David Horowitz is usually the one taking on academia, Hollywood, and other liberal bastions. But occasionally it comes right back at the FrontPage Magazine editor and founder of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, himself a former leftist and civil-rights activist. Mr. Horowitz, 67, woke up on Sept. 11 to discover he'd been labeled "the godfather" of ABC's controversial The Path to 9/11.
Max Blumenthal, a popular columnist for The Nation, wrote that the two-part series was "produced and promoted by a well-honed propaganda operation consisting of a network of little-known right-wingers working from within Hollywood." Horowitz, he said, "is working with a secretive evangelical religious right group" headed by Path director David Cunningham (left) to proclaim "its messianic vision."
Cunningham's crime? Besides directing the acclaimed To End All Wars, he is the son of Youth With A Mission founder Loren Cunningham. And he helped to start The Film Institute, a group focused on spiritual renewal within the film industry. Connecting those dots, said Blumenthal, forced ABC to reconsider showing The Path to 9/11 as much or more than the demands of Clinton's lawyers. So WORLD asked Horowitz to come clean.
WORLD: Max Blumenthal has you and David Cunningham plotting the overthrow of the Clinton administration, yet you say you'd never heard of the guy until this week. How can that be?
HOROWITZ: This was all news to me that I was perceived to be the godfather of this film. I don't know David Cunningham. I know Path to 9/11 screenwriter/producer Cyrus Nowrasteh (below), but the first time I learned he was doing this film was after the film was done.
WORLD: So what can you tell us about conservatives behind the film?
HOROWITZ: I don't think the groups Blumenthal cites were influential at all. When I started the center about 15 years ago, this was my attempt to make the town more user-friendly for conservatives, and include more than one viewpoint. We hoped to create a community where people would be emboldened. This inspired other groups, including some religious groups already there. But those groups are about saving people's souls. They are not about attacking the Clinton administration. Likewise, I am not a filmmaker and I have no agenda for making films.
WORLD: So how did Blumenthal get his info?
HOROWITZ: There is a lot of anti-Christian animus in Blumenthal's article. Even to associate that group [TFI] with an agenda on how the war on terror is being conducted is outrageous.
WORLD: But does he reflect the general views of the film industry?
HOROWITZ: What I noticed is that after 9/11 a lot of people in Hollywood suddenly felt comfortable with standing up for America and for the war on terror. Dennis Miller is one example. The show 24, a popular TV series, is a vigorous portrayal of the war on terrorism. Cyrus is a writer for the show. So this isn't a new and sinister trend.
Actually, I have always pointed out that Hollywood is very responsive to the public. On the military, for example, it has turned around from attacking it-take Oliver Stone's Platoon-to producing positive portrayals like Top Gun. That continues. One of the ABC executives who stood up for The Path to 9/11 broadcast is Quinn Taylor, a left-wing homosexual. So there are still liberals who will stand up for principle.
WORLD: What is your verdict on The Path to 9/11?
HOROWITZ: It was very evenhanded. It's as harsh on Condi Rice as it was on Sandy Berger. The Republicans are battered in the film but they did not say anything. They did not call for censorship.
WORLD: Any idea what's ahead for David Cunningham? Can a guy like that who is so easily vilified survive?
HOROWITZ: The problem for filmmakers whose work is to be shown in prime-time TV is that they have to attract a very large audience. They have to tell a story, and they have to have a storyline. I think this proves it can be done very well.