."
"The power of the medium demands that a televised account, bearing the appearance of official sanction by the 9/11 Commission, be a true and accurate representation of that report. It is a disservice to the American people for ABC to air, on public airwaves, a politicized and unvetted account of those painful events," said Jennifer Nix, also a co-founder of the project.
Please see the web site http://openlettertoabc.blogspot.com/ for more information. The site is a clearinghouse for media reports, blog posts and actions aimed at urging ABC to reconsider this project.
I have to mention another element to this debate, and that is pure political power. When people forced CBS not to broadcast the Reagan mini-series, but show in on Showtime pay cable instead, it was a victory for a point of view (and of course a loss for a different point of view). This debate, to some extent, is a test of the power of a different point of view. The goal will be have the offending scenes cut or altered, or to have the entire movie shelved or sent to cable.
I personally want to see this movie aired, as the producers intended, I would just like to see it preceded by a caveat that the neutrality of the movie has been compromised and that it is NOT based on the 9/11 Commission Report.
Just as they would do if they showed Farenheit 9/11 on TV (which they haven’t done)
after being reminded of the imbroglio of the cancellation of the reagan mini-series, i find myself siding w/ you capsarc, & will also openly ask: "who needs to see this?"
if this is indeed informative & objective, then i would expect a presentation similar to what can be found on the history, discovery, or learning channel. i’m no fan of either clinton, but not to the point it should displace my greater disdain primetime partisan puffery. don’t bring up 60min: i know what i’m getting w/ that.
if the point of contention goes greatly unnoticed, then no-harm-no-foul.
The democratic party is threatening ABCs broadcasting license. Sounds pretty heavy.
I have read through this 5 times, and I see where the legal responsibilities that came with the FREE grant of exclusive frequencies are spelled out, but I don’t see where there was any threat of against ABC’s broadcasting license.
Does quoting these legal responsibilities alone qualify as a threat?
Here’s the text, maybe you can show me where this threat is?
Or is it inferred, kind of like how it should be inferred that this movie is a damatization with artistic (and partisan) license using composite characters in scenarios contrary to the 9/11 Commission Report even though ABC claimed that this movie was taken straight out of the 9/11 commission report?
SENATE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP URGES DISNEY CEO TO CANCEL MISLEADING 9/11 MINISERIES Washington, DC — Urging him to cancel the grossly inaccurate upcoming miniseries The Path to 9/11, the Senate Democratic Leadership today sent the following letter to Disney President and CEO Robert Iger. Disney’s subsidiary ABC erroneously claims the misleading miniseries is based on 9/11 Commission report and is planning to air it on September 10 and 11. Shockingly, the network is also planning to use the program as a teaching tool through Scholastic, potentially misinforming thousands of children about the most important event in recent American history.
The text of the letter, signed by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin, and Senators Debbie Stabenow, Charles Schumer, and Byron Dorgan, is below.
September 7, 2006
Mr. Robert A. Iger
President and CEO
The Walt Disney Company
500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank CA 91521
Dear Mr. Iger,
We write with serious concerns about the planned upcoming broadcast of The Path to 9/11 mini-series on September 10 and 11. Countless reports from experts on 9/11 who have viewed the program indicate numerous and serious inaccuracies that will undoubtedly serve to misinform the American people about the tragic events surrounding the terrible attacks of that day. Furthermore, the manner in which this program has been developed, funded, and advertised suggests a partisan bent unbecoming of a major company like Disney and a major and well respected news organization like ABC. We therefore urge you to cancel this broadcast to cease Disney’s plans to use it as a teaching tool in schools across America through Scholastic. Presenting such deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation to the American public and to children would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility to the law, to your shareholders, and to the nation.
The Communications Act of 1934 provides your network with a free broadcast license predicated on the fundamental understanding of your principle obligation to act as a trustee of the public airwaves in serving the public interest. Nowhere is this public interest obligation more apparent than in the duty of broadcasters to serve the civic needs of a democracy by promoting an open and accurate discussion of political ideas and events.
Disney and ABC claim this program to be based on the 9/11 Commission Report and are using that assertion as part of the promotional campaign for it. The 9/11 Commission is the most respected American authority on the 9/11 attacks, and association with it carries a special responsibility. Indeed, the very events themselves on 9/11, so tragic as they were, demand extreme care by any who attempt to use those events as part of an entertainment or educational program. To quote Steve McPhereson, president of ABC Entertainment, “When you take on the responsibility of telling the story behind such an important event, it is absolutely critical that you get it right.”
Unfortunately, it appears Disney and ABC got it totally wrong.
Despite claims by your network’s representatives that The Path to 9/11 is based on the report of the 9/11 Commission, 9/11 Commissioners themselves, as well as other experts on the issues, disagree.
Richard Ben-Veniste, speaking for himself and fellow 9/11 Commissioners who recently viewed the program, said, “As we were watching, we were trying to think how they could have misinterpreted the 9/11 Commission’s findings the way that they had.” [“9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased,” New York Times, September 6, 2006]
Richard Clarke, the former counter-terrorism czar, and a national security advisor to ABC has described the program as “deeply flawed” and said of the program’s depiction of a Clinton official hanging up on an intelligence agent, “It’s 180 degrees from what happened.” [“9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased,” New York Times, September 6, 2006]
Reports suggest that an FBI agent who worked on 9/11 and served as a consultant to ABC on this program quit halfway through because, “he thought they were making things up.” [MSNBC, September 7, 2006]
Even Thomas Kean, who serves as a paid consultant to the miniseries, has admitted that scenes in the film are fictionalized. [“9/11 Miniseries Is Criticized as Inaccurate and Biased,” New York Times, September 6, 2006] That Disney would seek to broadcast an admittedly and proven false recounting of the events of 9/11 raises serious questions about the motivations of its creators and those who approved the deeply flawed program. Finally, that Disney plans to air commercial-free a program that reportedly cost it $40 million to produce serves to add fuel to these concerns.
These concerns are made all the more pressing by the political leaning of and the public statements made by the writer/producer of this miniseries, Mr. Cyrus Nowrasteh, in promoting this miniseries across conservative blogs and talk shows.
Frankly, that ABC and Disney would consider airing a program that could be construed as right-wing political propaganda on such a grave and important event involving the security of our nation is a discredit both to the Disney brand and to the legacy of honesty built at ABC by honorable individuals from David Brinkley to Peter Jennings. Furthermore, that Disney would seek to use Scholastic to promote this misguided programming to American children as a substitute for factual information is a disgrace.
As 9/11 Commission member Jamie Gorelick said, “It is critically important to the safety of our nation that our citizens, and particularly our school children, understand what actually happened and why – so that we can proceed from a common understanding of what went wrong and act with unity to make our country safer.”
Should Disney allow this programming to proceed as planned, the factual record, millions of viewers, countless schoolchildren, and the reputation of Disney as a corporation worthy of the trust of the American people and the United States Congress will be deeply damaged. We urge you, after full consideration of the facts, to uphold your responsibilities as a respected member of American society and as a beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves to cancel this factually inaccurate and deeply misguided program. We look forward to hearing back from you soon.
As a conservative I STRONGLY urge ABC to correct the falsehoods and misrepresentations in the upcoming “Path to 9/11” before it is shown. And I am not the only conservative saying this.
John Podhoretz, conservative columnist and Fox News contributor says: The portrait of Albright is an unacceptable revision of recent history and an unfair mark on a public servant who, no matter her shortcomings, doesn’t deserve to be remembered by millions of Americans as the inadvertent (and truculent) savior of Osama bin Laden. Samuel Berger, Clinton’s national security adviser, also seems to have just cause for complaint.
James Taranto, OpinionJournal.com editor says: The Clintonites may have a point here. A few years ago, when the shoe was on the other foot, we were happy to see CBS scotch "The Reagans."
Dean Barnett, conservative commentator posting on Hugh Hewitt’s blog says: One can (if one so chooses) give the filmmakers artistic license to [fabricate a scene]. But if that is what they have done, conservative analysts who back this movie as a historical document will mortgage their credibility doing so.
Chris Wallace, Fox News Sunday anchor says: When you put somebody on the screen and say that’s Madeleine Albright and she said this in a specific conversation and she never did say it, I think it’s slanderous, I think it’s defamatory and I think that ABC and Disney should be held to account.
Captain’s Quarters blog says:If the Democrats do not like what ABC wants to broadcast, they have every right to protest it — and in this case, they had a point.
Bill Bennett, conservative author, radio host, and TV commentator says: Look, "The Path to 9/11" is strewn with a lot of problems and I think there were problems in the Clinton administration. But that’s no reason to falsify the record, falsify conversations by either the president or his leading people and you know it just shouldn’t happen.
Really interesting to see the controversy around this program. I had not read about all the controversy, but I was glad to see someone in the popular media was trying to examine the causes of 9/11 using the commission information. I had read many articles about the intelligence before the attack, and it appeared to me that the program’s producers represented those issues well. I was not informed about much of the overseas intelligence work, however. I had never heard that we nearly had a "clear shot" at bin Laden from a drone, for example, or that some military airplanes shot down the drone. Is that accurate? Anyway, as I scan the posts, what’s interesting is what officials have protested about this program. They protest that the president, Albright, and Berger, were ill-treated. What’s interesting is that I did not think the representation of the presidents, Albright or Berger was particularly damning. I thought the program showed that they were dealing with a complex situation and appeared to do the best they could, arguing from their particular political positions. From my perspective, the worst characters in this program were some CIA guy named Paul Kessler and Ambassador Barbara Bodine. Unlike Albright, Berger, and the presidents, these characters did not seem to have the capacity to listen very well, and in a time of crisis, that would seem to be the most important quality in any leader. I do have doubts that these characters resemble the real people because the depictions were so one-sided though.