Fifteen minutes before ABC convened a conference call about “The Path to 9/11,” I finally got an email answer to my request to be allowed on the group media call with 9/11 Commission Co-Chair, Thomas Kean. I’d only been requesting this reply since…Friday. Here’s what I got back from Jonathan Hogan:
We won’t be able to provide specifics. The conference call is for credentialed press members covering our industry.
Yes, complete with smiley face.
Jonathan will probably be a little dismayed to know that, with help from some friends, I was able to get on that call, and I wasn’t even sneaky about it in the end. I should be right there in the records from the conference call moderator, as Jennifer Nix from Firedoglake. Of course, I was not allowed to ask any of the questions I’d prepared, but then again, it was only a 45-minute call, and with few exceptions, the call was all about the controversy over this ABC docudrama.
The folks at ThinkProgress will have a recording of the call up tomorrow, but I’ll highlight some of the gems I heard.
It’s still unknown whether Kean was a paid consultant on this project, but he opened the discussion by saying he’d worked closely with the producers and writer for at least eight or nine months. And now he’s shilling for this airbrushed miniseries, even as his Democratic co-chair of the 9/11 Commission is over in Iraq trying to figure out what’s really happening on the ground over there (h/t Dave Meyer)
John Ziegler from KIA AM radio in LA was first to ask about the controversy, and Kean seemed baffled to hear that there was any controversy. Then he said that he would be surprised if both administrations, Clinton and Bush, weren’t unhappy with their portrayals in the movie because it shows “a colossal failure of government…but it’s portrayed accurately.”
Ziegler also informed Kean that he’s heard that ABC intended to stop promoting the movie as being "based on the 9/11 Commission Report." That seemed like good news to this listener, but then Kean was ready with: "ABC is making it plain that it’s not just based on the report," that it is based on multiple interviews, reports and articles about the events in question. And, folks, we are apparently meant to keep in mind that in a miniseries of this sort, you must have composite characters and scenes that may or may not have happened.
Say what? I take from this that the honorable gentleman believes we shouldn’t expect to see the actual truth in this docudrama? How unfortunate, as Kean said he expects that millions more people will see this movie than have read the actual 9/11 Commission report, because, "such is the nature of television."
One scene that reporters went back to again and again on the call is the one that depicts a completely fictional account of Sandy Berger supposedly telling CIA operatives on the ground in Afghanistan, with Osama bin Laden practically in their cross-hairs, that they can’t go ahead and take him out. As you all know: Never happened. Jessie McKinley of the New York Times asked Kean, "If it’s not supported by the Commission’s findings, how exactly did it make it into the movie…Did this raise any red flags for you?"
Having been on the call, it’s clear that some of the mainstream media have gotten the message about this travesty of movie, and are asking some tough questions. Hopefully, we’ll be reading some choice accounts of this call in the next days.
But, I can’t resist sharing with you one of the softball questions lobbed at Donnie Wahlberg, who plays "Kirk,"one of those composite characters Kean mentioned are so very necessary to this movie. A reporter told Donnie that a friend of hers had found one of his New Kids on the Block CDs to be a "comfort mechanism" to deal with the loss of a friend on 9/11, and then asked him how he prepared to get into character each day.
Now, that’s journalism.