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July 16, 2007

Spreading Satire on CNN

For the past week or so, Michael Moore has been very upset with CNN. He claims that a "Fact Check" segment on The Situation Room intentionally misled viewers into believing he was monkeying around with healthcare numbers in Sicko. This weekend, Moore again demanded an apology from the network and declared, "I'm about to become your worst nightmare." And yet the network may be in for more Moore ridicule if he hasn't yet spotted a more-recent—and more-obviously ridiculous—claim made about him on the channel.

On Sunday, Reliable Sources host Howard Kurtz was discussing the Moore kerfuffle with Townhall.com managing editor Mary Katherine Ham and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. In particular, they were discussing whether Moore was right to be so upset about the "Fact Check" segment. Here's part of the transcript:

Kurtz: …But what happened was that Sanjay Gupta ran a three or four-minute piece critiquing Sicko. And he made one serious mistake about the per capita health spending in Cuba. But mostly it went on there in their on-air confrontations. They quarreled about whose statistics were more up to date. What did you think about that?

HAM: Well, I mean, Michael Moore is a sort of self-involved publicist. He did do this because he knows everyone will pay attention.
He thought the iPhone release was designed to stop his buzz. [emphasis added] I mean, this is how...

KURTZ: He did?

HAM: …focused on—he said that.

HUFFINGTON: I don't know where you get that from.

HAM: This is how focused—this is how focused on himself he is.

The idea that Moore would publicly decry the concurrent release of the iPhone as a ploy to stop Sicko's buzz sounds preposterous, particularly in a debate about the reliability of his facts. But Mary Katherine Ham didn't make it up on the spot. Instead, she was apparently duped by a fake news story on Liquid Generation in which Moore is "quoted" saying things like "I don’t see how Steve Jobs can call himself a 'liberal' and then try to silence my film."

Predictably, Fake Steve Jobs had something to say about the article (though some of his commenters don't seem to be in on the joke). It's unclear whether other blogs, such as textually.org, were also aware the article was fake. (To Gelf, the fact that fake Michael Moore claims some grand conspiracy—in which Al Gore, a board member of Apple, wants Sicko nixed to keep the spotlight on global warming—makes it pretty obvious that the article was satire.)

In response to Gelf's inquiry, Ham writes in an email, "There's a correction in my column, set for publication tonight at midnight or early tomorrow morning. It was totally unintentional and careless of me, and I never meant to fudge the facts on Moore while talking about fudging the facts. The irony is not lost on me, and I regret the misrepresentation of Moore." (Update: Here's a link to Ham's column.)

CNN doesn't seem to have offered a correction for Ham's claim (a CNN spokeswoman hasn't immediately responded to Gelf's inquiry; we'll update this post if the network does). Maybe, in response to CNN's latest Gupta-Moore missive, Moore can just tack it on as a PS request in his next open letter to the network.

Update: A CNN spokesperson emails Gelf, "CNN obviously didn’t know that the guest’s comment was based upon a satire, and we’ll absolutely correct it in the next show.”

Related in Gelf:

How 'Sicko' will influence the election

Does Google News Have a Sense of Humor?

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