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August 27, 2021 10:22 am
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Director Spike Lee Re-Edits 9/11 Docuseries After Facing Backlash for Including Interview With Antisemitic Conspiracy Theorist

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Spike Lee. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Spike Lee said Wednesday that he would revise his HBO documentary series about the September 11th terrorist attacks, after being criticized for featuring an antisemitic conspiracy theorist in the project.

Lee said in a statement, “I’m Back In The Editing Room And Looking At The Eighth And Final Chapter Of ‘NYC EPICENTERS 9/112021½.’ I Respectfully Ask You To Hold Your Judgement Until You See The FINAL CUT.”

The four-part docuseries “NYC EPICENTERS 9/112021½” — produced and directed by Lee — premiered on Aug. 22, but its final episode will air on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The docuseries examines the terrorist attacks while also addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter movement in New York City. It is unclear which parts of the docuseries’ final episode Lee is editing.

The New York-based director released the statement after Slate viewed a screener for the final episode and revealed that it showcases interviews with members of the conspiracy group Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth and its founder, architect Richard Gage. The group, which Gage founded in 2006, promotes the debunked conspiracy theory that the Twin Towers were destroyed by a controlled demolition as part of an “inside job.”

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At a 2012 event for his film “9/11: Explosive Evidence—Experts Speak Out: Final Edition,” Gage opened up discussion for participants claiming “that our government and the Israeli government, the Israeli Mossad, could be responsible for the Twin Towers demolition.” In May 2021, he appeared on the podcast “Conspiracy Castle” where the host claimed Israel “has the database that collects all of our phone calls” and that Israel “benefited” from the 9/11 attacks. The host then said “it’s pretty obvious” who is responsible for the terrorist attacks, and when he asked his guest about Israel’s involvement in 9/11, Gage replied, “It’s not too difficult to figure it out.”

“I’ve actually been called antisemitic [but] I don’t know how that fits in,” Gage also said on the podcast. “We don’t talk about the Jewish people at all. We provide the evidence — the technical and scientific forensic evidence.”

In July 2021, Gage appeared on a panel for “American Media Periscope,” during which two panelists discussed Israel and Mossad’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL also said that in a 2019 podcast appearance, Gage encouraged listeners to read a book by antisemitic conspiracy theorist Christopher Bollynv that claims Israel and Jews are responsible for the 9/11 attacks, calling it “valid research.”

In 2017, Gage spoke at the Nation of Islam’s Saviours’ Day celebration as part of a plenary that featured Bollyn and fellow antisemite and 9/11 conspiracy theorist Kevin Barrett, who both claimed that Jews were behind the 9/11 attacks.

In an interview with The New York Times on Monday, Lee defended his decision to include conspiracy theorists in the docuseries. He said, “I mean, I got questions. And I hope that maybe the legacy of this documentary is that Congress holds a hearing, a congressional hearing about 9/11.” The Brooklyn native added, “My approach is put the information in the movie and let people decide for themselves. I respect the intelligence of the audience.”

Lee also addressed backlash for his series by referring to criticism he has received for his previous projects. He told the publication, “People have called me a racist for ‘Do the Right Thing.’ People said in ‘Mo’ Better Blues’ I was antisemitic. ‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ that was misogynist. People are going to just think what they think. And you know what? I’m still here, going on four decades of filmmaking.”

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