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Chris Russo feels vindicated on ‘Mike and the Mad Dog’ 9/11 controversy

ESPN's 30 for 30 film series takes a look at Mike Francesa and Chris Russo and how their "Mike and the Mad Dog" radio show on WFAN became a success in New York. The documentary premiered at Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, April 21, 2017. (Newsday/Chris Ware)

“Mike and the Mad Dog,” the ESPN documentary that premiered Friday night at the Tribeca Film Festival, takes a brief, serious turn in addressing a controversy that has hung over the show’s legacy for more than 15 years.

It covers what some have called the “lost tapes” from the week of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and comments hosts Mike Francesa and Chris Russo made that some interpreted as insensitive to American Jews.

But new developments Thursday threw a curveball into that segment, prompting director Dan Forer to tweak the film the night before the Tribeca event, with more revision likely before the July 13 TV premiere.

Deadspin shocked many followers of the saga when it reported it had found a recording of the Sept. 12, 2001, show at the Paley Center for Media, listened to all six hours and transcribed key sequences.

The story revealed some kernels of where the controversy originated, but not what some insist they recall hearing — at least on that day’s show. Recordings from the rest of that week have not surfaced yet.

“I was happy a little bit that we were vindicated,” Russo said Friday.

Francesa said he had not read the Deadspin story and would not.

“I never thought it was an issue,” he said. “I always knew it was fabricated. I always knew it was something that didn’t exist. I knew it wasn’t a big deal. Now all these years later to be told it wasn’t a big deal, I’m not surprised.”

Said Forer, “We were able to make some minor edits and to address it and update the story, which we are very pleased and proud to do, because our job, we feel, is to be journalistically sound and tell the story as it is, and we have new material, which in very many ways vindicates Mike Francesa.”

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