American Airlines Protests Its Portrayal in ABC's 'Path to 9/11'

Spokesman Says Airline Looking at 'Possible Legal Actions'

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NEW YORK ( -- ABC's airing of the "Path to 9/11" docudrama last night has drawn its first lawsuit threat. The surprise is it's coming not from angry Democrats but from an "outraged" American Airlines.
The controversial ABC drama 'Path to 9/11' has drawn its first threat of a lawsuit. American Airlines said it is 'outraged' by 'factual errors.' | ALSO: Comment on this article in the 'Your Opinion' box below.
The controversial ABC drama 'Path to 9/11' has drawn its first threat of a lawsuit. American Airlines said it is 'outraged' by 'factual errors.' | ALSO: Comment on this article in the 'Your Opinion' box below.

Airline scene
One scene in the show's first night depicts terrorist Mohammed Atta walking up to an American Airlines counter in Boston, where airline employees get a warning flagging him. The employees allow him to board anyway. According to American, the documentary makes it appear as if airline employess missed a terrorist who was flagged on their flight. (While the airline won't say so, the system in place at the time didn't flag anyone as a terrorist, but the movie makes it seem as if it did).

Two American Airlines planes were used in the 9/11 attack. Flight 11, with Mr. Atta aboard, flew from Boston and crashed into the World Trade Center.

In reality, the terrorist warning popped up when Mr. Atta went to board a plane from Maine to Boston; the plane he flew on that leg wasn't American.

Expresses astonishment
Roger Frizzell, VP-corporate communications and advertising, American Airlines, expressed astonishment at the scene in an e-mail posted on liberal website and confirmed as genuine by American.

"I think it is important for you to know that ABC had factual errors in its dramatization, and we are looking at possible legal actions as a result," the e-mail said. "According to the 9/11 Commission Report, it was not American Airlines, nor was it even the right airport that was depicted. Please know this was a tragic incident in our company's history, and we hope you will be sympathetic to our employees and our airline on this day especially. Again, we are outraged by this situation, and we alerted ABC about its gross error. It is very unfortunate."

American was more restrained in a public statement today.

'Inaccurate and irresponsible'
"The Disney/ABC television program 'The Path to 9/11' is inaccurate and irresponsible in its portrayal of the airport check-in events that occurred on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001," spokesman Tim Wagner said. "A factual description of those events can be found in the official government edition of the 9/11 Commission Report and supporting documents."

ABC declined to comment when contacted by Ad Age.

Up to now, Democrats have been the most outspoken about the program and have been trying to persuade ABC to make changes or pull the program. They won some changes, but former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said today the edited version was still flawed. Mr. Berger didn't say whether he'll take the issue to court.

Sandy Berger segment
The original version of the show featured a segment in which Mr. Berger is pictured slamming down a phone after refusing to order the capture or killing of Osama bin Laden. The phone-slamming scene was edited out, among other changes, but Mr. Berger said the scene still misrepresented the facts.

"ABC had an opportunity to edit this film to eliminate scenes that were untrue and in many cases directly contradicted by the 9/11 Report. They did not do so," Mr. Berger said in a statement. "It is an inaccurate and misleading portrayal of the Clinton administration's commitment to fighting al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden. In particular, a scene depicting a meeting involving [CIA director] George Tenet and me about a proposed operation in Afghanistan against bin Laden never occurred -- nor did anything like it ever occur -- as we have repeatedly told ABC."
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