BC's Film Flap
Trims 9/11 Series as Dems Howl
By James Gordon Meek and Helen Kennedy
The New York Daily News
Friday 08 September 2006
ABC is frantically recutting its $40 million miniseries about 9/11 amid a blistering backlash over fictional scenes that lay the blame on the Clinton administration.
Also feeling the heat was Scholastic, which yanked a classroom guide tie-in to the program.
Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, the former head of the 9/11 commission and a paid consultant on the ABC miniseries, told the Daily News yesterday that some controversial scenes in "The Path to 9/11" were being removed or changed.
"ABC is telling me that the final version I'll be pleased with," said Kean, softening his own previous defense of the movie.
Unmollified, Democrats continued to demand that ABC yank the two-night docudrama that former President Bill Clinton's spokesman called "despicable." It is scheduled to start airing Sunday.
And Clinton's lawyer sent Kean a chiding letter expressing "shock" that a man so dedicated to accuracy had worked on a movie "that has been widely criticized for its libelous historical inaccuracies."
The chorus of outrage - ranging from Clinton cabinet members to liberal bloggers to 9/11 families to ordinary moms canceling trips to Disneyland - put ABC and parent company Disney under tremendous pressure just days before the movie's premiere.
First to go was a made-up scene showing Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger hanging up on CIA operatives who were moments away from killing Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. "You will not see that in that way in the final edition," Kean said.
The Clinton White House did scotch several opportunities to kill Al Qaeda's founder because intelligence was sketchy. But unlike in the film, the CIA was never steps away from Bin Laden, nor did Berger hang up on agents in the field, Kean admitted.
Driven by the Internet's main liberal Web sites, the outrage over ABC's dramatization was reminiscent of the 2003 conservative furor that forced CBS to pull an unflattering Ronald Rea?an biopic. Phones rang off the hook and e-mail boxes were clogged all day at Scholastic Inc., ABC and Disney. "We're getting slammed," said one frazzled ABC staffer.
Scholastic caved quickly, yanking educational materials tied to the movie that critics said linked Iraq to 9/11 and glossed over the grim situation in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We determined that the materials did not meet our high standards for dealing with controversial issues," Scholastic Chairman Dick Robinson said.
ABC released a defensive statement calling criticism of the film "premature and irresponsible" because it was still being edited. The network sent out preview DVDs weeks ago.
Democrats, noting that Republicans have vowed to campaign on terrorism this fall, saw a political conspiracy. "I think they wanted to run this before the midterm elections," said Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.).
Several top Democratic senators, including Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada, accused ABC boss Bob Iger in a letter of airing "right-wing political propaganda" and obliquely threatened his broadcast license.
The senators said ABC should be a responsible "beneficiary of the free use of the public airwaves" and cancel the movie.
Asked if he had apologized to Clinton for inaccuracies in the movie, Kean quipped, "No, he was out campaigning against my son yesterday, so I didn't reach out to him at all!"
Kean's son is a GOP Senate candidate in New Jersey.