ABC comes under fire for alleged partisan slant in 9/11 miniseries

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Friday, September 8, 2006

For ABC, the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks will be marked with a new kind of controversy over alleged political motives in a new miniseries, slated to be aired on prime-time slots this coming Monday and Tuesday.

Titled The Path to 9/11, the 5-hour film is slated to be aired over the course of 2 nights, culminating on Monday with dramatizations of the October 2000 attacks on the US Navy ship, USS Cole, as well as fictionalized portrayals of the attacks on the World Trade Center towers, which killed 2,973. Many officials and watchdogs, however, have criticized the film for allegedly stretching and fabricating the truth. Samuel R. Berger, a national security adviser made a statement denouncing the film claiming the film "flagrantly misrepresents my personal actions." Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright called one scene involving her "false and defamatory," and former White House aide Bruce R. Lindsey said "it is unconscionable to mislead the American public about one of the most horrendous tragedies our country has ever known."

A flurry of on-line email campaigns, protesting the film and demanding it be corrected or not aired, has erupted. According to the liberal group Truemajority, "It's not just that ABC's movie is slanted. Big parts of it are simply untrue. The producer himself even admitted to simply improvising a key scene which depicts the Clinton administration letting bin Laden go when they had him in their sights -- a complete fabrication. Last night, the movie's star, Harvey Keitel, said 'It turned out not all the facts were correct.'"

According to ABC's entertainment division, the film is a "dramatization... not a documentary." However, several key scenes, which critics allege distort the September 11 commission's report on which the film is based, are being reworked, reshot, or pulled altogether, and ABC is reportedly "mulling the idea of yanking the mini altogether."

For ABC, credibility, along with what is reported to be millions of dollars spent in advertising, is on the line. The film includes many noted actors, including Donnie Wahlberg, Patricia Heaton, and Harvey Keitel, who plays counterterrorism official John O'Neil. However, criticism has come from within as well. Many who worked on the film have spoken out, claiming the film's accuracy and objectivity is questionable. One writer, Cyrus Nowrasteh, in an interview with Los Angeles radio station KRLA-AM, claimed that moments had been improvised, and writer James Bamford claimed on MSNBC that an FBI agent working as a consultant on the film quit due to allegations of fabrication.

Action committees from all across the political spectrum have made statements on the film, including liberal watchdog MoveOn.org, which, in a recent statement to its members, stated that "ABC shouldn't have any role in the political exploitation of 9/11."

"This docudrama is designed to do just that," the statement continued. "It's spreading a false message to millions of viewers across the country."

"No one has seen the final version of the film, because the editing process is not yet complete, so criticisms of film specifics are premature and irresponsible," said Disney, the company that owns ABC.

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