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Michael Moore Battles Buzzfeed Over Palestinian Director's Airport Incident | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Media, politics and culture.

Michael Moore Battles Buzzfeed Over Palestinian Director's Airport Incident

[See Updates at end of post.]

Last week, you may have read, film director Michael Moore revealed a disturbing incident at the Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, as it’s commonly known: The Palestinian co-director of the great Oscar-nominated documentary, 5 Broken Cameras, had been detained for quite awhile, seemingly racially profiled by agents who could not believe Emad Burnat and his wife and son (all Muslims) were in town for the Oscar show.

Moore tried to help him get released, after Burnat texted him that they were being threatened with deportation. Moore wrote about it via Twitter and at his web site.

Yesterday, increasingly popular Buzzfeed published a report by Tessa Stuart suggesting that the whole affair was nothing but a “publicity stunt” for the movie and that the director was held for just twenty-five minutes in a very SOP. A source called Moore’s account of the episode “baloney.” This was based mainly, or exclusively, on just one unnamed source in the Homeland Security apparatus. She said she had tried and failed to reach Moore.

Last night, Moore fired back on Twitter: “Tessa Stuart of Buzzfeed has lied about the Palestinian filmmaker detained at LAX and I can prove it. Tessa, I’ll give u an hr to correct.” And: “Feel bad for you, being snookered by Homeland Security. Re-read your story and look for the clue of how u got used.

Stuart posted Moore’s tweets at the end of her story but that was it.

Moore, after getting no correction, then tweeted: “Time’s up. Buzzfeed today tried to raise doubts that Oscar nominee, Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat wasn’t really detained at LAX on Tues…. Buzzfeed quotes a ‘source’ at LAX who said that Burnat was simply asked to produce his ticket to the Oscars and when he ‘couldn’t’ he was…moved ‘to a secondary inspection area where he (Burnat) found his ticket’ to the Oscars & was then ‘immediately allowed’ into the US…

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“Well, there’s just one little problem with this story—and if Buzzfeed had bothered to ask any of the 6,000 Academy members… You see, Buzzfeed, there was no way for Emad Burnat to show Customs an Oscar ticket on Tuesday because there were no Oscar tickets on Tues!…. So that’s just an outright lie. Completely fabricated and easy to disprove with 1 call to the Academy. But why do that?…

“When the intent of your ‘story’ was to cast doubt on this Palestinian who was being threatened with deportation last Tuesday night at LAX…”

Stuart replied to Moore on Twitter: “Please help me tell both sides. I’ve called and emailed the director, called 2 of your agents, emailed & tweeted to you for comment.” Later she added at the bottom of her story: “Having now received Moore’s response to the story via Twitter, the accuracy of the TSA’s account seems to hinge on the characterization of the document being searched for as a ‘ticket.’ BuzzFeed has now asked our TSA source to clarify and will update the story as soon as that we receive more information.”

But nothing more appeared from Buzzfeed last night or so far this morning.

Moore commented further: “Buzzfeed went w/this story b4 finding out the facts or talking 2 me. ‘We tried to’ is lame and shoddy. I was on a plane all day fr LA to NY. …One lousy unnamed source at Homeland Security (apparently unnamed because, um, the Oscars are a national security threat?) fed BF some BS….As 4 the Palestinians, I guess its always open season 2 F w/them. At the airport or the internet, make sure 2 humiliate them @ every chance…P.S. An Academy official just emailed me: ‘Absolutely no one had physical possession of an Oscar ticket on Tuesday.’ Not Clooney, not Burnat.”

UPDATE, 10:20 am: Buzzfeed just added this “correction”: “An earlier version of this article referred in its deck and first sentence to ‘source’ at LAX; in fact, as the body of the story made clear, the criticism of Moore’s account came from a single airport official.” They also took “publicity stunt” out of its headline but left “baloney” in the deck.

UPDATE 11:00 p.m.    Buzzfeed has a new piece--and Moore a fresh response to that.  And here's an Atlantic Wire piece that includes the detained director's account.

In other Oscar news, Rick Perlstein disputes the contention that this year’s awards ceremony was really all that political.

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