Critics Turn Up the Heat on Michael Moore

Published June 25, 2004

| Associated Press

Michael Moore's (search) critics are turning up the temperature with a book and documentary intended to debunk his methods as the filmmaker's "Fahrenheit 9/11" (search) hits theaters.

Since his first movie, 1989's "Roger & Me," Moore has been accused of playing loose with the facts and presenting a distorted version of the truth. The criticism, usually in newspaper and magazine articles or on anti-Moore Web sites, has failed to click with his millions of fans, who pushed the Academy Award-winning "Bowling for Columbine" to a $21.6 million box-office pay day and put Moore's last two books on the best-seller lists.

Moore's opposition has a higher profile this time as "Fahrenheit 9/11," his assault on President Bush's (search) actions regarding the Sept. 11 attacks, debuts nationwide Friday.

On Tuesday, David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke will publish "Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man," (search) in which the authors accuse Moore of "serial mendacity." The book is published by Regan Books, which also printed Moore's "Stupid White Men."

Hardy and Clarke take issue with such matters as the timeline of economic events Moore presents surrounding General Motors plant closings in his home turf of Flint, Mich., in "Roger & Me"; the parallels Moore draws between the Ku Klux Klan and the National Rifle Association in "Bowling for Columbine"; and Moore's refutation in his book "Dude, Where's My Country?" of potential ties between Iraq and Usama bin Laden.

"He creates a false impression without ever uttering a word that is untrue," said Hardy, a former U.S. Interior Department attorney who runs the Web site mooreexposed.com. "Moore is a master of that."

Filmmaker Michael Wilson hopes to have his documentary "Michael Moore Hates America" (search) in theaters late this summer as a rebuttal to "Fahrenheit 9/11." Wilson said he admired "Roger & Me" but found "Bowling for Columbine" troublesome.

Moore's handling of a 6-year-old girl shot to death by a classmate in Flint particularly bothered Wilson. "Bowling for Columbine" implies welfare reform was to blame, detailing how the shooter's mother had to work two jobs and take a bus to another town to work, so she could not properly tend to her children, Wilson said.

The mother had left her son at his uncle's home, which prosecutors described as a flophouse where occupants traded guns and drugs. The boy found the gun there and took it to school.

"All this stuff added up to her being a lousy mother. It had nothing to do with her having to work two jobs," Wilson said. "My mom had to work two jobs to make our lives better and guess what? I didn't shoot anybody. It felt like a slap in the face to all these people out there trying to make their lives better and live out the American dream."

Wilson, Hardy and Clarke, who say they are moderates with no political agenda against left-winger Moore, take a cue from Moore's approach, aiming to package their criticism in satiric humor. The cover of Hardy and Clarke's book has an image of Moore biting off the top of the U.S. Capitol, a caricature resembling Terry Gilliam's surreal animation for "Monty Python's Flying Circus."

The Web site for "Michael Moore Hates America" shows Wilson holding a microphone to an empty director's chair bearing Moore's name, an image reminiscent of Moore's pursuit of General Motors boss Roger Smith in "Roger & Me." Wilson said he has unsuccessfully tried to land an interview with Moore for his documentary.

Moore declined an interview for this article, although he's previously said the film is "an op-ed piece," and not a work of journalism — and his backers defended the new film.

"For all the people who are spending so much time urging censorship and boycott and going to such great lengths in what I consider a lame attempt to discredit Michael Moore, Michael must be doing something right," said Tom Ortenberg, president of Lions Gates Films, one of the companies distributing "Fahrenheit 9/11."

"Fahrenheit 9/11" underwent thorough factual scrutiny, said Harvey Weinstein, whose Miramax banner was prohibited by parent company Disney from releasing the movie. Weinstein and his brother, Bob, bought back the film and arranged for distribution by Lions Gate and IFC Films.

"I hired the toughest team of fact checkers I could find, lawyers and head counsel from The New Yorker," Harvey Weinstein said in an e-mail response to questions from The Associated Press. "We invited them to be tough — and they were. All journalism should be this careful."

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