ABC statement on The Path to 9/11 claimed film not final, called attacks "premature and irresponsible" -- despite prior National Press Club screening, copies to conservatives
ABC Entertainment released a statement regarding its "docudrama" The Path to 9/11 stating that "[n]o one has seen the final version of the film ... so criticisms of film specifics are premature and irresponsible." But ABC reportedly screened the film at the National Press Club and provided preview copies to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and a number of right-wing bloggers.
Responding to the growing controversy over its "docudrama" The Path to 9/11, scheduled to air in two parts on September 10 and 11, ABC Entertainment released a statement  criticizing its critics as follows: "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."
But ABC wants it both ways. The network reportedly  screened the film at the National Press Club, where it was viewed by 9-11 Commission member Richard Ben-Veniste, who then criticized it. According to Congressional Quarterly, discussing the depiction of the alleged attempt to kill or capture bin Laden during a question and answer session following the film, Ben-Veniste "stood to say that '[t]here was no incident like that in the film that we came across. I am disturbed by that aspect of it.' " A September 6 New York Times article  similarly quoted Ben-Veniste as saying of the purported incident in the film: "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." CQ also obtained a reaction from former national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger, who claimed that the depiction is "a total fabrication," adding that "[i]t did not happen."
In addition, ABC has reportedly provided preview copies of The Path to 9/11 to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh and a number of right-wing bloggers, while reportedly refusing to make it available to President Clinton and other Clinton administration officials.
Responding to ABC's statement on MSNBC News Live, MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey asserted that "ABC Entertainment has truly screwed up here, and they're backpedaling." Then, referring to a particular scene from the film that purportedly shows Clinton administration officials blocking an opportunity to kill bin Laden, Cressey claimed: "It's that type of irresponsible storytelling that is outrageous because ABC is drawing credibility from the 9-11 Commission Report to justify what they have done, and then, they're completely making things up."
From the September 7 edition of MSNBC News Live:
NORAH O'DONNELL (MSNBC chief Washington correspondent): Other news out today: Of course, there is controversy over a new docudrama, it is being called, over the 9-11 attacks that ABC is set to air. We are expected to hear more from ABC News. They are saying at this point that they are not going to take this movie off the air despite the objections of the Clinton administration. I spoke with President Clinton's spokesman a short time ago; he said unless ABC News pulls this off the air, we will not be satisfied.
What is the truth about 9-11? Will this docudrama change or obscure the facts? Who's behind this docudrama? Was it in fact produced by a conservative, et cetera? Joining us now former Georgia congressman, Congressman Bob Barr [R]. We are also joined by MSNBC terrorism analyst Roger Cressey here in Washington. Roger, I know that you have followed this very closely. Let's begin with this docudrama. ABC says it's staying on the air, you can't criticize it, not everybody has seen it. It is based on some of the 9-11 Commission Report. What specifically do you know to be untrue in this docudrama?
CRESSEY: Well, Norah, ABC Entertainment has truly screwed up here, and they're backpedaling. I think in that statement they just released, they're going to continue to edit it. So, I think some of the most outrageous scenes hopefully will be deleted. The one in particular that is most disconcerting is this image of the CIA having an operative right on the ground at Tarnak Farms, eyes on bin Laden, with Ahmed Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance, and then breathlessly calling back to the situation room asking for authorization to kill bin Laden, and the Clinton administration dithering and ultimately hanging up on them.
It's that type of irresponsible storytelling that is outrageous because ABC is drawing credibility from the 9-11 Commission Report to justify what they have done, and then, they're completely making things up. So, if you delete this erroneous counter-factual stuff and portray it as a drama, then fine, let the chips fall where they may.