‘Path to 9/11’ Rough for ABC

Sep 11, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The director of “Path to 9/11,” the first part of which was scheduled to air on ABC Sunday, said the six-hour miniseries is true to its base material, the 9/11 Commission Report.

“Was the 9/11 Commission Report always the last stop? Yes, I still stand by that,” director David L. Cunningham told TelevisionWeek Friday. “We would always use the 9/11 Report as our plumb line. We needed to fill in some chronology, and we would then consult our consultants and say `what happened here?”‘

What was initially conceived by ABC as a historical and comprehensive dramatization of the 9/11 Commission Report became a public relations nightmare last week after a number of politicians, TV critics, national security experts portrayed in the film and even historians accused “Path to 9/11” of being inaccurate and partisan, objecting to scenes in the film that contradicted the commission report.

Considering the subject matter, Mr. Cunningham said the production team knew “we were dealing with something very dynamic and sensitive,” and that throughout the writing and production phases there were conflicts about what happened at specific times.

“On a daily basis it was pretty wild,” he said. “We would have these consultants on the set and they would be arguing over the way certain things happened.”

In particular, Mr. Cunningham stands by the original scene in which an actor portraying Clinton Administration national security adviser Samuel R. Berger refuses to authorize a strike on terrorist Osama bin Ladin. In a letter sent to 9/11 Commission Vice Chair and “Path to 9/11” senior consultant Thomas Kean Friday, Mr. Berger-who said he was never consulted in the making of the film-denied that took place, and pointed to the commission report as evidence.

“People would be smart to not to make such a big deal about it, because it has been changed,” Mr. Cunningham said of the scene, adding that despite the changes “we didn’t believe it did contradict the 9/11 report.”

While the production used dozens of consultants, from CIA agents to secret service staffers, Mr. Cunningham said “I believe we did not” use Mr. Berger as a source in making the film.

Mr. Cunningham worked last week via the Internet from his home in Hawaii re-editing the miniseries, but said he had no issue with ABC requesting last-minute changes.

“The fact that this movie got made at all by any massive conglomerate studio is a complete miracle,” he said, adding “I have nothing but support for them and what they are doing in trying to get this thing out.”

Ira Teinowitz contributed to this story.