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Fact-Checking Michael Moore

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With the critical and commercial success of Michael Moore’s latest “documentary,” backlash from right- and center-leaning pundits and bloggers was inevitable. Christopher Hitchens’ brilliant takedown of the film on Slate.com has already been well-circulated, and an impressive number of web sites and blogs continue to do an excellent job of exposing the misinformation, half-truths, and outright lies of Fahrenheit 9/11.

Fahrenheit Fact takes specific “facts” from the film and refutes them with indisputable evidence from the mainstream press, as in this sample entry:

NARRATOR: Even though we were nowhere near the White House, for some reason the Secret Service had shown up to ask us what we were doing standing across the street from the Saudi embassy.
MICHAEL MOORE: We’re not here to cause any trouble or anything. Uh, ya know, is that…
OFFICER: That’s fine. Just wanted to get some information on what was going on.
MICHAEL MOORE: Yeah yeah yeah, I didn’t realize the Secret Service guards foreign embassies.
OFFICER: Uh, not usually, no sir.

But the agent was wrong- Moore does not mention this. He allows us to believe that only the Saudi Embassy has secret service protection, which is untrue. For example, the Secret Service has this to say:

After several name revisions, the force officially adopted its current name, the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division in 1977. While protection of the White House Complex remains its primary mission, the Uniformed Division’s responsibilities have expanded greatly over the years. They now protect the following:

* the White House Complex, the Main Treasury Building and Annex, and other Presidential offices;
* the President and members of the immediate family;
* the temporary official residence of the Vice President in the District of Columbia;
* the Vice President and members of the immediate family; and
* foreign diplomatic missions in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and throughout the United States, and its territories and possessions, as prescribed by statute.

Likewise, JimK and Lee at moorewatch.com, in addition to their already exhaustive coverage of all things Moore, have added a F911 Lies section that includes tidbits such as this one:

In the film, Michael Moore confronts Congressional Representative Mark Kennedy and asks him to help get Congress to sign up their kids for the Army, Marine Corps, etc. Mark Kennedy looks at him funny, and there is a badly-placed jump edit right there. Moore then moves on to asking other members of Congress, who all appear to ignore him and walk away.

And then we get the voiceover:

“Of course, not a single member of Congress wanted to sacrifice their child for the war in Iraq.”

Is that factually accurate? Let’s look at the exchange between Rep. Kennedy and Moore, which was provided by Moore himself:

CONGRESSMAN KENNEDY How are you doing?
MM: I’m trying to get members of congress to get their kids to enlist in the army and go over to Iraq. Is there any way you could help me with that?
CONGRESSMAN KENNEDY: How would I help you?
MM: Pass it out to other members of congress.
CONGRESSMAN KENNEDY: I’d be happy to. Especially those who voted for the war.
CONGRESSMAN KENNEDY: I have a nephew on his way to Afghanistan.
MM: Because there is only one member who has a kid over there in Iraq.
This is Corporal Henderson, he is helping me out here.
CONGRESSMAN KENNEDY: How are you, good to see you.
MM: There it is, it’s just a basic recruitment thing. Encourage especially those who were in favor of the war to send their kids. I appreciate it.

This exchange was edited out of the film entirely, and instead Kennedy’s meeting with Moore is lumped in with all the Congressmen that seemed to be ducking him. Now that could be considered a lie of omission. He made Kennedy look like all the Congressmen who didn’t stop.

Except that Kennedy not only spoke to him, but he offered to help. He has family in the military, on who, in Kennedy’s own words, is deployed. Not just enlisted, but deployed. He did not say where, but deployed has a specific meaning that doesn’t equal “one weekend a month” in the National Guard.

Lastly, intrepid filmmaker Michael Wilson is currently filming and editing Michael Moore Hates America, which, from the one-sheet and summary blurb, looks to be both a parody and refutation of Moore’s work:

Contrary to its title, Michael Moore Hates America isn’t a hatchet job on the filmmaker. It’s a journey across the nation where we meet celebrities, scholars and average folks alike, and we find out whether the American Dream is still alive! In the process, we’ll look at Michael Moore’s claims about the country, its people, and our way of life.

According to the site, Wilson’s film will not only redress the overwhelmingly negative sentiments about America the permeate Moore’s work, but also directly take on many of the same issues explored in Fahrenheit 9/11 with a more even-handed approach.

This is not to say that there are no valid points to be made in Moore’s film; there are, and the man says plenty of things that need to be said, if only to prove that the frequent cries of “censorship” from liberal pundits are not only premature but also wildly inaccurate. However, the film is so one-sided and uneven in its handling of the subject matter that it outright demands critique. As long as the patron saint of the loony left continues to distort, mislead, and propagandize, his critics will continue to expose his lies.

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About Nick Danger

  • Today’s NYT column by Paul Krugman made one of the best points yet about Michael Moore — and this seemed as good a space to post it as any: “There has been much tut-tutting by pundits who complain that the movie, though it has yet to be caught in any major factual errors, uses association and innuendo to create false impressions. Many of these same pundits consider it bad form to make a big fuss about the Bush administration’s use of association and innuendo to link the Iraq war to 9/11. Why hold a self-proclaimed polemicist to a higher standard than you hold the president of the United States?”

  • Before raving about Hitchens, check out this brilliant takedown of his article by Chris Parry.


    Where did you get the information regarding the Secret Service? I saw no links or footnotes and you provide them elsewhere so I’m curious where you got this information.

    Lastly, you ask if when Moore says, “Of course, not a single member of Congress wanted to sacrifice their child for the war in Iraq,” is
    “factually accurate” and imply that it isn’t. Well, it is completely accurate because Kennedy’s nephew, who is deployed, isn’t his child. Why only mention the deployment and not the truth of the relationship. Is that not a lie of omission on your part? You should live up to the standards you hold Moore to.

  • kelly s

    I have read these criticisms and they all tend to miss the point. The most damning facts are regarding the Bush family’s connection with the Bin Laden family as well as Carlyle Group. The assumption is that that the administration dropped the ball in the aftermath of 9/11 in part due to these strong connections. I have yet to see the real documented facts be addressed by critics. There’s just a lot of nitpicking at little details here and there, but it doesn’t take away the factual evidence presented. So the Secret Service really do protect the embassies as well. So what!! So there was a congressman who spoke to Moore politely and has a family member deployed. Okay, fine. How does that or anything else brought up by Moore’s critics take away from the documented facts, which by themselves are sickening? I don’t need Michael Moore to tell me something is wrong here. I can see it myself when the evidence is presented.

  • Doug

    Well, Kelly. The connections which you characterize as “strong” (connections with the Bin Laden family as well as Carlyle Group)are in fact very tenuous. I’m not sure what “documented facts” you are referring to that “sicken” you. Spinsanity has a pretty clearly written article that seems to address your concerns.
    Spinsanity < \a>