Top Senate Democrats urged the Walt Disney Co. on Thursday to cancel The Path to 9-11, but ABC said it would air the epic docudrama about events leading up to the terrorist attacks five years ago.
"Presenting such deeply flawed and factually inaccurate misinformation to the American public and to children would be a gross miscarriage of your corporate and civic responsibility to the law, to your shareholders and to the nation," Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and four others wrote.
A network spokeswoman said ABC has no plans to drop the five-hour program, which will air Sunday and Monday. WFTV-Channel 9 will air the commercial-free program, General Manager Shawn Bartelt said.
The program depicts events in The 9-11 Commission Report, starting with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. In a statement, ABC acknowledged that, like other docudramas, the miniseries contains fictionalized scenes and composite characters.
"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," the ABC statement said. "We hope viewers will watch the entire broadcast of the finished film before forming an opinion about it."
But Democrats weighed in fiercely on the $40 million production. The Democratic National Committee called the production "irresponsible, slanderous, fraudulent" and asked Democrats to tell Iger "to keep this right-wing propaganda off the air." The Democrats said they had collected more than 100,000 signatures in an online petition addressed to Iger.
Sandy Berger, former national-security adviser to President Clinton, said the scenes involving Berger are "complete fabrications." In a letter to Iger, Berger wrote, "The incidents depicted did not happen. They are not contained in the 9-11 Commission Report."
Another letter to Iger came from Bruce Lindsey, chief executive officer of the William J. Clinton Foundation, and Douglas Band, counsel to Clinton.
"The content of this drama is factually and incontrovertibly inaccurate and ABC has a duty to fully correct all errors or pull the drama entirely," they wrote.
Asked whether the editing changes were in response to the complaints, the ABC spokeswoman said: "The adjustments are being made to strengthen some scenes and make the points of the specific scenes clearer." She said the edits so far have been minimal, such as changing a few lines of dialogue.
An early version, sent to critics for review, depicted uncertain responses by both the Clinton and Bush administrations. Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, a Republican and chair of the 9-11 Commission, served as senior consultant on the miniseries.
In July, Kean said he wished he could make a few changes. "But, look, the spirit of this is absolutely correct," Kean said. "This is the story of how it happened."
CBS' plan to repeat the documentary 9-11 on Sunday has sparked another protest. The American Family Association, a Tupelo-Miss.-based group, objects to coarse language and plans to swamp the Federal Communications Commission with demands for fines against CBS affiliates. But WKMG-Channel 6 says it will air the program.
Hal Boedeker can be reached at 407-420-5756 or [email protected]