Joe Scarborough, Michael Medved, and Brent Bozell defended the upcoming ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11, which is reportedly riddled with outright falsehoods and distortions. But their defense seems to contradict statements they made in 2003 when conservatives pressured CBS not to run a biopic that critics felt portrayed former President Ronald Reagan and former first lady Nancy Reagan in a negative light.
On the September 6 and 7 editions of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, host Joe Scarborough defended the upcoming ABC miniseries The Path to 9/11, claiming critics of the miniseries, which is reportedly riddled with outright falsehoods and distortions, were calling for "censorship" of the film. On the September 5 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio program, Michael Medved disputed criticism that The Path to 9/11 "ha[d] no Democrats prominently involved with the project," pointing to "radical leftist and Democrat" actor Harvey Keitel, who appears as a lead character. But in 2003, Scarborough and Medved made arguments virtually identical to those made now by Path to 9/11 critics, in defense of conservative efforts to pressure CBS not to run The Reagans, a biopic critics felt portrayed former President Ronald Reagan and former first lady Nancy Reagan in a negative light. At that time, Scarborough claimed calls from conservatives to scuttle The Reagans were not about "Soviet censorship" but rather about "Jeffersonian democracy," while Medved complained that a Reagan administration official should have been asked to "consult on the movie" to provide "balance."
Also, as first noted on the weblog Crooks and Liars, Media Research Center president L. Brent Bozell III excused the falsehoods in The Path to 9/11 but did not grant the same leniency to the Reagans. On the September 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Bozell acknowledged that "[p]erhaps two percent of [The Path to 9/11] is wrong" and "[p]erhaps two percent of it is debatable" but added "[t]hat leaves you with about 96 percent of the movie that's accurate, and that no one is disputing" and that criticism of the film is "a political hatchet job" by the "Clinton camp." But Bozell did not similarly excuse alleged misrepresentations in The Reagans; according to a November 5, 2003, CBS News article, he responded to that film by declaring: "There is no such thing as creative license to invent falsehoods about people. ... I don't care who you are. You don't have that right."
On September 6, Scarborough declared that "Democrats [are] demanding censorship from Disney" and are "calling on ABC president Bob Iger to censor offending parts of the miniseries"; on September 7, he similarly stated that "it looks like [defenders of the Clinton administration are] about to intimidate ABC's bosses into censoring that film." But in 2003, Scarborough praised CBS' decision not to air the "cruel parody" The Reagans, stating on the November 5, 2003, edition of Scarborough Country: "This isn't about Soviet censorship. This is about Jeffersonian democracy. ... Americans picked Ronald Reagan over Hollywood."
In his criticism of The Reagans, Medved stated, on the November 5, 2003, edition of Scarborough Country, "The whole idea of creating a movie about Ronald Reagan without consulting or involving someone like [former Reagan administration speechwriter] Peggy Noonan. ... Why not have her ... consult on the movie?" In contrast, he defended the purported balance of The Path to 9/11. On the September 5 edition (subscription required) of The Michael Medved Show, Medved dismissed a complaint by Jennifer Nix expressed in a September 5 post on the weblog Firedoglake that "no Democrats [were] prominently involved" in The Path to 9/11. Medved responded by asking if Nix was "crazy" and asserted that Keitel, who he said is a "radical leftist and Democrat," provided balance. But Medved did not respond to the more specific criticism that while 9-11 Commission chairman Thomas Kean, a Republican, served as a senior consultant for the film, the filmmakers did not consult with any Democratic officials.
Keitel has stated that he belatedly realized "not all the facts were correct" in the script, that the miniseries "distort[s] reality," and that "[w]here we have distorted something, we have made a mistake, and that should be corrected."
From the September 7 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Right now in Scarborough Country, President Bill Clinton pressures ABC, ABC caves, and now a former president's angry reaction to the 9-11 film moves Disney's CEO to censor that movie. Should politicians be allowed in Hollywood editing rooms?
[. . .]
SCARBOROUGH: We've got all that and a lot more tonight. But first up: All the president's men continue their pre-emptive strikes against ABC's controversial miniseries The Path to 9/11. And tonight, it looks like they're about to intimidate ABC's bosses into censoring that film. Sources are telling me and The Los Angeles Times that ABC, quote, "toned down but did not eliminate entirely the most talked-about scenes involving Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, calling off an operation to capture [Osama] bin Laden."
From the September 6 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Right now in Scarborough Country: Blame Clinton. The ABC 9-11 docudrama that has Democrats demanding censorship from Disney. Does this movie rewrite history, like an NBC terror analyst says it does? And why won't they let the Clinton cabinet get a sneak peek of this movie?
SCARBOROUGH: But first, more fallout from ABC's upcoming miniseries, The Path to 9/11. Now, Democrats are blasting this docudrama, calling it biased and inaccurate for suggesting that Bill Clinton passed up chances to take out Osama bin Laden. Today, House Democrats defended the former president, calling on ABC president Bob Iger to censor offending parts of the miniseries, saying in a letter that, "September 11 is a day of mourning. We do not believe it is appropriate for it to be tainted by false assertions or blame or partisan spin." ABC accused of partisan spin? The shock!
From the November 5, 2003, edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country:
SCARBOROUGH: Liberals from Manhattan to Hollywood have been bashing CBS for axing their hit piece of the Reagans, but they're angriest attacks have been reserved for commentators, such as myself, who believe this cruel parody of Ronald Reagan was simply not ready for prime time. Hollywood's leading liberal, Barbara Streisand, today called CBS's decision a sad day for free speech.
And The New York Times was apparently so angry at the turn of events yesterday that they compared conservatives to Soviet Communists, spewing forth this vitriol in their editorial, quote: "The former president is certainly a suitable subject for public debate. His supporters credit him with forcing down the Iron Curtain, so it is odd that some of them have helped create the Soviet-style chill embedded in the idea that we as a nation will not allow critical portrayals of one of our recent leaders."
Soviet-style chill? This isn't about Soviet censorship. This is about Jeffersonian democracy.
The Reagan miniseries script, the casting, and the CBS movie have been debated freely and openly in what Thomas Jefferson called the free marketplace of ideas, and Americans picked Ronald Reagan over Hollywood. It's that plain. It's that simple.
MEDVED: The whole idea of creating a movie about Ronald Reagan without consulting or involving someone like Peggy Noonan. Peggy Noonan was even brought into The West Wing to try to give that a little bit of balance. Why not have her -- she was a speechwriter for President Reagan -- consult on the movie?
And you could have avoided some of these problems. If you are only going to have one Reagan biography on TV, and they only have had one, then for goodness sake, you do have a responsibility to make it a little bit balanced and not a smear job.
From the September 5 edition of The Michael Medved Show:
MEDVED Now speaking of attacks to which people are subjected, this piece by Jenifer Nix at the Daily Kos [actually cross-posted from Firedoglake] -- the prime left-wing website -- attacks the makers of The Path to 9/11 as some kinds of conservative extremists. For instance she says, "McPherson and others" -- [Stephen] McPherson is the president of ABC Entertainment -- "who have been cloaking this documentary 'wolf' in nonpartisan sheep's clothing, despite having no Democrats prominently involved with the project." Is she crazy? Has she looked at the name of people -- names of people who are prominently involved in the project? Harvey Keitel, who stars in the project, for instance, is a radical leftist and Democrat, as are a number of the other people involved in different stages.
From the September 8 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
E.D. HILL (co-host): When you take a look at this final version, do you think that it comes out fairly accurately, if not the specific, you know, details -- all them factually correct. Do you get the basic idea?
BOZELL: Yeah. I mean, here's my analysis of it. Perhaps two percent of it was wrong. Perhaps two percent of it is debatable. Look, the 9-11 Commission report is not biblical truth. People from the Bush administration and the Clinton administration have taken exception to some of the findings of the commission. So that will be debated no matter how the movie comes out. But what does that leave you with? That leaves you with about 96 percent of the movie that's accurate, and that no one is disputing. It is sobering. It is frightening, and I think it's disgraceful that people are playing politics with this in the Clinton camp. Look, this movie goes after George Bush too, and you don't see the Bush people whining.
From a November 5, 2003, CBS News article:
Brent Bozell, founder of the Media Research Center, scoffed at the notion that CBS was stifling free speech. "There is no such thing as creative license to invent falsehoods about people," Bozell said. "I don't care who you are. You don't have that right."