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Posted by on May 12, 2007 in Arts & Entertainment, Health, Media, Politics | 43 comments

Moore Blasts Bush Administration Probe Of His Trip To Cuba


It’s controversial filmmaker Michael Moore versus the Bush administration — again.

And it’s Michael Moore getting a Santa Claus stocking full of free and priceless promo publicity to ensure his movie will be a smash at the box office….promo gifted to him by his opponents…again.

At issue is a trip the opinionated documentary maker who liberals love to love and conservatives love to hate made to Cuba. And what better way than to ensure his message gets out than to have the government go after him? But you suspect this is what the Bush administration — which seems to need some advice from people who know how p.r. and modern marketing works — did not have in mind.

But that is what’s happening. The AP:

Filmmaker Michael Moore has asked the Bush administration to call off an investigation of his trip to Cuba to get treatment for ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers for a segment in his upcoming health-care expose, “Sicko.”

Moore, who made the hit documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” assailing President Bush’s handling of Sept. 11, said in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Friday that the White House may have opened the investigation for political reasons.

“For five and a half years, the Bush administration has ignored and neglected the heroes of the 9/11 community,” Moore said in the letter, which he posted on the liberal Web site Daily Kos. “These heroic first responders have been left to fend for themselves, without coverage and without care.”

How could Moore say these things? Because by going after him, editors have now been given a great “news peg” for an irresistible story. It focuses attention on Moore’s upcoming flick. Even if the government is doing this a pro forma probe, it is going to be seen in some quarters as retaliation for Moore’s previous films, harsh criticism of President George Bush and the Bush administration, and for his focus on an issue embarrassing since it’s potentially one more chip in the aura the administration has tried to project on its handling of anything surrounding 911.

And because Moore’s previous movies were so popular all over the world, it ensures that any news stories about The Filmmaker Versus The Government That Wants To Shut Him Up (even if that is not what is going on) will get excellent play in newspapers (in many languages). Also: Moore is going to be an increasingly hot guest speaker on college campuses due to this (he can probably increase his already big fees).

It’s clear that Moore understands the publicity windfall here, as does his movie distributor:

Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. is releasing “Sicko,” told The Associated Press the movie is a “healing film” that could bring opponents together over the ills of America’s health-care system.

“This time, we didn’t want the fight, because the movie unites both sides,” Weinstein said. “We’ve shown the movie to Republicans. Both sides of the bench love the film. The pharmaceutical industry won’t like the movie. HMOs will try to run us out of town, but that’s not relevant to the situation.

“The whole campaign this time was not to be incendiary. It was, can Michael Moore bring both sides together?”

Note Weinstein’s comment: Republicans who’ve seen it reportedly also like it. True or not, it is no secret that the Bush administration is increasingly isolated from parts of the Republican party. That statement will have credibility in many circles.

Moore’s chances that his new movie will get a nice, big, fat box-office will also likely be helped by a growing firestorm on the talk show right — not surprising since cable and radio talk (on the left and right) largely centers on emotions and anger. Moore has been blasted by Fox News’ John Gibson.

Cuba has had some fun with the issue, too:

Cuba characterized American filmmaker Michael Moore as a victim of censorship and the U.S. trade embargo as it reported Friday on a U.S. Treasury Department probe of his March visit here for his upcoming health-care documentary, “Sicko.”

The Communist Party daily Granma called the 45-year-old U.S. travel and trade sanctions “a criminal action that has cost lives and grave consequences for the inhabitants of the island,” as well as Americans.

The U.S. government‘s targeting of Moore “confirms the imperial philosophy of censorship” by American officials, it added.

Treasury officials in Washington said Friday they would have no comment on the contents of Moore‘s letter, citing a policy against discussing specific investigations. But Treasury spokeswoman AnnMarie Hauser said OFAC issues hundreds of letters each year asking for additional information when possible sanctions violations have occurred.

A comment on the Cleveland Leader website:

The latest Bush Administration mistake is not the biggest or costliest but it once again shows how inept they truly are. With them going after filmmaker Michael Moore they look like fools. Yeah, maybe Moore didn’t obtain the proper paperwork he was suppose to when he and 10 heroes from 9/11 went to Cuba. But putting the spotlight on the movie “Sicko” will only increase the appeal and the publicity of the movie. One of the oldest sayings around is, “There is no such thing as bad publicity” and they should have learned that from Moore’s last film “Fahrenheit 911” which was met with harsh criticism and ended up being the top grossing documentary film of all time, grossing nearly $120 Million dollars….

…..Adding that Moore took with him 10 first responders to Cuba doesn’t help matters. Will the government fine them for going along pn the unauthorized trip to Cuba? That will look really good to the American people. Moore will likely face a fine when the controversy comes to a head. And the money will be well spent as it helped advertise his latest film in a big way.
And, indeed, even if the government does nothing, it has already helped Moore enormously.

A movie about health care — no matter how much it blasts the Bush administration — would be unlikely to get the kind of B.O. (Variety term for “box office”) that some of Moore’s other controversy-sparking films have. Now, a lot of people will now want to see what all the fuss over “Sicko” was about.

If the Bush administration had some p.r. and political sense, it would have let Moore’s movie come out and sink or swim on its own.

But if I had wings I’d be an airplane….