LOS ANGELES (May 11, 2007) — Filmmaker Michael Moore has asked the Bush administration to call off an investigation of his trip to Cuba to get treatment for ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers for a segment in his upcoming health-care expose, “Sicko.”
Moore, who made the hit documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” assailing President Bush’s handling of Sept. 11, said in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on Friday that the White House may have opened the investigation for political reasons.
“For five and a half years, the Bush administration has ignored and neglected the heroes of the 9/11 community,” Moore said in the letter, which he posted on the liberal Web site Daily Kos. “These heroic first responders have been left to fend for themselves, without coverage and without care.
“I understand why the Bush administration is coming after me — I have tried to help the very people they refuse to help, but until George W. Bush outlaws helping your fellow man, I have broken no laws and I have nothing to hide.”
The health-care industry Moore skewers in “Sicko” was a major contributor to Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign and to Republican candidates over the last four years, Moore wrote.
“I can understand why that industry’s main recipient of its contributions — President Bush — would want to harass, intimidate and potentially prevent this film from having its widest possible audience,” Moore wrote.
Treasury officials did not immediately respond on Friday to a request for comment on Moore’s letter to Paulson.
The department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control notified Moore in a letter dated May 2 that it was conducting a civil investigation for possible violations of the U.S. trade embargo restricting travel to Cuba.
Moore questioned the timing of the investigation, noting that “Sicko” premieres May 19 at the Cannes Film Festival and debuts in U.S. theaters June 19. The Bush administration knew of his plans to travel to Cuba since last October, said Moore, who went there in March with about 10 ailing workers involved in the rescue effort at the World Trade Center ruins.
OFAC’s letter to Moore noted that he had applied in October 2006 for permission as a full-time journalist to travel to Cuba, but that the agency had not made any determination on his request.
The agency gave Moore 20 business days to provide details on his Cuba trip and the names of those who accompanied him.
Moore won an Academy Award for best documentary with his 2002 gun-control film “Bowling for Columbine” and scolded Bush in his Oscar acceptance speech as the war in Iraq was just getting under way.
The investigation has given master promoter Moore another jolt of publicity just before the release of one of his films.
“Fahrenheit 9/11” premiered at Cannes in 2004 amid a public quarrel between Moore and the Walt Disney Co., which refused to let subsidiary Miramax release the film because of its political content.
Miramax bosses Harvey and Bob Weinstein ended up releasing the film on their own and later left to form the Weinstein Co., which is releasing “Sicko.”
“Fahrenheit 9/11” won the top prize at Cannes and went on to become the top-grossing documentary ever with $119 million.