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On the July 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America, host Sean Hannity and Cyrus Nowrasteh, writer and producer of the September 2006 ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11, alleged that "political pressure" is preventing the release of the miniseries on DVD, then defended the film's accuracy, claiming that it was "vindicated by the experts," contained "meticulous detail," and "got it right." As Media Matters for America documented, however, The Path to 9/11 contained inaccurate scenes that maligned the Clinton administration's counterterrorism efforts and bolstered the Bush administration's. Additionally, the film was sharply criticized by former Clinton administration officials, journalists, and conservatives who noted that significant parts of the "docudrama's" content were not supported by the 9-11 Commission's findings, despite the fact that ABC originally claimed that the miniseries was based on the commission's report (a claim the network later minimized).
As Media Matters noted, the January 28 edition of Hannity's America featured deleted footage from a scene from The Path to 9/11 that ABC edited prior to broadcast. The unedited scene, which Fox News promoted as "the video Bill Clinton doesn't want you to see," falsely portrayed then-national security adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger hanging up on CIA director George Tenet as he asks for authorization to let CIA officers and Afghani fighters raid an isolated compound in Afghanistan in order to capture or kill Osama bin Laden. Even though the shot of Berger hanging up was edited out, the scene as aired on ABC was still inaccurate. The 9-11 Commission report noted that Tenet stated that "he alone had decided" to abort the mission on May 29, 1998 -- weeks before the target date of June 23 -- and that both intelligence and military officials had serious doubts about the likelihood of its success. The report also noted that the operation had been planned out and rehearsed, but it gave no indication that CIA or Afghani personnel were in position and ready to conduct the operation when it was canceled. Nowrasteh defended the unedited scene as accurate -- claiming that the pressure to edit the film "was just an attempt to sort of suppress history" -- despite having previously admitted the scene was fabricated. The New York Times quoted Nowrasteh as saying that "Berger did not slam down the phone. That is not in the report. That was not scripted. Accidents occur, spontaneous reactions of actors performing a role take place."
On the July 1 edition of Hannity's America, Hannity again aired footage from this scene and asked Nowrasteh if he "believe[d] political pressure was brought to bear on the issue of releasing the DVD," to which Nowrasteh replied: "Absolutely." Nowrasteh claimed that "it came from the same people who were putting on the political pressure last fall -- primarily the Clintons, Sandy Berger," and faulted ABC for not "[s]tand[ing] up for their talent and their good work that has been vindicated by the experts." Hannity credited Nowrasteh for the "meticulous detail" in the film, adding, "in particular you wanted accuracy from the very beginning."
According to the Nexis database, an article from the June 25-July 8 edition of Variety noted that Nowrasteh claimed that "all of us associated with the production have noticed that there are no Emmy ads [for the miniseries] and no support [for the DVD] and it's mainly because of all the controversy that took place." According to Variety:
ABC, which does not always release miniseries on DVD, denies that its Emmy campaign for the project, or lack thereof, is an outgrowth of the controversy that originally plagued the pic. An ABC rep says "with limited budget the studio traditionally does not send any of their product out in the Academy mailing and runs limited advertisements for a few productions."
Nowrasteh added: "The Path to 9/11 got it right," to which Hannity responded: "You know what, Cyrus? It did get it right."
From the July 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America:
HANNITY: Now, nine months after The Path to 9/11 originally aired on ABC, there is a new controversy. ABC's parent company, Walt Disney, has yet to release the DVD documentary to the public. So many are asking: Is the Mickey Mouse corporation once again bowing to the Clinton political machine? And that's the question I asked the producer of The Path to 9/11, Cyrus Nowrasteh.
NOWRASTEH: Here's what I know, Sean. It was supposed to be out in January. And then I was told six months down the line, "Well, that's where we are now." And there's no indication that it's coming out at all.
HANNITY: Do you believe political pressure was brought to bear on the issue of releasing the DVD?
HANNITY: Where do you think it came from?
NOWRASTEH: Well, it came from the same people who were bringing the political pressure last fall -- primarily the Clintons, Sandy Berger. I mean, Jeff Gerth covers this in his book, Her Way, the book that is just out. He talks about the incredible, unprecedented pressure that was brought to bear on Disney, and I think they showed a lot of backbone by airing the movie last fall under that pressure. And I think they need to maintain that stance. Stand up for their talent and their good work that has been vindicated by the experts, and release it.
HANNITY: But key scenes were cut out of this film, as we just showed our audience here. I mean, you say they showed a lot of courage in airing it, but they did give in to political pressure.
NOWRASTEH: You know, Sean, they cut out about just under three minutes in a sequence, as you know, which was the sequence where they had bin Laden surrounded in Afghanistan. I know -- I talked to a lot of people who watched the broadcast version, and they got the message. The message was that these people in Washington were unwilling to act. I agree, I wish it had been shown in its original state, that sequence, because it was very well done. But the message got through.
HANNITY: But you spent a lot of time, you dedicated your life, meticulous detail -- you know, in particular, you wanted accuracy from the very beginning. And then they cut out a very key portion of this here. I've got to believe there's a level of frustration for you on this.
NOWRASTEH: Look, there's a level of frustration. But I also know how unprecedented that pressure that came down last fall was, and that has continued. And no network, no studio has had to face that kind of pressure ever. What happened when [Michael Moore's 2004 film] Fahrenheit 9/11 and The Reagans miniseries didn't even come close. And I just want them to continue to release this thing, to get it out there. Show the scene that was cut in its original state on the special features of the DVD.
NOWRASTEH: That'll be attractive to the viewers.
HANNITY: Well, that was attractive to our viewers when we aired it the first time. It was one of the highest-rated segments we've ever had on this program. Look, I would say this --
NOWRASTEH: That's what I understand.
HANNITY: What's so frustrating to me is we have a 9-11 Commission to investigate all of this. We have Sandy Berger stealing these archived documents. We still to this day don't know the full extent of what he took out of here. We don't know Bill Clinton's -- whether he encouraged that or not. They pressured Disney here. It seems like a cover-up of mass proportions about the worst attack in American history here.
NOWRASTEH: Sean, I believe that the attack on The Path to 9/11 by the Clintons and Sandy Berger, they attacked it for the same reasons that Sandy Berger went and stole and destroyed documents at the National Archives. They wanted to suppress history, they want to rewrite history. I believe they are -- you know, they have criminally distorted history because he destroyed original documents. And I don't think Disney, ABC, or any other network or production company should stand by for that. The Path to 9/11 got it right.
HANNITY: You know what, Cyrus? It did get it right. And I'd written about it in my first book, and I applaud you for the great work that you did here, and obviously it was rewarded with very high ratings. Cyrus, thanks for updating us on this, we'll see you again soon. Thank you for being with us.
NOWRASTEH: Thank you, Sean.