Spike Lee has re-edited the final episode of a four-part HBO series on the Sept. 11 terror attacks after criticism that it gave a platform to conspiracy theorists. NYC Epicenters 9/11-2021½, the first episode of which aired Sunday, explores how New York City has weathered events like the coronavirus pandemic and the Sept. 11 attacks. The controversy lay in a discussion of the Twin Towers' collapse in the final episode, per the New York Times. S. Shyam Sunder, who led a three-year investigation for the National Institute of Standards and Technology, was interviewed alongside a dozen members of the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth group, who believe a controlled demolition occurred.
"My approach is put the information in the movie and let people decide for themselves," Lee told the Times in an interview published Monday. But he also said he hoped for a congressional investigation of the collapse, as does the Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. "The amount of heat that it takes to make steel melt, that temperature's not reached," Lee said. As for Building 7, "when you put it next to other building collapses that were demolitions, it's like you're looking at the same thing."
Critics quickly pounced. Slate's Jeremy Stahl said Lee "presents the truth behind 9/11 as an open debate between two equally valid sides," though the group's claims "have been debunked a thousand times." He also noted the conspiracy group's founder, Richard Gage—who's described the COVID-19 pandemic as a "hoax" and "false flag event"—was among the interviewees. "I Respectfully Ask You To Hold Your Judgement Until You See The FINAL CUT," Lee said Wednesday, noting he was "back in the editing room," per the Washington Post. The entire 30-minute discussion on the towers' collapse was ultimately removed, cutting the episode, which airs on Sept. 11, from 2 hours to 90 minutes. (Read more Spike Lee stories.)