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ABC's 9/11 Miniseries Riles Clinton Officials

Former members of the administration say it's wrong. The network says it's fictionalized.

September 08, 2006|From the Associated Press

NEW YORK — A miniseries about the events leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks is "terribly wrong" and ABC should correct it or not air it, a group of former Clinton administration officials said in letters to the head of the network'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 Advisor Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, Clinton Foundation head Bruce Lindsey and Clinton advisor Douglas Band wrote in the last week to Robert Iger, CEO of ABC's parent, Walt Disney Co., to express concern over "The Path to 9/11."

They were joined Thursday by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and fellow Democratic Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Charles E. Schumer of New York and Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, who sent a joint letter to Iger asking that the broadcast be canceled.

The two-part miniseries, scheduled to air Sunday and Monday, is drawn from interviews and documents including the report of the Sept. 11 commission.

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

"By ABC's own standard, ABC has gotten it terribly wrong," Lindsey and Band said in their letter.

"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."

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

The Clinton Foundation's opinion was clear.

"ABC/Disney acknowledges this show is fiction and in direct contradiction of the 9/11 commission report and the facts, and it is despicable that ABC/Disney would insist on airing a fictional version of what is a serious and emotional event for our country," Clinton Foundation spokesman Jay Carson said in a statement Thursday. "No reputable organization should dramatize 9/11 for a profit at the expense of the truth."

In their letter, the senators questioned the political leanings behind the miniseries.

"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," the letter said.

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.

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 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 Clinton wasn't paying enough attention to the terrorism threat.

"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.

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