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ABC 9-11 Television Movie Draws Criticisms over Accuracy, Politics

Following ABC's airing of a docudrama about 9-11, critics argue over the fact and fiction in television docudramas. Communication and media experts discuss the docudrama phenomenon in America.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    September 11 itself may be the day that changed everything. But a so-called docudrama on the events leading up to that day has come under fire for changing a little too much.

    "The Path to 9/11" aired Sunday and Monday nights on ABC. It originally claimed to be based on the findings of the 9/11 Commission. And Thomas Kean, a co-chair of the commission, served as an executive producer of the film.

    But several scenes raised the ire of those portrayed, including former President Clinton, and, in one instance, American Airlines. One scene involved former Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. It showed him passing on an opportunity to kill Osama bin Laden.

  • ACTRESS:

    All right, now, excuse me, sir. You are the national security adviser. Can't you give the order?

  • ACTOR:

    Look, George, if you feel confident, you can present your recommendation to the president yourself.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    This never happened, according to several of the officials depicted, and the filmmakers themselves said they had improvised the scene.

    After complaints from Clinton administration officials, ABC did remove the original end of the scene, which showed Berger hanging up on then-CIA Director George Tenet.

    WILLIAM J. CLINTON, President of the United States: I want to you listen to me. I'm going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Another scene altered after complaints implied that President Clinton was too distracted by the Monica Lewinsky scandal to take action against bin Laden.

    Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism official in the Clinton and Bush White Houses, issued this statement: "Some of the most outrageous scenes were removed after a recent senior-level review. What remains, however, is not the true story, as told by the 9/11 Commission."

    American Airlines has also registered its displeasure with the film, specifically regarding this scene, which shows the lead 9/11 hijacker, Mohamed Atta, waved through a security check by an American Airlines desk agent at Boston's Logan Airport, despite a security warning.

  • ACTRESS:

    Shouldn't he be searched?

  • ACTRESS:

    No, just hold their bags until they board.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In fact, it was an agent of another airline at a different airport who issued Atta his boarding documents.

  • ANNOUNCER:

    Due to subject matter, viewer discretion is advised.

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