Less than 72 hours before ABC's "The Path to 9/11" is scheduled to air, the network is suddenly under siege. On Tuesday, ABC was forced to concede that "The Path to 9/11" is "a dramatization, not a documentary." The film deceptively invents scenes to depict former President Bill Clinton's handling of the Al Qaeda threat. Now, ABC claims to be is editing those false sequences to satisfy critics so the show can go on -- even if it still remains a gross distortion of history. And as it does so, ABC advances the illusion that the deceptive nature of "The Path to 9/11" is an honest mistake committed by a hardworking but admittedly fumbling team of well-intentioned Hollywood professionals who wanted nothing less than to entertain America. But this is another Big Lie.
In fact, "The Path to 9/11" is produced and promoted by a well-honed propaganda operation consisting of a network of little-known right-wingers working from within Hollywood to counter its supposedly liberal bias. This is the network within the ABC network. Its godfather is far right activist David Horowitz, who has worked for more than a decade to establish a right-wing presence in Hollywood and to discredit mainstream film and TV production. On this project, he is working with a secretive evangelical religious right group founded by The Path to 9/11's director David Cunningham that proclaims its goal to "transform Hollywood" in line with its messianic vision.
Before The Path to 9/11 entered the production stage, Disney/ABC contracted David Cunningham as the film's director. Cunningham is no ordinary Hollywood journeyman. He is in fact the son of Loren Cunningham, founder of the right-wing evangelical group Youth With A Mission (YWAM). The young Cunningham helped found an auxiliary of his father's group called The Film Institute (TFI), which, according to its mission statement, is "dedicated to a Godly transformation and revolution TO and THROUGH the Film and Televisionindustry." As part of TFI's long-term strategy, Cunningham helped place interns from Youth With A Mission's in film industry jobs "so that they can begin to impact and transform Hollywood from the inside out," according to a YWAM report.
Last June, Cunningham's TFI announced it was producing its first film, mysteriously titled "Untitled History Project." "TFI's first project is a doozy," a newsletter to YWAM members read. "Simply being referred to as: The Untitled History Project, it is already being called the television event of the decade and not one second has been put to film yet. Talk about great expectations!" (A web edition of the newsletter was mysteriously deleted yesterday but has been cached on Google at the link above).
The following month, on July 28, the New York Post reported that ABC was filming a mini-series "under a shroud of secrecy" about the 9/11 attacks. "At the moment, ABC officials are calling the miniseries 'Untitled Commission Report' and producers refer to it as the 'Untitled History Project,'" the Post noted.
Early on, Cunningham had recruited a young Iranian-American screenwriter named Cyrus Nowrasteh to
write the script of his secretive "Untitled" film. Not only is Nowrasteh an outspoken conservative, he is also a fervent member of the emerging network of right-wing people burrowing into the film industry with ulterior sectarian political and religious agendas, like Cunningham.
Nowrasteh's conservatism was on display when he appeared as a featured speaker at the Liberty Film Festival (LFF), an annual event founded in 2004 to premier and promote conservative-themed films supposedly too "politically incorrect" to gain acceptance at mainstream film festivals. This June, while The Path to 9/11 was being filmed, LFF founders Govindini Murty and Jason Apuzzo -- both friends of Nowrasteh -- announced they were "partnering" with right-wing activist David Horowitz. Indeed, the 2006 LFF is listed as "A Program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center."
Since the inauguration of Bill Clinton in 1992, Horowitz has labored to create a network of politically active conservatives in Hollywood. His Hollywood nest centers around his Wednesday Morning Club, a weekly meet-and-greet session for Left Coast conservatives that has been graced with speeches by the likes of Newt Gingrich, Victor Davis Hanson and Christopher Hitchens. The group's headquarters are at the offices of Horowitz's Center for the Study of Popular Culture, a "think tank" bankrolled for years with millions by right-wing sugardaddies like eccentric far right billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. (Scaife financed the Arkansas Project, a $2.3 million dirty tricks operation that included paying sources for negative stories about Bill Clinton that turned out to be false.)
With the LFF now under Horowitz's control, his political machine began drumming up support for Cunningham and Nowrasteh's "Untitled" project, which finally was revealed in late summer as "The Path to 9/11." Horowitz's PR blitz began with an August 16 interview with Nowrasteh on his FrontPageMag webzine. In the interview, Nowrasteh foreshadowed the film's assault on Clinton's record on fighting terror. "The 9/11 report details the Clinton's administration's response -- or lack of response -- to Al Qaeda and how this emboldened Bin Laden to keep attacking American interests," Nowrasteh told FrontPageMag's Jamie Glazov. "There simply was no response. Nothing."
A week later, ABC hosted LFF co-founder Murty and several other conservative operatives at an advance screening of The Path to 9/11. (While ABC provided 900 DVDs of the film to conservatives, Clinton administration officials and objective reviewers from mainstream outlets were denied them.) Murty returned with a glowing review for FrontPageMag that emphasized the film's partisan nature. "'The Path to 9/11' is one of the best, most intelligent, most pro-American miniseries I've ever seen on TV, and conservatives should support it and promote it as vigorously as possible," Murty wrote. As a result of the special access granted by ABC, Murty's article was the first published review of The Path to 9/11, preceding those by the New York Times and LA Times by more than a week.
Murty followed her review with a blast email to conservative websites such as Liberty Post and Free Republic on September 1 urging their readers to throw their weight behind ABC's mini-series. "Please do everything you can to spread the word about this excellent miniseries," Murty wrote, "so that 'The Path to 9/11' gets the highest ratings possible when it airs on September 10 & 11! If this show gets huge ratings, then ABC will be more likely to produce pro-American movies and TV shows in the future!"
Murty's efforts were supported by Appuzo, who handles LFF's heavily-trafficked blog, Libertas. Appuzo was instrumental in marketing The Path to 9/11 to conservatives, writing in a blog post on September 2, "Make no mistake about what this film does, among other things: it places the question of the Clinton Administration's culpability for the 9/11 attacks front and center... Bravo to Cyrus Nowrasteh and David Cunningham for creating this gritty, stylish and gripping piece of entertainment."
When a group of leading Senate Democrats sent a letter to ABC CEO Robert Iger urging him to cancel The Path to 9/11 because of its glaring factual errors and distortions, Apuzzo launched a retaliatory campaign to paint the Democrats as foes of free speech. "Here at LIBERTAS we urge the public to make noise over this, and to demand that Democrats back down," he wrote on September 7th. "What is at stake is nothing short of the 1st Amendment."
At FrontPageMag, Horowitz singled out Nowrasteh as the victim. "The attacks by former president Bill Clinton, former Clinton Administration officials and Democratic US senators on Cyrus Nowrasteh's ABC mini-series "The Path to 9/11" are easily the gravest and most brazen and damaging governmental attacks on the civil liberties of ordinary Americans since 9/11," Horowitz declared.
Now, as discussion grows over the false character of The Path to 9/11, the right-wing network that brought it to fruition is ratcheting up its PR efforts. Murty will appear tonight on CNN's Glenn Beck show and The Situation Room, according to Libertas in order to respond to "the major disinformation campaign now being run by Democrats to block the truth about what actually happened during the Clinton years."
While this network claims its success and postures as the true victims, the ABC network suffers a PR catastrophe. It's almost as though it was complacent about an attack on its reputation by a band of political terrorists.