Michael Moore fires back at Salon

Micheal Moore responds to Daniel Radosh's story.

By Salon Staff

Published July 4, 1997 3:39PM (EDT)

as I read your libelous attack on me in Salon magazine, "Moore is Less," I
wondered, before you published it, did you ask yourself, "Don't we have a
moral responsibility to our readers to tell them who we are and why we are
publishing this article?" Obviously you opted for deception, because to tell
the truth might undercut what you wanted to accomplish. So, if you don't
mind, I'd like to let your readers in on a few things.

This online magazine called "Salon" is sponsored and presented by Borders
Books and Music, the nation's second largest bookstore chain. Last
September, while on my book tour for "Downsize This," Borders prohibited me
from speaking at a scheduled event in their New York City store. They took
this action because two days earlier I had voiced my support for the
bookstore employees union at their Philadelphia store. Then I offered to
donate a portion of the profit from my book to any group of Borders employees
who wanted to start a union. Although I personally think Borders is a great
bookstore (and I shop there regularly), I also believe their workers -- like
all workers -- should have the opportunity to have representation. That
Borders store where I was stopped from speaking voted in the union last month. This has not made Borders management very happy.

Salon chose not to inform you of this. I believe that it was dishonest not
to tell you that Borders, their sponsor, and I have been locked in this
conflict. That they would use this magazine to libel me is a low blow from
an otherwise respected bookseller.

Second, you should know that Salon's editor, David Talbot, resigned in
protest in 1986 when I was chosen over him to become the new editor of Mother
Jones magazine, where he was senior editor at the time. (Talbot's other claim
to fame was his authorship of an embarrassing peepshow book entitled
"Burning Desires: Sex in America.") Talbot chose not to inform you that there was a personal grudge at work here. The fact that he would hide this information from you, the reader, is
journalistically irresponsible. Plus, David, it's been 11 years -- get over it.

When I checked Nexis/Lexis to see who the writer of this article was, I
learned that Daniel Radosh's main credits are articles he's written for
William Buckley's National Review, William Kristol's (Dan Quayle's press
secretary) Weekly Standard and Playboy. He is the son of the well-known
author Ron Radosh. But Daniel, unfortunately, has not followed his father's
success (the same search at the library turned up a letter Daniel wrote to
Newsday attacking his own father). I don't know what's going on in that
family, and, frankly, I don't want to know. Just don't take your frustration
out on guys like me, OK?

And speaking of frustration, hey Dan -- what's the obsession with my weight?
In referring to me, you used words like "blubber," compared me to Rush
Limbaugh and wrote a sentence about "hastening the fat man's death." That
would all be obscene if it wasn't so childish.

Here then is my response to Borders/Talbot's/Radosh's attacks on my various

1. You claim "Roger and Me" distorted the facts. That's the same old tired
rant initiated by General Motors and believed by no one except a few smug
writers like yourself. On behalf of the 40,000 people in Flint who've lost
their jobs, go rewrite someone else's history.

2. You call the sequel, "Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint," a "shoddy rehash
of 'Roger and Me.'" "Pets or Meat" was so shoddy it was honored by being
selected as part of the New York Film Festival, the Toronto Film Festival
and the Telluride Film Festival. It is also one of the few short films ever
to be picked up by a distributor (October Films, distributor of "Secrets and
Lies") and given a theatrical release.

3. Radosh calls "TV Nation" "wildly uneven." That's why we won the Emmy
Award, received nearly unanimous critical acclaim and won our time slot with
young adults every single week we were on the air. Why we are not on the air
might make for an interesting piece of journalism, but then I forgot: Salon
has nothing to do with journalism.

4. Radosh admits to never having seen "Canadian Bacon" and then goes on
to trash it, saying, "it deserved to fail badly." The truth is, "Canadian
Bacon" was an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival. It did not get
the theatrical distribution it deserved partly because of politics at
Polygram and partly because its star, John Candy, had died before all
shooting was completed. But when it was released on home video, it sold an
unexpected 200,000 cassettes and has become a huge hit on both video and
cable TV.

5. The real libel takes place when Radosh says I tried to "dissuade writers
from joining the Writers Guild" and that writers repeatedly had to rely on
the Guild "to secure them payment, residuals and credits Moore was trying to
screw them out of."
That is an outrageous lie told with malice and knowledge that it is nothing
but a lie. I am the one who insisted that "TV Nation" be a union show, and I
refused to do it non-union. I won, and all the writers, including myself,
became proud members of the Writers Guild. If any writers, including
myself, have been screwed out of residuals, we will appeal. I insist Salon
retract this lie or I will take legal action.

Daniel Radosh grew up living the charmed life in the literary circles of
Manhattan. He goes on and on about how I now live there, as if this is some
indication that I am no longer working class. What's really bothering him, I
think, is that one of "them" (i.e., me) has moved into the neighborhood.
Oooh, scary! A guy who's supposed to be building Buicks in Flint is now
prowling the streets that were paved for the Daniel Radoshes of the world.
Somebody, circle the wagons! Protect the Starbucks!

I have been very fortunate to have the success I've had. I follow my
conscience and give away over a third of my income. I don't own any stock,
or a car, and I'm not saddled with trying to get out of a famous father's
shadow. I'm not perfect. I'm sorry I'm overweight.
And I'll never cross a picket line -- even if it is in front of my favorite
bookstore, which now underwrites your deception and libel.
Next time, Dave and Dan, don't be so obvious about your envy and your need
for revenge. Don't let your sponsor use you for their ends to discredit me.
You should realize that, in the end, we're all in the same boat. Who knows,
maybe someday you'll need to contact that employees union at Borders!

David Talbot responds:

Despite Moore's charges of sinister conspiracy, Salon never plotted to attack him out of personal or corporate malice. In fact, after his book, "Downsize This," was published last year, we tried to put him on the Salon cover, but Moore canceled the interview. I personally have enjoyed much of Moore's work, including "Roger and Me." But the truth is that Michael Moore -- as a very public champion of left-wing and labor causes -- has opened himself up to press criticism by developing a reputation as a bullying boss. (The fact that he has built a cushy life for himself in Upper Manhattan by hectoring America's plutocrats also makes him a worthy target, as the social satirist in Moore would be the first to appreciate.)

Moore's charge that the Borders bookstore chain "use(d) this magazine to libel me" is outrageous and utterly false and I challenge him to offer proof of this. Yes, Borders is one of Salon's sponsors -- this is emblazoned on our site, so we're not exactly hiding it from our readers. But none of Salon's editorial content is dictated by Borders or any of our other advertisers, nor has Borders ever attempted to influence Salon's reporting, criticism and commentary. Moore is swinging wildly here and he knows it.

His accusation that I've been nursing a grudge against him for the past decade because he was named editor of Mother Jones magazine instead of me is also absurd. In fact, as Moore will recall, after he was fired by the magazine just months after being hired, he asked me to show solidarity with him by appearing at a protest rally and press conference that he had organized with typical theatrical flair on the steps of San Francisco City Hall. I sympathized with Moore's plight and agreed to appear to hear his side of the story. But I was dissuaded from joining his cause when I heard directly from many of Mother Jones' aggrieved employees that it was not just the owner who was fed up with Moore but much of the magazine's staff as well, who found him to be an autocratic and incompetent manager.

Finally, as for Moore's distaste for my "peepshow" book, which examined sex in America and its cultural, medical and political travails, perhaps this says more about Moore's own sensitivities on the subject than about the book itself, which was widely praised.

Daniel Radosh responds:

I'm not sure what bothers me most about Moore's letter, that my proud
Brooklyn childhood of stoopball and "Welcome Back Kotter" has been
transformed into tedious evenings at Elaine's with Norman Mailer or that
my one article apiece for the Weekly Standard and the National Review
(both articles were nonpolitical, if you bother to read them) now constitute the "main
credits" of a six-year career. Does Nexis not catalogue the New
Republic, the New York Times Magazine, Esquire and Spy?

Whatever. The only statement of Moore's really worth responding to is
his accusation of libel. First, my assertion that "TV Nation" writers were
discouraged from joining the Writers Guild is backed by three sources.
One writer remembered Moore telling him and a colleague that "TV Nation"
could not afford two writers at Guild rates and that "if you want to be
in this union, only one of you can work here." Maybe Moore considers
this small talk, but the writer took it as a warning.

Second, two "TV Nation" writers, including co-executive producer Randy
Cohen, recalled Moore's reluctance to give proper credits and make
timely payments. Vito Turso, a spokesman for the Writers Guild,
confirmed that on more than one occasion writers came to the Guild for
help in dealing with what they perceived as Moore's unfair treatment. (Moore's friction with some of the show's writers and with the Writers Guild was also reported in the Nov. 4, 1996, New York magazine, which stated that the Guild "had to arbitrate several complaints from 'TV Nation' writers who hadn't received proper payments for their work.")

Finally, for whatever it's worth and speaking as a former bookstore
employee, I fully support the right of Borders' staff to unionize. That
Michael Moore has turned that issue into a forum on himself rather than
on worker's rights is a shame but hardly a surprise.

Salon Staff

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