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Michael Moore takes on CNN's Sanjay Gupta
rediff Entertainment Bureau | July 11, 2007 20:02 IST
It started earlier this week, when CNN's Wolf Blitzer, who hosts the hour-long show Situation Room, turned the spotlight on Sicko, the recently-released Michael Moore documentary that takes a harsh, uncompromising look at America's healthcare industry.
In what an increasingly agitated blogosphere calls an attempt by Blitzer to sandbag the filmmaker, the host opened the segment with a previous prepared piece in which Dr Gupta used certain facts and figures to demolish the film.
Moore was introduced immediately after the segment; clearly enraged by the segment, he rubbished Dr Gupta's arguments, criticised CNN for airing what he called a premeditated hatchet job, and segued into a scathing indictment of the channel and of Blitzer himself.
'Why don't you for once tell America the truth?' Moore demanded at one point. He said, further, that he would post point by point refutations of Dr Gupta's criticisms on his web site.
A day later, the promised refutation was up, and it was extremely detailed; it ended with a demand that CNN apologise for suggesting that Moore had fudged his facts.
Two days later, Dr Gupta and Moore squared off again -- this time, on Larry King Live. Reports suggest that Moore's staff had, prior to the live interaction, provided Dr Gupta with detailed facts, figures and sources substantiating all the points made in the movie, and that Dr Gupta went ahead and trashed those figures anyway, with little or no basis.
Dr Gupta disputes that; he suggests that there was no pre-debate briefing.
Though the live debate degenerated at times into a shouting, slanging match, Dr Gupta reiterated that he personally admired the film and agreed with the basic premise -- that America's health care system is flawed, and needed to be fixed.
'I thought it was a good movie, and I wanted to say that,' Moore tells Dr Gupta on Larry King Live. 'I think it strikes at the irrefutable fact -- it's broken. We get it.' He then goes on to praise the filmmaker for raising awareness of the issue.
The key point of disagreement, during the debate, revolved around Moore's contention, in the movie, that other developed nations such as France [Images] and Canada [Images] have universal health care, and that such health care is largely free, while Americans pay exorbitant sums to underwrite their health care needs.
Dr Gupta said while patients may not pay for services at the doctor's office, they pay high taxes to fund such a system.
Moore in response pointed out that though Americans do not pay taxes to fund a health care system, they end up paying out more by way of copays, deductibles and insurance premiums.
He then asked Dr Gupta if the current system, which requires him to receive approval from an insurance company before performing some procedures, is cumbersome.
'It's a shameful system, especially when I'm dealing with some of my patients,' Dr Gupta said in response.
The film was released in France on May 19, in Canada on June 8 and in the US on June 24; it has been doing impressive business.
Released in the US on one screen on June 24, it has since spread to 441 screens across the country and as of July 1 (the last date for which authentic trade figures are available), it has done $4.5 million worth of business in the US alone.