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Clinton officials to ABC: Fix or pull 9/11 miniseries

Friday, September 08, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- A miniseries about the events leading to the September 11 attacks is "terribly wrong" and ABC should correct it or not air it, former Clinton administration officials demanded in letters to the head of ABC's parent company.

But in a statement released Thursday afternoon in apparent response to the growing uproar, ABC said, "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."

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Clinton Foundation head Bruce Lindsey and Clinton adviser Douglas Band all wrote in the past week to Robert Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Co., to express concern over "The Path to 9/11." (
Read the letter from Sandy Berger -- .pdf file, requires Adobe Acrobat)

The two-part miniseries, scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday and Monday, is drawn from interviews and documents including the report of the September 11 commission. ABC has described it as a "dramatization" as opposed to a documentary. (
Watch a 9/11 Commission member list inaccuracies in a proposed scene -- 3:25)

"For dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, and time compression," ABC said in its statement. "We hope viewers will watch the entire broadcast of the finished film before forming an opinion about it."

The letter writers said that the miniseries contained factual errors, and that their requests to see it had gone unanswered.

"The content of this drama is factually and incontrovertibly inaccurate and ABC has a duty to fully correct all errors or pull the drama entirely. It is unconscionable to mislead the American public about one of the most horrendous tragedies our country has ever known," Lindsey and Band wrote in their letter.

The letter writers pointed out examples of scenes they had been told were in the miniseries, but which they said never happened. Albright objected to a scene that she was told showed her insisting on warning the Pakistani government before an airstrike on Afghanistan, and that she was the one who made the warning.

"The scene as explained to me is false and defamatory," she said. (
Read Albright's letter -- .pdf file, requires Adobe Acrobat)

Berger objected to a scene that he was told showed him refusing to authorize an attack on Osama bin Laden despite the request from CIA officials. "The fabrication of this scene (of such apparent magnitude) cannot be justified under any reasonable definition of dramatic license," he wrote.

Lindsey and Band objected to advertisements for the miniseries, which they said suggested that Clinton wasn't paying enough attention to the threat of terrorism.

"While ABC is promoting 'The Path to 9/11' as a dramatization of historical fact, in truth it is a fictitious rewriting of history that will be misinterpreted by millions of Americans," they said. "Given your stated obligation to 'get it right,' we urge you to do so by not airing this drama until the egregious factual errors are corrected, an endeavor we could easily assist you with given the opportunity to view the film."

Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada commented on the controversy at a morning news conference.

"I haven't seen it, but from everything I've heard it's not down the middle. It's not fair at all. And to have a film that seems to be biased and take one side put on by a network seems to be the wrong thing to do," said Schumer. "You can't take a film that's supposed to report on something that's so real and so close and make it into fiction. That's beneath ABC's dignity."
"They started off this as being a documentary," added Reid. "They changed it to a docudrama and now it's a work of fiction and that's what it is. And, yes, they should pull it."

The five-hour miniseries is set to run without commercial interruption. Director David Cunningham said it was a massive undertaking, with close to 250 speaking parts, more than 300 sets, and a budget of $40 million. Cunningham has said he shot 550 hours of film. Among the actors in it are Harvey Keitel, Patricia Heaton and Donnie Wahlberg.

Copyright 2006 The
Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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