What Did Harvey Keitel Really Say About "The Path to 911"?

The opposition to the ABC docu-drama has been using Harvey Keitel’s CNN Interview statements as one of their talking points against "The Path to 911".  But were Keitel’s comments taken out of context and misrepresented? Are certain comments made by Keitel during the interview completely ignored by those vehemently protesting the airing of the movie?

Here is what Bill Clinton’s lawyer wrote in his latest letter to ABC:

"Harvey Keitel, who plays the star role of FBI agent John O'Neill, told reporters yesterday that while the screenplay was presented to him as a fair treatment of historical events, he is upset that several scenes were simply invented for dramatic purposes."

The ContraCosta Times had this to say:

"Democrats have mounted a campaign against the movie, which depicts former Clinton administration officials as undermining attempts to capture or kill bin Laden. Actor Harvey Keitel, who plays an FBI agent in the film, has joined the critics, telling CNN's "Showbiz Tonight" that he has had arguments with the filmmakers over facts that were "wrong."

"You can't put these things together, compress them and then distort the reality. ... You cannot cross the line from a conflation of events to a distortion of the event," Keitel said. "Where we have distorted something, we made a mistake and it should be corrected."

Here is a transcript that I made of the interview via the video from Crooks and Liars (even their transcript left out a few key phrases):

Keitel: “Yeah I had questions about certain events and the material I was given in the path to 911 that I did raise questions about. Yes I had some conflicts there.”

CNN: “How was that met?”

Keitel: “With discussion, with argument. When I received the script it said abc history project, I took it to be exactly what they presented to me – history and that facts were correct. It turned out that not all the facts were correct and ABC set about trying to heal that problem – in some instances it was too late because we had begun.”

CNN: “Do you feel anything should be changed in this film?”

Keitel: “ummm Yes I do.  This is a tough issue because we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are also quality issues raised in the film that our citizens should see and should be discussing amongst themselves. If we’re putting together certain facts and umm an untruth evolves from that then that’s wrong. You can compile certain things as long as the truth remains the truth. You can’t put things together, compress them and then distort the reality.”

CNN: “The director has said and this is a quote from the director that this is an objective telling of the events from 9/11, not documentary. Of course we have seen history dramatized all the time and there are certain areas where creative license is taken in doing that…”

Keitel: “That’s right”

CNN: “In the case of Sept 11, though, do you feel that it is an absolute responsibility that it be a factually accurate even if it is a dramatization.”

Keitel: “Absolutely you cannot cross the line from a, umm, a compilation of events to a distortion of a event, no. Where we have distorted something, we made a mistake and that should be corrected, it can be corrected. It can be corrected by the people getting involved in the story they are going to see.”

Notice that Keitel never says that several scenes were simply invented for dramatic purposes as Clinton’s lawyer claimed.  There are no statements that correlate with Keitel "joining the critics" calling for the movie to be pulled. On the contrary, Keitel stated that there are some "quality issues" that we SHOULD see.

Also notice that Keitel was never asked WHAT he thought should be changed or if the changes were made. We get a better example of the some changes requested from today’s NY Post article:

"Virtually from Day 1 of shooting, "Keitel put his own researcher on the case," looking to correct historical, character and other inaccuracies he found in the script, said John Dondertman, a production designer on the film. That led to Keitel rewriting most of his own lines - which in turn meant almost daily revisions for cast members who had scenes with him.

A particular point of contention was a scene in which O'Neill, observing reams of Arabic documents, asks his assistant, "Do we have Arab translators?" only to be told, "I don't know of any. I'll call around." "Keitel couldn't understand why the FBI didn't have Arabic translators, so the dialogue was changed on the spot," said a script supervisor.

On one occasion, Keitel holed up in his hotel for an entire day with director David Cunningham revising the script. Other times, Cunningham would "fumble through the 9/11 Commission book trying to figure out how to correct details Keitel called into question," said the script supervisor.

So the script was reworked DURING the filming. This follows Keitel’s statements during the CNN interview about “ABC trying to heal that problem”. Despite the claims of the opponents, the filmmakers were proactive in "getting it right". This is also backed up by an article from the Washington Post via the NW Herald Entertainment Section.

"Keitel portrays FBI agent John O'Neill, who was an expert on al-Qaida. "He and his team were on it" prior to Sept. 11, Keitel said. "But the environment where they worked . . . they couldn't pursue a bad guy without getting permission. They were in the forefront of this assault on al-Qaida, and they were blocked all along the way."

Filming the story behind the attacks "evoked in all of us . . . a sense of responsibility to the heroes of that day, to be as truthful as is humanly possible to honor them," Keitel said. "There isn't anyone from the top on down to the caterer and prop master who didn't have it in their bones to get it right."

It is one thing to have a complaint about misrepresentations of facts in a movie. It is another to use misrepresentations to bolster your own complaints. But why should we expect anything different today?

Path to 9/11

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