Want to relive season five of Paris Hilton’s reality show “The Simple Life?” No problem, it’s on DVD. The complete first season of Jane Curtin’s sitcom “Kate & Allie?” It’s just a click away on Amazon.com. Oliver Stone’s surreal 1993 miniseries “Wild Palms?” Get it on Netflix. Virtually any miniseries or TV show you can think of, from any season, no matter how insipid, forgettable, or obscure, is readily available and continues to earn profits (often inexplicably).
But you will look in vain for a DVD of the extraordinary and controversial Disney/ABC miniseries “The Path to 9/11.”
Tom Borelli, however, is not baffled by this business plan. Director of the National Center for Public Policy Research’s Free Enterprise Project and a Disney shareholder, Borelli knows that this has less to do with a “business decision” and more to do with an ABC television project that drove former President Bill Clinton to near-apoplexy in his infamous interview with Chris Wallace, and which by extension is perceived to be a threat to the political future of Mrs. Clinton.
Borelli has pointed out that Iger has been a steady Clinton donor since before the former first lady was elected to the Senate, and has accused Iger of protecting Hillary’s presidential campaign at the expense of shareholders. (Path screenwriter/producer Cyrus Nowrasteh himself was told privately by an ABC executive that “If Hillary weren’t running for President, this wouldn’t be a problem.”)
Borelli has publicly pressured Iger at shareholders’ meetings and twice made formal offers to purchase the DVD rights, only to be ignored. He has become such a thorn in Iger’s side over this apparently touchy issue that, after Borelli finished a presentation at one shareholders’ meeting, the Disney chief responded to Borelli’s outstretched hand with an obscenity that would have set Mickey Mouse’s bow tie spinning. Borelli promptly returned to the podium and announced what had just happened, to the astonishment of the shareholders. A publicly cursing Disney head honcho more closely resembles a South Park parody than the squeaky-clean image Walt’s company has cultivated for many decades.
And how has this corporate self-sabotage and political favoritism affected Mr. Iger’s standing in the industry? Well, this Saturday night, the Directors Guild of America will honor him with their Honorary Life Member Award at the 62nd Annual DGA Awards. The Award is given “in recognition of outstanding creative achievement, leadership in the industry, contribution to the DGA or to the profession of directing.” Past recipients have included Walt Disney, Darryl F. Zanuck, Barry Diller, and Jack Valenti.
I can’t speak for how Mr. Iger has “contributed” to the DGA or to the profession of directing, but “leadership in the industry”? I would think that the most basic requirement of business leadership in the entertainment industry would be to ensure the highest possible profit for your company and its shareholders, not to suppress a product with significant market potential to protect your political friends. Above and beyond that, real leadership would be to stand behind one of the finest docudramas in television history, and to assert the primacy of free speech in the face of an hysterically politicized campaign for censorship. As Mr. Nowrasteh wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
Corporate timidity is preventing millions of Americans from finding “The Path to 9/11” on DVD – though other politically controversial movies are readily available, such as “Loose Change,” which argues that the Bush administration targeted American citizens for death in an elaborate and sinister plot; or Michael Moore’s unabashedly biased “Fahrenheit 9/11.” These highly-charged movies, which don’t even offer a pretense of balance, and others can be found online or in retail outlets and DVD rental stores across the country.