updated 7/1/2004 3:25:12 PM ET 2004-07-01T19:25:12

Guests: Lila Lipscomb, Ian Mohr, Roger Moore, Bruce Orwall


DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  In the eye of the storm.




NORVILLE:  Lila Lipscomb lost her son, Michael, in the Iraqi war.  Now she‘s found herself in the center of the year‘s most provocative and controversial film, “Fahrenheit 9/11.”


LIPSCOMB:  People think they know, but you don‘t know.  I thought I knew.


NORVILLE:  Tonight, in a prime-time exclusive, how Lila went from Bush supporter to war critic and became a poster child for Michael Moore‘s film.


LIPSCOMB:  He was a good guy.  Why did you have to take my son?


NORVILLE:  Is “Fahrenheit 9/11” a film so politically hot that Disney wouldn‘t touch it?  And is this film the answer?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There‘s nothing more important than watching your children grow up, learn new things every day.


NORVILLE:  “America‘s Heart & Soul,” a flag-waving celebration of patriotism or a planned counterattack to Michael Moore‘s blistering take on what‘s wrong with America?  Tonight, battle lines at the box office.

ANNOUNCER:  From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.  By now, we have heard plenty about Michael Moore‘s controversial new movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  Tonight we want to begin by focusing on one of the real stories depicted in the film, the story of Lila Lipscomb of Flint, Michigan.  At first, she‘s a flag-waving patriot, speaking with pride about her children‘s military service.  But later, when her son is killed in Iraq, her opinions change drastically.  She becomes an anti-war activist, making a tearful trip to Washington, D.C., where she‘s met by a woman questioning her motives.


LIPSCOMB:  You tell me my son...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Where was he killed?

LIPSCOMB:  ... is not a stage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Where was he killed?

LIPSCOMB:  He was killed in Karbala.  April 2.  It‘s not a stage.  My son is dead!


NORVILLE:  When Lila Lipscomb appeared at the movie‘s premiere in Washington with Michael Moore, she received a standing ovation.  And joining me now for her first prime-time interview is Lila Lipscomb.

It‘s nice to meet you.

LIPSCOMB:  Thank you.

NORVILLE:  Why did you decide to participate in Mr. Moore‘s film?

LIPSCOMB:  I wanted to begin the healing process and I wanted to find out answers, and I thought that this would help me do that.

NORVILLE:  How did he come to you?

LIPSCOMB:  Actually...

NORVILLE:  He just in news coverage read about your son‘s passing?

LIPSCOMB:  Right.  In the “Newsweek” magazine, they did a story on my family on the 9/11 special edition, and one of his staff people saw it and brought it to him.

NORVILLE:  And what was it that they said to you that made you think that this would be a way for you to, as you said, find some of the answers that you were looking for?

LIPSCOMB:  Because I know Michael to be a documentary filmmaker, and I know that he digs for answers.

NORVILLE:  Before we get into some of the questions that you had, my question for you is, Why did your son join the service?  What was he looking to do when he got into the military?

LIPSCOMB:  He wanted to find a way to take care of himself, to better his life, to better his education, and to be able to take care of his daughter.

NORVILLE:  He was 19 when he enlisted?


NORVILLE:  And he had a brand-new baby daughter?


NORVILLE:  And job prospects in the part of Michigan where you‘re from are pretty grim.

LIPSCOMB:  Right.  Right.

NORVILLE:  And I gather—because one of the parts of the move is that a lot of people in a depressed area like Flint have looked to the military as a place to find a way out.

LIPSCOMB:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  All across America.

NORVILLE:  And your son was a career Army guy.


NORVILLE:  This wasn‘t a new enlistment for him.


NORVILLE:  Where all had he been?

LIPSCOMB:  He‘d been to Bosnia.  He‘d been to Hawaii.  He had been to the Bahamas.

NORVILLE:  And then he was shipped out to Kuwait...


NORVILLE:  ... where he worked as a crew chief...

LIPSCOMB:  Correct.

NORVILLE:  ... for the Blackhawk helicopters.

LIPSCOMB:  Correct.

NORVILLE:  And in the movie, there‘s a scene where you recount what it was like when you got the news that no parent wants to get.


NORVILLE:  What day did your son die?

LIPSCOMB:  April 2, 2003.

NORVILLE:  And here is the clip from “Fahrenheit 9/11” when Ms.

Lipscomb found out about her son‘s death.


LIPSCOMB:  The grief grabbed me so hard that I literally fell on the floor.  And I was alone.  I didn‘t have anybody to pick me up.  So I literally crawled over to my desk and was hanging on.  And I remember screaming, Why does it have to be Michael?  Why did you have to take my son?  Why is it my son you had to take?  He didn‘t do anything!  He wasn‘t a bad guy, he was a good guy.  Why did you have to take my son?


NORVILLE:  Does it hurt you to see that replayed?

LIPSCOMB:  Yes.  It just brings back the flashes of that moment.

NORVILLE:  And have you come up with an answer to the why, Why did it have to be my son?

LIPSCOMB:  Yes, God showed me that.  When I was asking—Michael didn‘t show that part, but when I was asking God, Why did you have to take my son, very loudly in my mind I heard, Why not your son?  And that was the most humbling moment in my entire life.  And I understand that it could be anybody‘s child, it just happened to be my child at that moment.

NORVILLE:  In the movie, you make a pilgrimage to Washington with Mr.

Moore and his camera crew.

LIPSCOMB:  Well, I was actually there...

NORVILLE:  You were already there.

LIPSCOMB:  ... for a workforce development conference.

NORVILLE:  And his camera crew followed you as you were going about Washington.


NORVILLE:  What kind of answers were you looking for there?

LIPSCOMB:  I didn‘t know.  I just wanted to know how come my son had to be sent there to be killed.

NORVILLE:  And while you were in Washington, you had an encounter with someone who didn‘t really understand why you were asking questions.


NORVILLE:  It‘s an incredibly emotional moment, and here it is.


MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER:  What did that woman yell at you?

LIPSCOMB:  That I‘m supposed to blame the al Qaeda.  Ignorance, that we deal with, with everyday people because they don‘t know.  People think they know, but you don‘t know.  I thought I knew, but I didn‘t know.


NORVILLE:  You thought you knew what?

LIPSCOMB:  I thought I knew why my son was being sent to Iraq.

NORVILLE:  Which was what?

LIPSCOMB:  Weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, Bin Laden.

NORVILLE:  And the person that had confronted you, we saw earlier in the program in the introduction, this was a woman who was challenging you.


NORVILLE:  What was she saying to you?

LIPSCOMB:  She was just saying that I should not blame the president and I should not blame the administration, that I needed to put the blame where it belonged, and that was with al Qaeda and bin Laden.

NORVILLE:  And obviously, that upset you.  Can you understand why that woman had that point of view?

LIPSCOMB:  She has a right to have her point of view.  Exactly.  Yes, I do understand that.  That‘s her belief, and that‘s OK.

NORVILLE:  And did your beliefs change in the course of working with Mr. Moore, as his crew was filming you for this?

LIPSCOMB:  No, my beliefs changed when my son was killed.

NORVILLE:  Tell me about that.

LIPSCOMB:  I was always raised to respect the position of the president of the United States, no matter who filled that position.  And going through this, I just don‘t believe that anymore because you have to ask questions yourself and be very careful who you vote for.

NORVILLE:  And this comes from a woman with a great family history of military involvement.

LIPSCOMB:  Exactly.

NORVILLE:  You had, what, two brothers in Vietnam.

LIPSCOMB:  I actually had three of my five brothers that served—four of my five brothers served in the military.

NORVILLE:  And then your elder daughter also served in the military in the first Gulf war.

LIPSCOMB:  Absolutely.

NORVILLE:  And you have a nephew who has also recently signed up.

LIPSCOMB:  Yes.  He just graduated high school, and he‘s now joined the military.

NORVILLE:  So this is not a woman who says military service is not something that Americans should aspire to.

LIPSCOMB:  Not at all.  Not at all.  It‘s a woman that totally believes in the military.

NORVILLE:  What do you believe now?

LIPSCOMB:  I still believe in the military.  I still believe that the military is one of the greatest options for our young people.  It gives them an opportunity to find out who they are.  It gives them an opportunity to travel the world, when they may not be able to, gives them an opportunity for education.

NORVILLE:  I‘m sure when you agreed to participate with Mr. Moore, you had really no idea how any of this was going to end up.

LIPSCOMB:  Not a clue.

NORVILLE:  It‘s a documentary.

LIPSCOMB:  Exactly.

NORVILLE:  It‘ll probably be in some teeny little theater, if it even gets there.

LIPSCOMB:  Right.  Right.

NORVILLE:  The hubbub has been astonishing, and here you are, caught right up in the eye of the storm.

LIPSCOMB:  Right.  Right.

NORVILLE:  What do you think about the controversy?  Is it legitimate?  Is it a helpful thing to have this kind of discussion?  Where do you come down on that?

LIPSCOMB:  I think that‘s what America‘s all about.  Everybody has a right to their own opinions and their own beliefs, and that‘s what America is all about.

NORVILLE:  Are you concerned about the criticisms leveled toward Mr.  Moore in the partisan way in which he‘s told his story?  He clearly has a point of view, and he‘s clearly chosen the moments that he includes in the film to help prove his point.

LIPSCOMB:  I think Mr. Moore can take care of himself.


NORVILLE:  There‘s one scene in the movie where Michael Moore is approaching different members of Congress to do exactly what your own nephew recently did, which is to enlist into the service...


NORVILLE:  ... and help with the mission that‘s going on abroad.

LIPSCOMB:  Right.  Right.

NORVILLE:  Let‘s take a look at that.


MOORE:  Congressman?  I‘m Michael Moore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Hey, Michael.  How are you doing.

MOORE:  How‘re you doing?  Good.  Good.



MOORE:  Nice to meet you.  Very nice to meet you.  Do you have kids?


MOORE:  Is there any way we can get them to enlist and go over there and help out with the effort?  Congressman?

Michael Moore.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  How are you today?

MOORE:  Good.  Good.  I‘m trying to get members of Congress to get their kids to enlist in the Army and go over to Iraq.


Congressman Castle?  Congressman Castle?

Congressman Doolittle?  Michael Moore.


NORVILLE:  The point, obviously, Mr. Moore was trying to make is the fat cats aren‘t bearing any of the burden, that the majority of the servicemen, according to Mr. Moore, are people who come from disadvantaged areas.

LIPSCOMB:  Exactly.

NORVILLE:  Is that a fair point?

LIPSCOMB:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  If you look at today‘s military, you‘ll see that.

NORVILLE:  I know your son wrote you a letter prior to his death.  Can you tell me what he said in that letter, which I gather was the beginning of your thought process changing?

NORVILLE:  It was the last letter that I got from him.  There was a

lot of things about the family.  His little brother, Howard, Jr., had just

·         he and his wife had just had my first grandson on February 20, which happened to be Michael‘s birthday.  And I had sent him pictures of his first nephew.  So in the letter, he talks about he had received the letters.  He thanked me for sending him his pocket Bible, so he could always have the Word with him.  And then towards the end, he was very angry that he had to be over there for no reason at all, in fighting one man‘s war.

NORVILLE:  What did he say about that?

LIPSCOMB:  That he felt that he was fighting a one-man war, and that was George Bush‘s war.

NORVILLE:  And then two months later—less than that...

LIPSCOMB:  No, probably two weeks later, my son was dead.

NORVILLE:  No one can ever understand the pain that you and other parents like you are going through.

LIPSCOMB:  Actually, there are 858 mothers that feel just what I feel.

NORVILLE:  The rest of us, though...


NORVILLE:  ... can only project what that‘s like.


NORVILLE:  Given that you are going through such a difficult personal time, is there any concern that you might be being used as a pawn...

LIPSCOMB:  Not at all.

NORVILLE:  ... in this story?

LIPSCOMB:  Not at all.

NORVILLE:  You can see where people would be concerned for you in that way.

LIPSCOMB:  They have a right to feel that.  That‘s OK.  But I also have a right to believe what I believe, and I don‘t feel like a pawn or manipulated in any way.

NORVILLE:  And you‘d like to see the discussion about America‘s reasons for being in Iraq to continue?

LIPSCOMB:  Absolutely.

NORVILLE:  Lila Lipscomb, God bless you.  Thank you for being with us.

LIPSCOMB:  Thank you so much.

NORVILLE:  I hope you get through the pain.

LIPSCOMB:  Yes.  Thanks.

NORVILLE:  We‘ll be back in a moment.

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up: Michael Moore‘s Bush-bashing box office blockbuster, “Fahrenheit 9/11,” has some Americans enraged.  But is this the answer?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think freedom is an important part of that, too, the freedom to be whoever you want to be.


ANNOUNCER:  Is Disney‘s “America‘s Heart & Soul” just another feel-good summer movie, or a deliberate attack on Moore‘s anti-war sentiments?  The critics weigh in when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.


NORVILLE:  As Michael Moore‘s “Fahrenheit 9/11” packs them into the theaters and rakes in millions of dollars, there is this story of another film set for release on July 4th weekend.  This movie is called “America‘s Heart & Soul,” and it‘s filled with lots of patriotic and heart-warming images.  It‘s being released by Disney, the same company that decided against distributing “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  The movie consists of positive real stories of people struggling against long odds and stories about people who love their jobs.  Here‘s a clip from the trailer.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Walt Disney Pictures presents a unique motion picture experience that will take you on a breath-taking journey across the nation to meet the people who make up the heart and soul of America.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I‘ve been a bicycle messenger for 10 years.  I can reach over my handlebars and close the door if it‘s opening on me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Music is my life, and it just takes me higher and higher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The thing about working seven days a week is you don‘t have to worry about going back to work on Monday when Sunday comes.


NORVILLE:  Some say that Disney‘s backing of “America‘s Heart & Soul” is a counterattack to Michael Moore‘s “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  Michael Moore put this statement on his Web site, saying, quote, “Disney, joining forces with the right-wing kooks who‘ve come together to attempt to censor ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,‘ must mean that Dumbo is now in charge of the company‘s strategic decisions,” end quote.

Well, we asked Disney for the producer or the director of “America‘s Heart & Soul” to come on the program tonight, but they declined.  However, they did release this statement.  Quote, “There is no connection between Disney‘s decision not to be involved with Mr. Moore‘s film and our decision to release ‘America‘s Heart & Soul‘ on July 2, 2004.  As far back as May of 2003, the Walt Disney Studios communicated to Miramax and Michael Moore that neither Miramax nor the Disney company would be involved with the distribution of Mr. Moore‘s film.  In 2002, the Disney Company first became involved with Louis Schwartzberg‘s ‘America‘s Heart & Soul.‘  It has been scheduled for release on July 2 ever since December, 2003, long before the distribution agreement and subsequent release date of June 25 was established for Mr. Moore‘s film,” end quote.

Well, to discuss “America‘s Heart & Soul” and “Fahrenheit 9/11,” I‘m joined by Ian Mohr, who‘s the New York bureau chief for “The Hollywood Reporter.”  Also with us tonight, Bruce Orwall, the LA bureau chief for “The Wall Street Journal,” and Roger Moore, film critic for “The Orlando Sentinel”—no relation, we should say.

Bruce, let me start with you first.  You‘re the business paper that‘s

represented here.  Is it logical to think that a company, as the critics of

·         that the “Fahrenheit 9/11” people would contend, would have changed the release date simply to do a tit for tat with “9/11”?

BRUCE ORWALL, LA BUREAU CHIEF, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”:  Well, it‘s not only not logical, but it‘s also just not true.  “America‘s Heart & Soul” has been scheduled for release by Disney for months now.  The release date of “Fahrenheit 9/11,” as everybody knows, was rather famously not even agreed to until, you know, sometime in the month of June, just a couple, three weeks before its release.  So you know, it‘s really—it‘s really not possible that this could be an antidote somehow that Disney is deploying against “Fahrenheit 9/11,” for whatever reason people might speculate.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  Give us a sense of how it works.  When a movie company is deciding to get behind a film—in both of these movies‘ cases, they were independently produced, and then they go out and look for somebody to get it into the theaters.  What‘s the thought process that goes on?  How controversial are they willing to go?  I mean, what goes on in the business decision-making aspect of this process?

ORWALL:  Well, I think, in the case of “America‘s Heart & Soul,” which I should say I haven‘t seen—but you know, this is not a controversial movie, nor is it, I don‘t think, a political movie.  It‘s almost like a high-end version of something that you might find in a pavilion at Disneyland or something.  It‘s this Charles Kuralt, “On the Road” type of uplifting look at American people and the American spirit.

You know, a film like “Fahrenheit 9/11” is a totally different kettle of fish, if you will.  It‘s an overtly political and partisan movie that‘s coming during the height of a contested election season.  And in my experience, these media companies, while this isn‘t always true, they don‘t usually act in a political interest.  What they act in is their own self-interest, which frequently is to try to dodge controversy and not stir up government regulators, and things like that.  And so, you know, I think, in this case, you‘re dealing with two different kinds of movies and different motivations than the ones that are frequently ascribed to companies like Disney.

NORVILLE:  Roger Moore, have you seen both of these films?


NORVILLE:  And—OK, so...

MOORE:  “America‘s Heart & Soul” plays like a Reagan “morning in America” campaign commercial.  It‘s very optimistic, very much like a theme park attraction film.  You kind of wonder why this film, which was actually shot before 9/11, was even released.  So that would be the only question I would really have for Disney, at this point, is, Why did you decide to release this movie during an election year, this movie that says, Is this a great country, or what, and things are just fine.

NORVILLE:  Ian, you want to respond to that?

IAN MOHR, NY BUREAU CHIEF, “THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER”:  Well, I think that Disney actually did look at this as an opportunistic, July 4th, you know, feel-good release, you know, possibly driven by a subsequent video release.  But I think that‘s why they got involved in the film, and I don‘t think they imagined or could have anticipated when they bought the film the controversy that “Fahrenheit 9/11” would cause.

NORVILLE:  And you spoke with Louis Schwartzberg, the director of the film today.

MOHR:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  What is his sense of this uproar that has now gotten so big that his little film has gotten swirled up in this?

MOHR:  Well, in a way, whatever is actually going on between Disney and Miramax, you actually feel pretty bad for the guy.  I mean, he comes off as sort of, you know, an idealist.  He‘s involved in environmental groups.  Part of his job is licensing sort of photography that‘s very sort of Kodak moment-ish, feel-good photography, so it makes sense he would make a film like this.  But he‘s been caught in the crossfire, and I think he feels like a pawn in all of this.

NORVILLE:  Let‘s take a short moment and just look at a clip from “America‘s Heart & Soul,” so those of us who haven‘t seen the film have a better sense of what this movie‘s all about.  Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s not just one kind of food or one kind of music or one kind of landscape, it‘s the wonderful diversity of this country that makes this place so great.


NORVILLE:  Now see, Roger, I would disagree with you.  I can absolutely understand why a company like Walt Disney would put that out.  That looks like something you would see right there in the Main Street Americana section of DisneyWorld.

MOORE:  Well, it‘s not a documentary that has really a through theme to it.  It doesn‘t sort of fit in what we‘re traditionally thinking about as documentaries these days.  It‘s little snippets, like an Imax film, little pieces of people following their bliss—the stunt pilot, the Cajun musician who‘s hanging onto his music, the woman who loves to sing gospel music.  These are all very uplifting, as you mentioned, Charles Kuralt “On the Road” kind of stories, and they don‘t really fit together unless you‘re looking for a theme.  And the theme that you would find its, Work really, really hard, don‘t really—don‘t quit, don‘t give up, pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, and freedom is something that we‘re all blessed with.  So it‘s a very bland, little, you know, Pollyanna-ish kind of film, doesn‘t really have that sort of big political agenda that the Michael Moore film does.

NORVILLE:  Well, is that right-wing kook stuff, though?  Feel good about your job, and you know, love America?  That‘s not right-wing kook stuff, is it?

MOORE:  No, that strikes me as really, really stretching on Michael Moore‘s part to think that.  This movie doesn‘t really come to any sort of conclusive stand about anything.  Some of the reviews I‘ve read about it have referred to the fact that the film seems to sort of endorse a Disney corporate culture kind of message, but I don‘t necessarily see that, either.  The film doesn‘t really have any of that stuff to it.

The only thing that you would want to question there is the fact that this material is all old.  It‘s all positive.  They filmed all this years before any of the nation‘s problems of recent years have come up.  And therefore, the film sort of seems to be ignoring the way the country is right now, a really divided country, a red state America versus blue state America country, a country where jobs are being shipped overseas.  All this stuff is sort of touched on in the film, but then they don‘t actually get into it.  They sort of say, Well, we bought our own steel company, and even though the business is obsolete, we‘re going to make a go of it.  And there are several moments in the movie that sort of call attention to themselves that way.

NORVILLE:  Let me bring Bruce Orwall back in the discussion.  Bruce, you know, one of the things that strikes me—I guess I‘m paid to be a cynic—is I look at the fact that the Michael Moore people have said that this movie is a direct response to his film as being actually great for “Heart & Soul” because a lot of people will now be curious, and the controversy that‘s created is probably going to push them into the theaters, where maybe they wouldn‘t have before.  Am I completely off base?

ORWALL:  No, I think you‘re probably right, in that, you know, everything associated with Michael Moore, since he and his people kicked up this dust storm with the distribution plan for “Fahrenheit 9/11” about a month or six weeks ago—everything that gets swept up in its path seems to somehow at least get the publicity benefit from it.

This is a little—I think it‘s, like, a million-dollar picture with a—you know, with a very small marketing budget.  Disney‘s plan for marketing it all along has been to just do a lot of little screenings for community groups and the Future Farmers of America and—you know, and people like that around the country to try to get word of mouth going for it.  And oddly enough, it‘s Michael Moore and his accusations that has probably created more word of mouth for this than anything.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  And in fact, Ian, isn‘t it true that it was one specific screening in particular that gave genesis to this controversy?

MOHR:  That‘s correct.  I think it is a misrepresentation to say that right-wing kooks made the film.  A group called Move America Forward, which is against “Fahrenheit 9/11,” sent out a release about a screening that said, Disney and Move America Forward join forces to present this film.  But that came from the kooks, not—or however you see this group, not Disney.  And I think that‘s what Michael Moore immediately responded to because he has this war room, and this is being fought like a political campaign, rather than a movie publicity campaign.

NORVILLE:  Yes.  You know, used to be, when you went to the movies, you just went for the popcorn and the soda.  Now you get your douse of politics, too.

We‘re going to take a short break.  More with our panel in just a moment.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When I saw the Met for the first time, to look at it and go, That‘s my dream.  I want to sing there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  My name is Eric Wymer (ph).  I love to climb mountains.  And that‘s pretty wild, I guess, for a blind person.






NORVILLE:  That was a clip from “Heart and Soul,” “America‘s Heart and Soul,” a new documentary being released this Fourth of July weekend by Disney coming a week after the release of Michael Moore‘s controversial movie “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which Disney decided not to distribute. 

We‘re speaking about this film with Ian Mohr, the New York bureau chief for “The Hollywood Reporter,” also Bruce Orwall, the L.A. bureau chief for “The Wall Street Journal,” and Roger Moore, film critic for “The Orlando Sentinel.”

Before the movie was released, Michael Moore made a big deal about the fact that Disney was not distributing the movie.  And he spoke about this a couple weeks ago with Matt Lauer on “Dateline.”  Here‘s what he had to say. 


MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER/AUTHOR:  For a year, they sent me a check every month so I could make this film. And this was all with the intent of, you know, this film is going to be distributed.  To find out just weeks before it‘s supposed to come out, after Disney sends an executive here to New York, sits in my office, watches the movie, and he‘s like, whoa, you know, and then reports back, then they have a board meeting the next week, and they say, you know, no, there‘s no way we‘re going to distribute this. 


NORVILLE:  Bruce Orwall, that‘s not exactly the way it all played out, is it? 

ORWALL:  Well, the devil is sort of in the details on these things, as always.

And, you know, what happened is, you have an independent, a very independent unit of Disney called Miramax, which last year agreed to finance a portion of this picture.  And indeed they did help pay to get it made over time, as Mr. Moore suggests. 

But the company—Miramax never assigned a release date to the movie for the following reason.  Disney almost immediately told them that they were not going to allow it to be released by the company.  And so while it‘s true that the film was financed by that part of Disney, there was never a release date set.  From Disney‘s point of view, at least, they felt that they had made it clear that they weren‘t going to release it.  Harvey and Bob Weinstein, the two gentlemen who run Miramax, were—continued to raise this periodically over time.

And, you know, at the finish line in May, Mr. Moore and his representatives tried to make it look like this had been sprung on them when in reality it was a year-long process. 

NORVILLE:  And, Ian, I gather that people like you who watch these things see that as part of a pattern, that Michael Moore has to great effect always been able to find a villain and use that to his advantage. 

MOHR:  Right. 

I think that works in terms of the story of this movie, is that, you know, you have to have a good villain.  In this case, it‘s not only George Bush in terms of the film, but Michael Eisner, Disney‘s CEO, in large part was cast as the villain who wouldn‘t let them release the movie off screen. 

NORVILLE:  Roger Moore, help us understand.  Is there sort of a shift going on in the movie world?  I mean, it seems like we‘ve had an awful lot of time spent on this program talking about the political nature of movies.  It started with “The Passion of the Christ” and the agenda that some people saw there. 

Now we‘re talking about “9/11” and “Heart and Soul.”  Is there a change going on out there that we need to know about? 

R. MOORE:  I‘m not sure, but certainly Michael Moore was paying attention to Mel Gibson and taking notes when “The Passion of the Christ” came out.  He figured out a way—Mel figured out a way to go past the people who would normally be the opinion makers and get his movie to the right audience.  And Michael Moore sort of used the controversy that Mel created from that as inspiration, I think, for his movie.

But one of the things about creating Michael Eisner as a villain is you‘ve got Disney‘s CEO who in essence has made two blunders.  He didn‘t release “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which is going to make a lot of money.  His movie, “America‘s Heart and Soul,” which could benefit from the controversy here, is being released in a fraction of the theaters of “Fahrenheit 9/11.”  It‘s a movie that‘s only going to play in I think four or five theaters in all of Florida.  So he‘s missing out on both ends.


NORVILLE:  Why don‘t they increase the number?  Since we‘re talking about it on television, why don‘t they quickly call theaters and say, you know what; we have got some buzz going on here, let‘s jazz it up here? 

R. MOORE:  Well, as Bruce was saying, these decisions were made months ago.


R. MOORE:  So they are not really able to turn on a dime that way. 


ORWALL:  I think there‘s a guy named “Spider-man” out there who is in the way of doing things like that at the last minute who is going to take up an unprecedented amount of screen time this weekend.  And “Fahrenheit 9/11” is doubling its screens.  And so, you know, the movie theater business, which, you know, has some flexibility, but you know, also roots for the front-runner, is going to be “Spider-Man” obsessed from here on out. 

NORVILLE:  And because they are increasing the number of screens that “Fahrenheit 9/11” is going to be on, I‘m curious, all three of you, give me an idea of how much money Michael Moore is personally going to make? 

Ian, I‘ll let you take it first. 

MOHR:  That‘s a tough question.  I think that right now you know obviously the film is making much more money than we ever anticipated and the Weinsteins and Michael Moore are making money hand over fist.  So it will be interesting to see what he does with that money, because a lot of his critics say, he‘s a man of the people.  Will he give that money away or keep it for himself?

NORVILLE:  And do you want to hazard a guess? 

MOHR:  I mean, it could be in the I‘d say tens of millions of dollars, I think. 

NORVILLE:  Bruce, what do you think he‘s going to bring in? 

ORWALL:  I‘d say it‘s hard to know that without knowing the particulars of his deal.  The only specifics that we know is that he received some sort of a fee for making the movie, plus a percentage of the adjusted grosses of the film, which are as anybody who knows film business accounting, sort of a mysterious world in and of itself, so who knows. 

That could be his next conspiracy, I think, is who took his profits from “Fahrenheit 9/11”?

NORVILLE:  There you go. 

Roger, what do you think he‘s going to bring in? 

R. MOORE:  You know, Deborah, we‘re only just now figuring out how much Mel Gibson actually pocketed from “The Passion of the Christ,” so it will be months before we actually figure this out.  And tens of millions sounds about right to me. 

The movie looks like it‘s tracking towards a $50 million to $75 million domestic box office. 

NORVILLE:  That‘s amazing.


NORVILLE:  Go ahead, Bruce.

ORWALL:  I will point out that Michael Moore‘s deal on this movie is not going to be anywhere near the same league that Mel Gibson‘s was on “The Passion.” 

Not only was “The Passion” a much bigger box office gross than this is going to turn out to be, but Mel Gibson was the primary financier.  He had a very big percentage of the back end.  And he literally made hundreds of millions of dollars when it‘s all said and done on that movie. 

NORVILLE:  Well, we know that Mel—that Roger—Michael Moore‘s movie cost about $6 million to make.  And, as you said, it‘s probably going to do at least $50 million at the box office.  Some of that has got to end up in the pockets of the man of the people, I guess. 

Ian Mohr, Bruce Orwall, Roger Moore, thanks so much for talking with us about the movie.  We appreciate your time. 

And when we come back, most Republicans are outraged over the Michael Moore movie.  Is it because they dispute the facts?  Maybe they just dislike the tone or perhaps it‘s just because it‘s done by Michael Moore.  That part of the story next. 


NORVILLE:  Republicans say “Fahrenheit 9/11” is filled with half-truths and distorted facts, but do they dislike the messenger more than the message?  We‘ll find out next.


NORVILLE:  We‘ve heard a number of opinions tonight about the Michael Moore film “Fahrenheit 9/11,” a first, a first-person account of a woman seen at Moore‘s poster child for his bashing of President Bush‘s war efforts and the possible motivations by Disney for releasing a patriotic documentary this coming July Fourth weekend. 

I‘m joined now by New York Congressman, Republican, Peter King for his take on all of this. 

Congressman, good to see you.  Thanks for being with us. 

REP. PETER KING ®, NEW YORK:  Good to see you, Deborah.  Thank you very much.

NORVILLE:  You‘re welcome. 

I know you haven‘t had a chance to see “Fahrenheit 9/11,” but I know you‘re also pretty riled up about it.  Why? 

KING:  Well, first of all, because it‘s fundamentally dishonest, but even more than that, maybe, because it demeans and diminishes the whole national debate that we should be having. 

I support President Bush‘s policies in Iraq.  I can understand somebody honestly disagreeing with them.  I think that debate should go forward.  But what Michael Moore is doing is trivializing.  He‘s diminishing.  He‘s relying on distortions and untruths.  And it‘s really wrong to be considering this a documentary.  It sends the wrong signal to the country. 

NORVILLE:  One of the scenes that I know many members of Congress have probably felt like they need to respond to some of their constituents about is this one scene where it appears that not every member of Congress reads every piece of legislation put in front of them.  I want to run the clip and then get you to react to it. 


M. MOORE:  How could Congress pass this Patriot Act without even reading it?

REP. JOHN CONYERS (D), MICHIGAN:  Sit down, my son.  We don‘t read most of the bills.  Do you really know what that would entail if we were to read every bill that we passed? 

M. MOORE:  I couldn‘t believe that virtually no member of Congress had read the Patriot Act before voting on it.  So I decided the only patriotic thing to do was for me to read it to them. 

Members of Congress, this is Michael Moore.  I would like to read to you the USA Patriot Act.  Section one:


NORVILLE:  Congressman, is it possible that members vote on legislation they‘ve never looked at? 

KING:  Well, first of all, I assume there‘s some bills occasionally, but I can tell you, on something as important as the Patriot Act, that was analyzed.  It was studied.  It was debated both within the Republican Party, within the Democratic Party, in committee and on the floor of the House itself.  So what he‘s doing is totally distorting reality. 

What John Conyers was saying—and I don‘t disagree with what John Conyers said specifically—but the fact is that virtually every member of Congress was fully aware of what was in that bill.  No, they didn‘t know where every comma and every semicolon was.  We wouldn‘t be expected to know that.  But we knew the substance of the bill completely. 

NORVILLE:  Do you think that people should see this movie?  I know you plan to. 

KING:  Yes, I intend to see it.  I don‘t see—again, I‘m going to see because I‘m a congressman, because I take part in the national debate. 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

KING:  If the average American wants to see it, fine.  But I think it‘s not going to add much to the debate. 

NORVILLE:  And what do you think about conservative groups that are actually out there vigorously campaigning saying, don‘t see this movie, don‘t support this man in his efforts and stay away from the theater? 

KING:  What I think is more important is to expose the falsehoods and the inaccuracies that are in the movie itself, and, again, I wouldn‘t be encouraging people to see it, because why give Michael Moore money?

But, on the hand, I‘m not going to tell people not to go because I don‘t want to be setting up a boycott.  To me, the best way to expose false ideas is for people to see them and also for people like myself and also hopefully the media to rebut the falsehoods that are in the movie. 

NORVILLE:  Yes.  We have certainly tried to do that.  And earlier in the program, we were pointing out that it wasn‘t exactly just before the movie was to air that Disney informed Mr. Moore that they were not planning to be behind the distribution of the movie. 

Yet, one of the things I think is interesting is, right now, it seems that the tenor of the political debate in this country is getting much more shrill, much more harsh, much more personal in such a way that one can‘t legitimately debate the issues without personality entering into it.  Is that a problem that you see from where you sit? 

KING:  Oh, yes, it‘s certainly true. 

And this began probably in the last 10 or 15 years.  I know that many Republicans I thought were unfairly critical of Bill Clinton.  But I think what makes “Fahrenheit 9/11” a little different is that this is really—it‘s a hit job on President Bush.  And to have leading Democrats such as Terry McAuliffe and others go to the premiere, that gives a respectability and a credibility to a movie that to me any good American should be denouncing. 

I hope Terry McAuliffe doesn‘t think that President Bush intentionally wants Americans to die in Afghanistan or that somehow President Bush deliberately allowed bin Laden‘s family to leave Washington or has some corrupt dealing with the Saudis.  That is absurd.  That‘s the same as people who were saying that Bill Clinton was murdering people in Arkansas. 

The difference was, you didn‘t find leading Republicans endorsing those crazy, way-out views, really evil views.  And that‘s what I think too many Democrats are doing with Michael Moore.  They‘re hoping to take advantage of this for the election.

NORVILLE:  Well, let me ask you about that.  How do you think this could impact on the election?  The movie is going into a wider release next weekend.  The DVD version of the film is planned for release in early September, coming a couple of months before the November vote.  Does this really have the possibility of influencing undecided voters?  Because that‘s really who the battle is all about right now anyway. 

KING:  Actually, if I were John Kerry, I would be a little concerned that it‘s going to energize independent or undecided voters to vote for Ralph Nader, because, let‘s remember, John Kerry voted for the war in Afghanistan.  John Kerry voted for the war in Iraq, the same as President Bush.  So, if anything, it could take voters away from Kerry and drive them to Nader. 

But, in reality, I think between now and Election Day, so much is going to be happening, the war in Iraq itself, the economy, the national debate, the two national conventions, the two debates between the candidates in the fall.  But I think Michael Moore for the most part will be forgotten.  I think what he‘s doing right now, he is energizing a base against President Bush.  Most of them were probably against him to begin with.  And some of them may split off from Kerry and go to support Ralph Nader. 

NORVILLE:  Yes, but one of the critics that I‘ve seen commenting in the press has said that where this movie is really aimed, where Michael Moore is really aiming this movie is at that large group of undecideds who haven‘t really figured out which way they want to come because it is still, as you say, months before the election, but that this could be influential toward swaying them against the Republican candidate. 

KING:  Again, it could be, but I think it‘s more likely it‘s going to influence people to break away from John Kerry or even undecided voters to go toward Ralph Nader, because he‘s the only one who is truly anti-war. 

I mean, John Kerry‘s record is not that much different from President Bush‘s.  He voted for the war.  He voted for the war in Afghanistan.  So, again, if there‘s any potential trouble, it could be a little for President Bush, I think more likely for John Kerry. 

NORVILLE:  Well, we‘ve Kerry—or, sorry—Ralph Nader trailing at about 5 percent in the polls.  From where you sit in the Republican Party, would you like to see him drop out of the race? 

KING:  No, I think it‘s great to have Ralph Nader in there.  It siphons off votes.

Listen, from a pure point of view of a democracy, it‘s better to have George Bush one on one with John Kerry.  And I‘m confident George Bush would win.  But as far as practical politics, I think the more Nader stays in the race, the more it helps President Bush. 

NORVILLE:  All right, Representative Peter King, Republican of New York, thank you so much, sir, for being with us.  We appreciate your time. 

KING:  Thank you, Deborah.  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  And when we come back, we‘ve heard from everybody else. 

Now it‘s time to hear from you, your say on “Fahrenheit 9/11.” 


NORVILLE:  We have been getting an awful lot of e-mails on the Michael Moore film, “Fahrenheit 9/11.” 

Joseph Duquette from La Luz, New Mexico, writes: “Personally, I think President Bush is politically motivated by his war on Iraq and I wouldn‘t trust him farther than I could throw him.  But I think Michael Moore is worse.  No, I have not watched his movie, nor would I.  I refuse to promote people who capitalize on tragedy.  So shame on all of your for making him rich.”

But Peggy takes the opposite position.  She writes: “I am shocked that many critics denounce ‘Fahrenheit 9/11‘ as unpatriotic and anti-soldier.  For me, the movie served as a powerful and painful reminder of the cost of war and my obligation as a citizen to hold our leaders accountable for making wise decisions about when to send our troops into combat.  Engaging these questions is the best way we can support our troops.”

J.K. from Ottumwa, Iowa, writes in, saying: “I just viewed ‘Fahrenheit 9/11‘ this weekend and I have to say, it is very refreshing to see a take on current events that isn‘t shown by the conservative media.  Although Michael Moore has an agenda with this film, I found it very disturbing and it left a very bad taste in my mouth. “  He continues, saying,” I think people should classify this film as more of an opinion piece than a documentary.”

And before we close up the mail bag this evening, here‘s an e-mail from one viewer who did not give us their name, talking about last night‘s interview with the pop group Wilson Phillips.  They said: “I held on for one more day.  Things are going my way.”  A poet.  “Hello to the ladies of Wilson Phillips.”

You can send us your e-mails and comments to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.

And when we come back, celibacy in the Catholic Church, should it be mandatory, optional or not even there at all?  That‘s next.


NORVILLE:  That‘s our program tonight.  Thanks for watching.  I‘m Deborah Norville. 

We must be feeling argumentative right about now, because, coming up tomorrow night, another debate:  Should the Catholic Church rethink its policy on celibacy for nuns and priests?  Is celibacy the underlying reason for the ongoing sex scandal in the Roman Catholic Church and for the diminishing number of people entering the clergy? 

Tomorrow night, we‘ll meet the man behind an incredibly controversial film that many in the Catholic Church have condemned, a film which tries to link celibacy to the crisis in the church.  That‘s all coming up tomorrow night. 

That‘s our program for this evening. 

Coming up next, Joe Scarborough asks the question, what happens to teenagers when Britney Spears is their role model?  “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY” is next.


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