Moore blamed a reporter at Fox News for trying to “stir up the pot” in Newtown, Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were murdered by killer Adam Lanza on 14 December last year, in a massacre that reignited debate over American gun control laws. The director spoke to the Hollywood Reporter after parents of several murdered children launched a petition on the Change.org platform berating “Michael Moore and the hoaxers” for wanting “to publish this gruesome information” and calling on Connecticut legislators to pass a new law banning publication of photos from the crime scene.
The parents’ move emerged after Moore wrote a blog for the Huffington Post in which he suggested that the release of photographs might help shift public opinion in favour of gun control, just as historic evidence of racist killings helped change Americans’ views in the 1950s. But the Bowling For Columbine film-maker denied suggestions he was advocating such a development.
“I never said that I was going to release any photos, nor do I have any intention to. And frankly, I’m opposed to anybody releasing any photos without the parents’ permission,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “In this day of internet and social media … I was just saying that that’s what will happen, and I ask that Americans not turn away from it. And the example I gave was how Emmett Till’s mother, back in 1955 when he was tortured and then killed by the Ku Klux Klan, released the photos of his body to show what the Klan had done to him. It ignited the country and four months later, Rosa Parks sat down on the bus.
“It had a cause and effect when a mother chose to do that. But that’s the only way that should be done – when the parent decides whatever they want to do to let people know just what happens to a child when 11 bullets from a high-powered rifle at close range are fired into their bodies.”
Moore added that he blamed Fox News, the rightwing US TV network, for turning parents against him. “Fox News got one person up in Newtown to go on the record, and that person, with Fox News, tried to stir the pot and create a news story that didn’t exist,” he said. “It’s sick. My guess is that somebody up there at some point decided that they could get away with doing this.”
The film-maker pointed to his 2002 film Bowling for Columbine, which examines the US’s lack of gun control legislation in the light of the 1999 massacre at Columbine high school near Denver, Colorado, as evidence that he would never publish gruesome photographs or footage of killings without parents’ permission. “There’s probably no better proof than [the fact that] I obtained not just photos but the footage of Columbine,” he said. “And I didn’t put that in my movie.”
The Change.org petition reads: “We are parents and family members who lost children in the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school in December 2012. We’re coming together to urge the Connecticut legislature to pass a law that would keep sensitive information, including photos and audio, about this tragic day private and out of the hands of people who’d like to misuse it for political gain.
“Michael Moore and the hoaxers want to publish this gruesome information. For the sake of the surviving children and families, it’s important to keep this information private. Other gruesome scenes have been kept private … This crime has received such international attention, it should be afforded the same treatment.”