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How We Got Here in the Spike Lee 9/11 Truther Controversy: A Timeline

Director Spike Lee is coming under fire after including segments that give airtime to 9/11 conspiracy theories in his new doc.

Spike Lee

Spike Lee

Stephen Lovekin/Variety

Director Spike Lee is coming under fire after TV critics revealed that part of his upcoming documentary on 9/11, titled “NYC Epicenters 9/11→2021½” and airing on HBO, would include lengthy segments on 9/11 conspiracy theories — so much airtime that it seemed an endorsement of the theories. He has now announced that he’s reediting the final episode of the show, airing on September 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the attacks, though he gave no specifics about what exactly he will edit or whether it’s even in response to the controversy. Requests to Lee for comment went unanswered at press time. Here’s the timeline of events as we understand it. We will continue to update this article as events develop.

Lee has had a proclivity for presenting conspiracy theories in the past. In his 2006 documentary on Hurricane Katrina, “When the Levees Broke,” Lee alleged that the levees were dynamited in order to flood Black neighborhoods.

On August 16, the first trailer for Lee’s documentary “NYC Epicenters 9/11➔2021½” dropped, showcasing a four-part tribute series (each episode is comprised of two hour-long chapters) not only dedicated to the endurance of New York in the wake of tragedy, but also how the city became the epicenter for another devastating series of events: COVID-19.

August 21: Reviews from critics about the series start to drop with several noticing that Lee spends time in episode four (the part Lee refers to as Chapter 8) interviewing members of the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, a controversial group that claims 9/11 was an inside job.

August 22: The first episode of “NYC Epicenters” airs on HBO.

On August 23: The New York Times publishes an interview with Lee where he endorses several of the conspiracy theories touted in the episode. Lee says in the interview, “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.”

August 24: An article on Slate condemns Lee for giving Richard Gage, the founder of the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth a platform saying, “Lee and HBO are offering Gage and his conspiracy theories the biggest and most mainstream platform they’ve ever had, pointing their viewers directly towards a bog of heinously dangerous ideas: Like other conspiracy theorists, Gage doesn’t just stick to 9/11, and if Lee’s viewers follow Gage down the rabbit hole, they likely won’t, either.”

August 25: With screeners already delivered to press, an HBO press release went out to critics with this note from Lee himself: “I’m Back In The Editing Room And Looking At The Eighth And Final Chapter Of NYC EPICENTERS 9/11➔2021½. I Respectfully Ask You To Hold Your Judgement Until You See The FINAL CUT.”

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