Never let it be said that TV executives let truth get in the way of good ratings. Today's case in point: the Jessica Lynch story.
Despite new information coming to light effectively contradicting the Pentagon's official version of events, NBC says it's proceeding with plans to shoot Saving Private Lynch, a TV movie based on the former POW's "dramatic" April 1 rescue from the Iraqi army.
Instead of scuttling the project, an NBC spokeswoman says network brass would "make the appropriate decisions" regarding the content of the telefilm as new details emerge.
The 19-year-old Army supply clerk was captured when her convoy took a wrong turn and wound up being ambushed by the enemy. Nine of the soldiers in her unit were killed while Private Lynch was taken prisoner--according to the Pentagon, Lynch emptied out her gun at the oncoming enemy, fighing valiantly even as she sustained gunshot and knife wounds.
Then, per the official account, when U.S. military officers received intelligence on where Lynch was being held, they launched a special operation featuring Army Rangers and Navy SEALs to retrieve her. Night-vision camera footage, conveniently distributed to the press, showed what appeared to be a daring raid on an Iraqi hospital at Nasiriya. A SEAL team was said to have returned hostile gunfire as it battled its way in, breaking down doors to rescue Lynch.
NBC, not wanting to miss out on the action and get a jump on its rivals, immediately went to work developing a telefilm about the liberation, even though details of Lynch's capture and rescue were still murky and the names of those involved in the raid were not released. (The network did snap up the story rights of Iraqi lawyer Mohammed Al-Rahaief, the man who tipped off the military to Lynch's locale.)
Problem is, the gripping story was more Hollywood than Hollywood bargained for.
Investigative reports by the likes of the BBC, CBS' 60 Minutes and other news outlets have shown that the military version of events played up a drama that wasn't that dramatic.
Among the biggest revelations: Iraqi soldiers had abandoned their post at the hospital days before U.S. special forces moved in; American GIs were offered the use of a master key, but opted to kick the doors down Rambo-style instead; Lynch did not return fire at her Iraqi captors nor was she wounded or mistreated, as initially reported; and, perhaps the biggest surprise of all, days before her "rescue," Lynch's doctors attempted to take her via ambulance to American forces but were forced to turn back after being shot at.
"'We were pretty frightened. There were about 40 medical staff together in the X-ray department," Dr. Amar Uday, chief resident at the hospital, told the Toronto Star. "'Everyone expected the Americans to come that day because the city had fallen. But we didn't expect them to blast through the doors like a Hollywood movie."
All this leaves NBC with a big problem--how to portray a real-life military escapade faithfully without caving in to accusations that the network's spreading propaganda.
"We're in the early stages of script development on this project and are proceeding with the story that we always wanted to tell--the rescue of Jessica Lynch," NBC says in a statement released Monday. "If there are new developments that impact the original story, we will take them under consideration."
Meanwhile, Lynch's family has remained mum on the conflicting reports.
"We're really not supposed to talk about that subject," Lynch's father, Greg, told the Associated Press. "It's still an ongoing investigation and we can't talk about nothing like that."
Lynch herself is reportedly suffering from memory loss and doesn't recollect anything about her ordeal. The West Virginia native is recovering at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.; while she wasn't shot or stabbed, she did sustain multiple broken bones, including a serious injury to her back, which will require months of therapy for her to walk again.
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