Mark Wahlberg’s recent interview with Men’s Journal was timed to promote his action film, “Contraband,” in which the actor plays a former smuggler forced back into crime to protect his family. But a quote about Wahlberg’s belief that he could have been a a real-life hero on 9/11 got all the attention: “If I was on that plane with my kids, it wouldn’t have went down like it did,” he told the magazine. “There would have been a lot of blood in that first-class cabin and then me saying, ‘OK, we’re going to land somewhere safely, don’t worry.’ ”
Carie Lemack, whose mother, Judy Larocque, was on American Airlines Flight 11 when it crashed into the World Trade Center, hadn’t heard the quote until she got a call from a reporter seeking comment, she told Celebritology.
After hearing about Wahlberg’s comments, Lemack got in touch with the actor’s publicist, who told her he had apologized. Indeed, Wahlberg issued a statement saying, “To speculate about such a situation is ridiculous to begin with. I deeply apologize to the families of the victims that my answer came off as insensitive, it was certainly not my intention.”
Without seeing the apology, Lemack told the publicist she still wanted to speak with Wahlberg on the phone. The request was granted.
“We had a conversation. He seems like a good enough guy. I think that he wished he hadn’t said what he said,” Lemack said via telephone. “He talked about how . . . he was just trying to promote his movie. He’s a family man now and all he wants to do is be with his wife and his kids. And all that’s going through my head is, ‘Gosh, I know a lot of families that all that they want to do is be with their families. And yet we don’t get that chance.’ ”
To some, Wahlberg, who was scheduled to be on one of the planes that crashed on 9/11, didn’t say anything wrong. But the 36-year-old D.C. resident and Boston native — who has spoken about the after-effects of 9/11 in many media outlets, including this one, since it happened — says his words can have a profound impact on the families left behind after that 2001 attack.
“People don’t understand that this affects us in ways that are just awful,” said Lemack, who advocated for the creation of the 9/11 Commission while she was board president of Families of September 11. She co-founded that group in 2001, as well as the Global Survivors Network, a group that works with victims of terrorism worldwide, in 2009.
After Wahlberg’s interview became national news, Lemack said she was contacted by a 9/11 widow, whose 19-year-old daughter wanted to know, “Did Dad fight back?”
“Now we have widows and widowers [having to say,] ‘Look, this is an actor. This isn’t real what he says. It isn’t real what he does in movies. Your father, your mother, or your brother, [your] lover, fought back as best as they could, and this man just doesn’t know what he’s talking about,’ ” Lemack said. “That’s an awful position to be in.”
Lemack said she asked Wahlberg to screen the Oscar-nominated documentary she executive-produced, “Killing in the Name,” about a Jordanian Muslim whose wedding was bombed by an al-Qaeda member. Her experience supporting that documentary at the 2011 Oscars was chronicled by The Post’s Dan Zak.
Lemack said Wahlberg “promised to try” to screen the film, but logistics for the screening have not been worked out.
Wahlberg’s publicist said the actor is currently working 14-hour days and “hasn’t discussed anything beyond the fact that he'd like to see [‘Killing in the Name’], and of course meet Carie.” Ideally, Lemack, who also sent the actor a follow-up letter to fully express her feelings, said she would like to invite other victims’ family members to the screening.
During a radio appearance on WPLJ’s “Scott and Todd” this morning, Wahlberg tried to further clarify his comments: “I would never disrespect anybody. All I wanted to do was make sure that people would know I would put myself in harm’s way to protect, not only my family, but innocent people.”
Wahlberg said it was “horrific” that his comments were interpreted as “disrespectful.” He added, “I was a little out of line with my wording and I didn’t take into consideration how other people would respond to it.”
Despite the pain Wahlberg’s comments have caused, Lemack believes something positive can still come out of the experience.
Family members of 9/11 victims “don’t have a lot of support. One thing I’d love to see is some celebrity come stand by our side when we need them,” Lemack said. “Now that Mr. Wahlberg has waded into the 9/11 world, it would be great if he could lend his celebrity status to something to make the world a better place.”