Accuracy in Media

Editor & Publisher magazine reported that most reviews of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 were favorable.  But those reviews appeared before all the truth was known about how Michael Moore twisted and omitted facts to mislead his audience. Columnist Nat Hentoff, a liberal who writes frequently on human rights issues, has written a column noting several flaws in the film.  He points out that Moore’s film portrays Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a lovely place to live, and that Moore has compared Iraqi terrorists to American revolutionary war heroes.

The latest revelation is that Moore falsified a newspaper article that appears in the film.  The article in the film is depicted as being from a real newspaper, the Pantagraph of Bloomington, Illinois, and has a large headline, “Latest Florida recount shows Gore won election.”  But no such article with that headline ever appeared.  What Moore did was construct his own copy of The Pantagraph, using a letter to the editor that appeared in the paper and making it appear that it was a news story.  He took the small headline from the letter and expanded it into a large headline. 

Bill Flick of The Pantagraph has explained the controversy this way: “In a flash-second early on, the movie shows various newspaper headlines on coverage of the presidential election of 2000, and one of them is from the alleged Dec. 19, 2001 edition of the Bloomington, IL Pantagraph? Just for fun, we went back to the Dec. 19, 2001 editions, to ogle the headline and paper shown in the movie.  But somehow there was no such news story in that day’s paper.  We found that curious.  How could a news headline that never appeared in the Dec. 19 paper appear in a copy of the Dec. 19 paper shown in the movie?  Now we learn how.”

Flick went on, “More…the Pantagraph headline shown in the movie?”LATEST FLORIDA RECOUNT SHOWS GORE WON ELECTION”?actually appeared in our Dec. 5 edition.  Illogically, if not inexplicably, a page apparently was ‘pasted together’ to look like an actual Pantagraph page for the movie shot.  And here also is why we could never find the news story.  It never was one.  Instead it was the headline atop a letter to the editor, significantly blown up to make it look like a news story.”

After the paper wrote Moore protesting this treatment, Moore’s lawyer responded that the filmmaker did nothing “misleading.”  Flick finds that response to be misleading. The paper is following up, demanding to know how Moore can justify altering a page from the newspaper without permission.  The Pantagraph said that repeated attempts over the past three weeks to reach Moore personally by telephone and e-mail have been unsuccessful. has been on top of this story, crediting a reader, Stuart Hayashi, with bringing this to the public’s attention.  An article on the site asks, “was [Moore] so desperate to ‘prove’ that Bush ‘stole’ the election that he was willing to fabricate evidence ‘to prove it?  And if Moore is willing to fabricate evidence in this instance, how can you trust anything else he says?…There is absolutely no way this could have been an accident, or an editing glitch, or a typographical error.”

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