And let’s not forget that former chairman/CEO Michael Eisner, although he has supported Democratic candidates like Bill Bradley in the past, pulled the distribution plug on Fahrenheit 9/11 even though stockholders were starving for movie-division profits after everything else on Disney’s slate in the first half of 2004 fell flat. But that was an out-in-the-open partisan documentary. Besides, movies have no special responsibility to the public. But networks do, which is why the government licenses the public airwaves.
The moment The Path to 9/11 was announced, Mitchell should have been aware what an obvious political hatchet job this was, and then drafted early on to work out a compromise that would correct its deliberate inaccuracies and misrepresentations. That way, ABC could have come away with kudos, not criticism, for a docudrama that the whole country could have been proud of. (And yes, I think that was possible here.)
Instead, even huge network advertiser American Airlines is furious over the way it was portrayed in a totally fabricated scene of the ABC miniseries that had terrorist Mohammed Atta walking up to an American Airlines counter in Boston and later boarding the plane despite Atta being flagged for buying a last-minute ticket. An airline spokesman said: “We are looking at possible legal actions as a result. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, it was not American Airlines, nor was it even the right airport that was depicted.”
As for Mitchell, he owes not just Disney shareholders, but also the public, an apology for being AWOL. Obviously, he’s forgotten an early lesson he was taught about the critical nature of conflict resolution. According to news archives, the lesson took place in September 1992 when he led a bipartisan Senate delegation to the bloodied Balkan region and passed through a small town on the border between Bosnia and Croatia where Serb militia and townspeople had evicted their Croat neighbors and burned down their homes. Then, after the war winds shifted, the Croats returned to burn out the Serbs.
“It’s hard for an outsider to tell who won,” Mitchell reportedly said to the town’s mayor. Replied the mayor: “Nobody won. We will repair our buildings long before we repair our souls. It will take generations to get over the mistrust and the hatred generated by this war.” Given the deepening political polarization of this country, and Disney’s role this past week in inciting more animosity, Mitchell still has a lot to learn.