Moore attacks groups that tried to get his Nevada speech canceled
Associated Press Writer
RENO, Nev. (AP) – Filmmaker Michael Moore brought his anti-Bush Slacker Uprising Tour to Reno to try to fire up apathetic students to vote next month in the battleground state of Nevada. He stirred up more than just “slackers,” though.
After failing in a bid to get his speech canceled, a group of alumni and businessmen offered $100,000 to the university’s student government to have Moore debate a conservative spokesman instead – a move rejected by both student and university leaders.
The university’s College Republicans staged a protest over the use of public funds to bring Moore to campus. The speech also prompted threats from some alumni to discontinue donations to the university.
Despite the opposition, the “Fahrenheit 9/11” director was greeted by a standing ovation from a sell-out crowd of nearly 10,000 on campus Wednesday night. Moore shot back at the businessmen and alumni, and praised student and university leaders for standing up to them.
“No amount of money could buy them off. How rare is that these days?” Moore said. “Never back down to bullies who limit freedom of expression whether in Reno or the United States.”
Moore also criticized College Republicans, whose protest drew about 250 people outside the arena Wednesday night. It was the biggest faced by Moore so far as he nears the halfway point of his 60-city tour, said Moore spokeswoman Terri Hardesty.
“I think it’s pretty pathetic that they can only get 250 people,” Moore said. “I’m embarrassed and offended.
“We brought some Army enlistment forms tonight. I’d like to see how many of those 250 College Republicans we can sign up … Why should other sons and daughters go to Iraq?” Moore said.
Protesters held up signs that said “No Moore Lies” and “Moore Hates America But Loves Your Money.”
They accused Moore of resorting to lies to tarnish President Bush in “Fahrenheit 9/11” and of financially benefiting from the Sept. 11 terror attacks and war in Iraq.
“He tends to claim that President Bush has profited from Sept. 11. But the No. 1 guy to profit is Michael Moore,” UNR junior Dylan Ciciliano charged, noting “Fahrenheit 9/11” has earned more than $200 million at the box office and in DVD sales.
UNR senior Nathan Taylor said he was upset the university approved public funds to promote the political agenda of what he called “a partisan propaganda artist.”
At a news conference before his speech, Moore bristled when asked to respond to the allegations that he lied against Bush in “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
“Name one lie. That’s kind of a strong word. Did you ask them how I have lied?” Moore asked. “Most of them haven’t seen the movie … They can’t name one lie because there’s not any.”
Moore said he has given away “large sums of money” since his first movie, “Roger and Me,” and most of the money he’s earning from the tour is going toward expenses.
His speaking fee at UNR was $15,000, said Jeff Champagne, vice president of programming for the Associated Students of the University of Nevada.
“Because they (books and movies) end up making a lot of money, it becomes even more incumbent on me to do good things with them,” Moore said.
“Don’t you love it when rich businessmen, you know, all they do is preach ‘make money, make money.’ And then, of course, when someone from the left side makes money, (they say) ‘don’t make money, don’t make money,”‘ he said.
No arrests or major problems were reported at either the speech or protest, said university police Sgt. Marc Conley.
Organizers said one or two hecklers were removed during the speech.
The university stepped up security for the event, posting 100 security personnel inside along with 22 police officers.
Moore is touring 20 battleground states in an effort to get slackers who usually don’t vote to head to the polls this year, saying they could make a difference in the presidential race.
Recent polls of Nevada voters show the race between Bush and Sen. John Kerry is about even; voter registration in the state also is almost even among Republicans and Democrats.
Moore’s visit came a day before a scheduled speech in Reno by Bush. Moore left Reno immediately after the talk.