Video: 9/11 miniseries sparks controversy

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/7/2006 7:52:12 PM ET 2006-09-07T23:52:12

A “terribly wrong” miniseries about events leading to the Sept. 11 attacks blame President Clinton’s policies, former Clinton administration officials said in letters demanding that ABC correct it or not air it.

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 wrote in the past week to Robert Iger, CEO of ABC’s parent The Walt Disney Co., to express concern over “The Path to 9/11.”

Clinton spokesperson Jay Carson told MSNBC in a statement, “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.

"No reputable organization should dramatize 9/11 for a profit at the expense of the truth.”

The two-part miniseries, scheduled to be broadcast on Sunday and Monday, is drawn from interviews and documents including the report of the Sept. 11 commission. ABC has described it as a “dramatization” as opposed to a documentary.

“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.”

Content 'incontrovertibly inaccurate'
The letter writers said 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.”

The letters 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.

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“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 (of such apparent magnitude) cannot be justified under any reasonable definition of dramatic license,” he wrote.

Fears of misinterpretation
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.”

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. The cast includes Harvey Keitel, Patricia Heaton and Donnie Wahlberg.

MSNBC and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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