Wednesday, September 06, 2006

ABC. The Always Blame Clinton Network

Generally we figure that people who get their news from TV movies deserve what they get, but the reaction to ABC's "docudrama" about September 11 seems to be centered around the fact that it apparently comes right out of the John Stossel school of journalism.

Days before its scheduled debut, the first major television miniseries about the Sept. 11 attacks was being criticized as biased and inaccurate by bloggers, terrorism experts and a member of the Sept. 11 commission, whose report makes up much of the film’s source material. "Well, when we said the 'commission report makes up a lot of our source material,' we meant, like the title," said a network spokesperson. "And some of the names. We didn't change people's names in the film."

Richard A. Clarke, the former counterterrorism czar, questioned a scene that depicts several American military officers on the ground in Afghanistan. In it, the officers, working with leaders of the Northern Alliance, the Afghan rebel group, move in to capture Osama bin Laden, only to allow him to escape when a helicopter lands in front of them and Clinton gets out casts a spell on th etroops turning them into pigs. “It didn’t happen,” Mr. Clarke said.

ABC responded with a statement saying that the miniseries was “a dramatization, not a documentary, drawn from a variety of sources, including the 9/11 commission report, other published materials and from personal interviews. One of our most useful sources was Dick Cheney," the statement read.

Former Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, the chairman of the Sept. 11 commission and a consultant on the miniseries, defended the program. “I pointed out the fact that the scene involving Afghanistan and the attempt to get bin Laden is a composite,” Mr. Kean said, "It's made up of what we gleaned from reports, newspaper articles and what we pulled out of our as...well, poetic license is probably a better way to say it."

Mr. Kean conceded that some points might have been more drama than documentary. “After the opening credits it gets pretty fuzzy in the reality category,” he said. "But we're pretty sure bin Laden was there."

Online commentators seized on remarks made last week by Rush Limbaugh, the conservative radio host, who said “The Path to 9/11” had been written and produced by a “friend of mine out in California” named Cyrus. Cyrus Nowrasteh, the film’s screenwriter and one of its producers, said he had met Mr. Limbaugh on the set of “24,” the serialized thriller on Fox. “I met him briefly,” Mr. Nowrasteh said. “And that’s it. Bought some oxycontin off him, but we're really not friends. By the way, did you know Bill Clinton is the devil?”

Richard Ben-Veniste, a member of the Sept. 11 commission, said, “As we were watching, we were trying to think how they could have misinterpreted the 9/11 commission’s finding the way that they had. Later we found out it wasn't a misinterpretation because they never read the report in the first place.”

ABC said it planned to run a disclaimer with the broadcast, reminding viewers that the movie was not a documentary and the network has no reposibility to treat issues fairly, with professionalism, or even honestly. "Hey, this is TV," a network spokesperson said. "You want reality? Read the paper. Oh wait. I just made a funny."

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