Congressional Democrats call on Scholastic to keep ABC's 9/11 docudrama 'out of schools'

Ron Brynaert
Published: Thursday September 7, 2006

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Congressional Democrats will be holding a press conference late Thursday afternoon which will call on Scholastic to keep ABC's docudrama The Path to 9/11 "out of schools," RAW STORY has learned.

"Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY-28), Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, will today be joined by Rep. Bill Pascrell (NJ-8), a member of the Homeland Security Committee and a former high school teacher, to call for Scholastic Inc. and ABC to keep the upcoming, and already challenged, docudrama The Path to 9-11 out of America's classrooms," said a press release sent out by Rep. Slaughter's office.

"Scholastic is currently planning on shopping the docudrama to as many as 100,000 teachers, and has already produced lesson plans containing questionable information and analysis," the press release continued.

The press conference is scheduled for 4:15 PM today, and will take place on the terrace of the Cannon House Office Building.

"ABC has a responsibility to make clear that this film is not a documentary, and does not represent an official account of the facts surrounding the September 11th attacks," Congresswoman Slaughter said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The watchdog website Media Matters contains links to the "teaching materials" that schools will be provided with.

"By pushing material with misleading information to students of all ages, ABC and Scholastic are engaging in the worst kind of political propagandizing and misinformation campaign," wrote Media Matters President David Brock. "It appears they are actively seeking to misinform our children on recent historical events that have shaped our world. Such behavior from a major network like ABC is not only unprecedented; it is highly inappropriate and deeply troubling."

Clinton camp protests

Liberal bloggers and activists have set up a blog called Open Letter to ABC: Don't Airbrush 9/11 to complain about a number of scenes in the docudrama which inaccurately portray actions and events during President Bill Clinton's Administration in the late 1990s.

The other day, the docudrama's screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh admitted that a scene which showed former Clinton national security adviser Samuel R. Berger "abruptly hanging up during a conversation with a C.I.A. officer at a critical moment of a military operation" had been improvised by the actors.

"Sandy Berger did not slam down the phone," Nowrasteh told the New York Times. "That is not in the report. That was not scripted."

"But you know when you’re making a movie, a lot of things happen on set that are unscripted," Nowrasteh added.

"Nowrasteh’s attitude appears completely inconsistent with ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson," wrote Judd Legum at Think Progress, a blog connected to the Center for American Progress, a policy group headed by former Clinton Chief of Staff John D. Podesta.

"In promotional materials accompanying the film, McPherson said, 'When you take on the responsibility of telling the story behind such an important event, it is absolutely critical that you get it right,'" observed Legum.

Clinton's office sent out a four-page letter asking the network to fix the reported inaccuracies or cancel it.

"The content of this drama is factually and incontrovertibly inaccurate and ABC has the duty to fully correct all errors or pull the drama entirely," said the letter, according to the New York Post.

The Chicago Tribune reported on Thursday that "following complaints," ABC has been "tweaking" the docudrama.

"ABC toned down a scene that involved Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel 'Sandy' Berger, declining to give the order to kill bin Laden, according to a person involved with the film who declined to be identified," reports Scott Collins.

"That sequence has been the focus of attention," the source told the Tribune.

"The network also decided that the credits would say the film is based 'in part' on the 9/11 panel report, rather than 'based on' the report, as the producers originally intended," Collins also reported.