ABC's Cuomo Grovels Before Offended Michael Moore: ‘Look, I Like the Stunt'

On Tuesday’s "Good Morning America," Chris Cuomo conducted part one of a mostly softball interview with "Sicko" filmmaker Michael Moore. (Another segment will air on Wednesday.) But despite a flowery introduction where the GMA anchor asserted "[Moore’s] critics are struggling to fight his basic premise that America's health care system is in trouble," Cuomo still found himself backpedaling after labeling the liberal filmmaker’s Cuba trip a stunt. The ABC host, son of Mario Cuomo, quickly exclaimed, "Look, I like your stunt."

The stunt in question, Moore’s escorting of 9/11 Ground Zero workers to Cuba for treatment, resulted in this retort from the director:

Michael Moore: "Well, I’m making a point. I'm using satire to make a larger point, politically and socially, and you want to call it a stunt. It's certainly no different than what you would do on ‘Good Morning America’ on any given day, except you wouldn't actually confront the government in the way that I would do it."

This led to a back and forth that culminated with Cuomo announcing, "Look, I like the stunt. I think it raises the provocative question. But that's not journalism. This film is not journalism."

During a tease for the segment, which would ultimately air at 7:31am, co-host Robin Roberts foreshadowed the easygoing tone that her colleague would take. After describing Moore’s health care movie as a "call to action," she turned to Cuomo and enthused, "Can’t wait to see that."

Cuomo, who is also the brother of New York’s Democratic Attorney General, opened the segment by helpfully stating that Moore isn’t "just taking a shot, he’s got a solution.":

Chris Cuomo: But first, we have Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore this morning. He’s back and this time he has health care in his sights. The film is ‘Sicko.’ it opens June 29. And it’s interesting to note, his critics are struggling to fight his basic premise that America's health care system is in trouble. But Mr. Moore says he’s not just taking a shot, he’s got a solution, one he found by comparing our system of health care to countries around the world."

To be fair, the ABC anchor did offer a few tough questions. Early on in the segment, he inquired as to whether Moore was creating too rosy a picture of the health care systems in other nations:

Cuomo: "I mean, they have huge tax burdens. Do you think you pay too little attention to that in your film?"

Moore: "No. I think that the news media in this country has done a very good job of pointing out all the flaws."

However, he followed that up by showing a clip of the filmmaker’s documentary. Cuomo introduced the snippet by gushing over how "powerful" some of Moore’s examples were.

The most contentious moment came when, as previously mentioned, the GMA anchor mildly questioned whether or not the Cuba trip was a stunt. After Moore sniffed that his boat trip was something that "Good Morning America" would never try, this exchange followed:

Cuomo: "In a boat, with a megaphone? No, I wouldn’t do that."

Moore: "I think you should be going down into Guantanamo Bay and asking those questions. Why is it that the al Qaeda detainees get better health care than the people who tried to rescue people on 9/11? Is that a legitimate question to ask?"

Cuomo: "Absolutely a legitimate question to ask."

Moore: "And where should we ask that question?"

Cuomo: "You would try to get to the highest level of authority in charge of that decision as you could. What you did was a stunt."

Now, at the same time that Cuomo criticized Moore for not being a journalist, he also lauded the movie’s stunt. Compare this to the GMA host’s attack on immigration hawk Tom Tancredo. Cuomo slammed the conservative for using "scary" words and spreading "anti immigrant sentiment." Certainly, the ABC anchor conducted a much tougher interview.

Cuomo even closed the piece with an attack from the left. He asked Moore, "But why aren't the voters to blame, the people to blame for the situation to the extent they don’t like it?"

A transcript of the June 12 segment follows:

7am tease

Robin Roberts: "And, bitter pill. Michael Moore sinks his teeth into America’s health care industry, asking, ‘Are alleged terrorists getting better health care than you are?’ He says his new film is a call to action. We’ll hear why this morning. [To Chris Cuomo] Can’t wait to see that."

7:20 tease

Chris Cuomo: "Coming up after the break, ‘Sicko.’ Michael Moore. That’s the name of his film. It’s controversial. It’s about health care. We’ll be talking to him and get a sense of its fact or fiction."

7:31am

Chris Cuomo: But first, we have Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore this morning. He’s back and this time he has health care in his sights. The film is ‘Sicko.’ it opens June 29. And its interesting to note, his critics are struggling to fight his basic premise that America's health care system is in trouble. But Mr. Moore says he’s not just taking a shot, he’s got a solution, one he found by comparing our system of health care to countries around the world. What is the state of health care in America as you see it?"

ABC Graphic: "Taking on Healthcare in America Is Moore’s ‘Sicko’ For Real?"

Michael Moore: "It's a system that essentially is run by greed. Insurance, by and large is a racket because it’s based on playing the numbers. The only way the insurance companies can make huge profits is to not pay out claims to people who get sick. It's not so much about the number of people or how much money is spent. It's that in these other countries, they have a basic core belief that, if you get sick, you have a human right to see a doctor and not have to worry about paying for it. They wouldn't even question that. It doesn't matter in those countries if you're liberal or conservative or whatever. It doesn’t know any political boundary."

Cuomo: "But to be fair, those systems aren't utopian either, right?"

Moore: "Sure."

Cuomo: "I mean, they have huge tax burdens. Do you think you pay too little attention to that in your film?"

Moore: "No. I think that the news media in this country has done a very good job of pointing out all the flaws."

Cuomo: "Some of the examples you use in here are very powerful. You also have something you rarely see, an insider. Let's take a look at that."

[Clip from ‘Sicko’]

Linda Peeno: (The CARE Foundation): "I am here primarily today to make a public confession. In the spring of 1987, as a physician, I denied a man a necessary operation that would have saved his life and thus caused his death. No person and no group has held me accountable for this. Because, in fact, what I did was I saved a company a half a million dollars for this."

Cuomo: "How shocked were you to hear what that doctor said?"

Moore: "Well, I was really shocked. I mean, I think when I first saw this footage, I was very moved by it, that a doctor working at an insurance company, who was told that she would get essentially a Christmas bonus if she denied enough claims, and at some point, she couldn't live with it any longer."

Cuomo: "The showpiece of the film, at least in the media portrayal so far, has been your trip to Cuba. You took some 9/11 heroes down there to get health care. Why did you decide to bring people to Cuba?"

Moore: "I didn’t. I decided to bring them to our naval base at Guantanamo Bay, because I found out that the al Qaeda detainees in Guantanamo have completely free medical, dental, eye care. They have nutrition counseling. They have teeth cleanings. They have all this free universal health care and here we have these 9/11 rescue workers in New York City who have these incredible, now, respiratory diseases as a result of working at Ground Zero for months and, and many of them with no health care, nobody helping them."

Cuomo: "Did you think they were going to let you in with a boatful of people and a megaphone?"

Moore: "Yes, I did. I honestly, I thought they'd call my bluff and help these 9/11 rescue workers."

Cuomo: "Fair criticism to say that’s a stunt? Michael Moore is doing a stunt."

Moore: "Well, I’m making a point. I'm using satire to make a larger point, politically and socially, and you want to call it a stunt. It's certainly no different than what you would do on ‘Good Morning America’ on any given day, except you wouldn't actually confront the government in the way that I would do it."

Cuomo: "In a boat, with a megaphone? No, I wouldn’t do that."

Moore: "I think you should be going down into Guantanamo Bay and asking those questions. Why is it that the al Qaeda detainees get better health care than the people who tried to rescue people on 9/11? Is that a legitimate question to ask?"

Cuomo: "Absolutely a legitimate question to ask."

Moore: "And where should we ask that question?"

Cuomo: "You would try to get to the highest level of authority in charge of that decision as you could. What you did was a stunt."

Moore: "And if they won’t talk to you?"

Cuomo: " Look, I like the stunt. I think it raises the provocative question. But that's not journalism. This film is not journalism."

Moore: "I think it is journalism."

Cuomo: "But you expose yourself to the criticism. You do."

Moore: "To what criticism?

Cuomo: "People saying this is one-sided. He doesn’t even have the insurance companies in there."

Moore: "Well, I didn't want anybody to think the problem was one insurance company. If I knocked on the door of Aetna or went and knocked on the door of Pfizer, it would take you away from the larger point I’m trying to make, which is the actual system itself that has to be upended."

Cuomo: "When you went down to Guantanamo Bay, you come back, the government finds out about it. Where are we with all of that right now?"

Moore: "They're investigating me for bringing these 9/11 rescue workers down there for, to get some help. A serious concern for the last couple weeks has been are they going to attempt to confiscate the negative of this film because essentially, in their words, it violates the trade embargo."

Cuomo: "True that you hid a master of the movie?"

Moore: "Yes. We, we took a master copy of the movie out of the country, immediately, the day that we were informed of this investigation."

Cuomo: "Obviously, you blame the companies. They're all about greed. You don't like what they do. But why aren't the voters to blame, the people to blame for the situation to the extent they don’t like it?"

Moore: "Well, that is what's different with this film from my other films, is that instead of Mike going up to the chairman of General Motors or Mike going to Capitol Hill to, you know, confront a Congressman or the President of the United States. In this film I'm essentially asking the audience to do it."

Cuomo: "And he’s also upping his own personal responsibility. Michael says he's going to get in shape to help lower his own health care cost for the rest of us. We’re going to have much more with him tomorrow on GMA, including his controversial views on the war an the media's coverage of it. ‘Sicko’ opens on Friday, June 29. And that’s all we have on that for right now."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org