Comedian Who Told of 9/11 Escape Admits He Made It All Up

Steve Rannazzisi, during a panel for the “The League” in August, apologized on Tuesday for fabricating a story about escaping from the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Shotwell/Invision, via Associated Press)
Steve Rannazzisi, during a panel for the “The League” in August, apologized on Tuesday for fabricating a story about escaping from the south tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. (PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Shotwell/Invision, via Associated Press)

When the comedian Steve Rannazzisi has explained his success, which includes seven seasons starring on a popular TV show, “The League,” and a one-hour special this Saturday on Comedy Central, he has frequently attributed it to decisions he made after narrowly escaping the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

In elaborate detail, Mr. Rannazzisi, 37, has described working at Merrill Lynch’s offices on the 54th floor of the south tower when the first plane struck the north tower.

“I was there and then the first tower got hit and we were like jostled all over the place,” he told an interviewer in 2009.

He fled to the street just minutes before another plane slammed into his building, he said, and decided that very day that life was too precious to waste opportunities. So he abandoned his New York desk job to pursue a career as an entertainer in Los Angeles.

Nonetheless, he said, he remained affected by his memories of that day.

“I still have dreams of like, you know, those falling dreams,” he told the interviewer.

Confronted by The New York Times this week, though, with evidence that undermined his account, Mr. Rannazzisi, after a day of deliberation, acknowledged on Tuesday that his account was fiction. Actually, he had been working in Midtown that day, and not for Merrill Lynch, which has no record of his employment and had no offices in either tower.

“I was not at the Trade Center on that day,” he said in a statement provided by his publicist, Matthew Labov. “I don’t know why I said this. This was inexcusable. I am truly, truly sorry.”

It was unclear how Mr. Rannazzisi’s admission might affect his standing with Buffalo Wild Wings, which had made him the face of an ad campaign associated with the start of this N.F.L. season and which had featured him in commercials last spring for March Madness.

“We are disappointed to learn of Steve’s misrepresentations regarding the events of September 11, 2001,” Buffalo Wild Wings said in a statement Tuesday night. “We are currently re-evaluating our relationship with Steve pending a review of all the facts.” Comedy Central expressed similar disappointment and said it too had not decided its next step.

But FX Networks, whose FXX carries “The League,” said that while Mr. Rannazzi’s deception had been “upsetting” and “unfortunate,” it still would go forward with him as a character in the show’s final season. It has produced 11 of the 13 episodes, and production of the final two is not expected to be completed until mid-October. “We believe Steve is sincere in his apology and will do everything he can to make amends moving forward,” the network said in a statement.

Mr. Rannazzisi, who declined requests for an interview, said in his statement that once he had lied, he could not figure out a way to undo the damage.

“For many years, more than anything,” he said, “I have wished that, with silence, I could somehow erase a story told by an immature young man. It only made me more ashamed. How could I tell my children to be honest when I hadn’t come clean about this?”

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SOURCE: NY Times, Serge F. Kovaleski

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