HBO strives to avoid bias charges in Florida 2000 docudrama
Nick Juliano
Published: Wednesday December 26, 2007 |
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Recount wants to avoid controversy that surrounded 9/11 miniseries

This spring, premium cable subscribers will be able to relive the drama of the contested 2000 presidential election when HBO debuts its new film Recount.

In creating the controversial docudrama, the network sought to allay concerns that beset some of its predecessors in fictionalizing real-world events by allowing the actual people portrayed in the movie to suggest script revisions and visit the film set, The Politico reports.

The most persistent warning being heeded by HBO comes from last year's controversial ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11. That film, written by an avowed conservative activist, was widely criticized for its negative portrayal of former President Bill Clinton's efforts against al Qaeda and the implication that members of his national security team allowed Osama bin Laden to slip away.

One of the writers credited on the ABC project, Peter Lance, told RAW STORY earlier this year that the miniseries' producer "distorted" the findings of his book, 1,000 Years for Revenge, in producing the anti-Clinton assault. "I was sickened," Lance said.

In an effort to avoid similar controversy, Recount writer Danny Strong pored over several books, including Jeffrey Toobin's Too Close to Call and Deadlock: The Inside Story of America's Closet Election, written by the Washington Post's political team, according to Politico. Strong also personally interviewed the film's main subjects, Democratic operative Ron Klain, Bush confidant James Baker III and Bush/Cheney attorney Ben Ginsberg.

Former Clinton officials Sandy Berger and Madeline Albright complained about their depiction in Path to 9/11, and ABC was forced to add a disclaimer to the film and cut some scenes just before it was aired last year on the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks. Producer Cyrus Nowrasteh, whose earlier credits include the Showtime movie The Day Reagan Was Shot, claimed earlier this year that the miniseries' DVD release was being delayed because of meddling by Hillary Clinton, a claim her campaign denied.

Lance suggested the miniseries took his book's reporting on the FBI's failures and turned them into successes. Furthermore, he said, Nowrasteh misled him on how his material would be used and then failed to properly compensate him.

HBO and the Recount producers are trying to avoid the same sort of problems by showing the scripts' early drafts to players in the recount drama. Some noted small problems with liberties taken in their portrayals, but there so far have been no major dust-ups of the type that affected Path to 9/11, according to Politico.

"'I'm not sure it's possible to boil down everything that happened in those 36 days into 120 minutes, but I know the people involved were trying to capture the chess match nature of the recount,' GOP lawyer Ginsberg told Politico, reserving full judgement on the film until he sees the final product. "If they achieve a bipartisan balance in telling the tale, it will be a fast-paced, entertaining and educational movie."