Sunday, October 17, 2021

Spike Lee Removes Conspiracists From HBO 9/11 Series After Criticism

Sunday, October 17, 2021

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Quickly responding to criticism that an episode of his HBO documentary series on the Sept. 11 attacks gave credence to conspiracy theories, the filmmaker Spike Lee on Thursday released to the media a new final cut that removes all interviews about what caused the World Trade Center buildings to collapse.

Mr. Lee’s series, “NYC Epicenters 9/11-2021½,” explores how the city weathered both the terrorist attacks and the coronavirus pandemic through interviews with New Yorkers and footage from the crises. The first part of the four-episode eight-hour series debuted on Sunday. The final segment — which was the subject of the criticism — is scheduled to air on the 20th anniversary of the attacks.

The episode, which was cut down from two hours to 90 minutes, had prominently featured interviews with members of the conspiracy group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth — who push the debunked view that the buildings were brought down by a controlled demolition, not by terror attacks. Arguments from the conspiracy group had been juxtaposed with interviews of experts who had studied the collapse as part of a government inquiry, including S. Shyam Sunder, who led a yearslong investigation into the disaster for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the new edit, the entire 30-minute discussion is removed.

After The New York Times published an interview with Mr. Lee in which he defended the episode, he and HBO were denounced online by journalists who criticized them for appearing to give equal voice to both sides.

On Wednesday, Mr. Lee said he had gone back to the editing room, and the episode was removed from an HBO platform that is used to stream previews for members of the news media. HBO did not provide a rationale for the new edit. A representative for Mr. Lee declined to comment.

Ronald Hamburger, who investigated the collapse of the towers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and also appeared in the original cut of the episode, said in an interview on Thursday that Mr. Lee interviewed him for the series about two months ago. The interview, which Mr. Hamburger said lasted about 10 minutes, revolved around the conspiracy theories about controlled demolition.

Mr. Hamburger, who no longer appears in the episode, said he explained to Mr. Lee that based on his work at the site and hundreds of hours of analysis, he had concluded that the cause was not controlled demolition.

“I did get the understanding in my discussions with him that he wanted to give them credence,” Mr. Hamburger said of the conspiracy theories.

In his earlier interview with The New York Times, Mr. Lee seemed to cast doubt on the official explanation of the collapse of the buildings, including 7 World Trade Center, which investigators determined had been brought down by fire. They concluded that heat from the fire caused girders in the steel floor to expand, and steel beams underneath the floors that provided lateral support for the tower’s structural columns began to buckle or put pressure against the vertical structural columns.

“The amount of heat that it takes to make steel melt, that temperature’s not reached,” Mr. Lee told The Times, alluding to a popular conspiracy theory. “And then the juxtaposition of the way Building 7 fell to the ground — when you put it next to other building collapses that were demolitions, it’s like you’re looking at the same thing. But people going to make up their own mind.”

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