ABC's upcoming miniseries "The Path to 9/11" is generating a firestorm among members of the Clinton administration, who claim the two-part, made-for-TV film is filled with factual errors and lies.
Three members of the administration — former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, former National Security Adviser Samuel R. Berger and Clinton aide Bruce Lindsey, who now heads the Clinton Foundation — have sent letters to Walt Disney Company, parent of ABC, demanding that it re-edit or pull the five-hour film, scheduled for air Sunday and Monday nights without commercial interruption.
Albright, who is featured prominently in the film, wrote a letter to Disney chief Robert A. Iger, complaining that she had requested a copy of the film, but that ABC had not given her one, according to a New York Times report.
Albright wrote that she had been told by people who had seen the film that it “depicts scenes that never happened, events that never took place, decisions that were never made and conversations that never occurred.”
“It asserts as fact things that are not fact,” she wrote, according to the Times.
Albright specifically objected to a scene that showed her insisting on warning the Pakistani government before an airstrike on Afghanistan, and that she was the one who made the warning.
"The scene as explained to me is false and defamatory," she said.
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, ABC said, "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."
"For dramatic and narrative purposes, the movie contains fictionalized scenes, composite and representative characters and dialogue, and time compression," ABC said in its statement. "We hope viewers will watch the entire broadcast of the finished film before forming an opinion about it."
The miniseries is drawn from interviews and documents including the report of the Sept. 11 commission. ABC has described it as a "dramatization" as opposed to a documentary.
"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," Lindsey wrote, according to the New York Post.
Lindsey's letter accused ABC of "bias" and "fictitious rewriting of history that will be misinterpreted by millions of Americans," the Post reported.
Lindsey and Douglas Band, a top lawyer in Clinton's office, objected to advertisements for the miniseries, which they said suggested that Clinton wasn't paying enough attention to the threat of terrorism.
"While ABC is promoting "The Path to 9/11" as a dramatization of historical fact, in truth it is a fictitious rewriting of history that will be misinterpreted by millions of Americans," they said.
"Given your stated obligation to 'get it right,' we urge you to do so by not airing this drama until the egregious factual errors are corrected, an endeavor we could easily assist you with given the opportunity to view the film," the said.
ABC spokesman Jonathan Hogan defended the miniseries, telling the Post, it is a "dramatization, not a documentary, drawn from a variety of sources, including the 9/11 commission report, other published materials and personal interviews."
"Many of the people who have expressed opinions about the film have yet to see it in its entirety or in its final broadcast form, " Hogan said. "We hope the viewers will watch the entire broadcast before forming their own opinion."
Executive producer Marc Platt reportedly told the Washington Post that he worked "very hard to be fair."
"If individuals feel they're wrongly portrayed, that's obviously a concern," Platt said. "We've portrayed the essence of the truth of these events. Our intention was not in any way to be political or present a point of view."
At the heart of the firestorm is the miniseries' creator, former New Jersy Gov. Tom Kean, who also co-chaired the federal 9/11 Commission and served as the film's paid adviser. Kean reportedly admitted that some scenes were made up, and said producers would say so in a statement to viewers before broadcast, the New York Post reported.
Kean defended the miniseries, saying that like the 9/11 Commission Report, it was balanced.
“People in both administrations are not going to be happy if it’s portrayed accurately,” he told the Times.
The former Clinton officials reportedly are outraged that producers wrote into the film a sequence that strongly infers the president was preoccupied with the Monica Lewinsky affair instead of focusing on the threat from Usama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Lindsey's letter to Iger reportedly points out that the 9/11 Commission — which Kean co-chaired — actually stated that Clinton was "deeply concerned about bin Laden," and that he received constant updates from administration intelligence and security officials.
The letters also pointed to a fictional CIA character in the series, "Kirk," played by actor Donnie Wahlberg, and how he is ordered to abort a mission to kill bin Laden. The Berger complained that "no such episode ever occurred — nor did anything like it."
"The fabrication of this scene (of such apparent magnitude) cannot be justified under any reasonable definition of dramatic license," Berger wrote.
The Times reported that ABC was considering last-minute changes to the film.
“It is common practice to continue to make edits to strengthen a project right up to the broadcast date,” Hope Hartman, an ABC spokeswoman, told the Times.
The series reportedly cost about $40 million to produce, and is to be aired without commercials as a public service, Hartman said.
This is not the first time political pressure has been exerted against a TV film. CBS dropped a four-hour miniseries about the Reagans in 2003, after Republican and conservative groups complained about its portrayal of the former president and first lady. “The Reagans” later aired on cable's Showtime channel.