January 17, 2020

Michael Moore

Filmmaker Michael Moore discusses the 2020 presidential race. Moore, who correctly predicted Trump’s win in 2016, now says the Democrat could win the popular vote by an even greater margin and still lose. Moore explains why he supports Sanders over Warren, and addresses the candidates’ recent falling out. He discusses the Senate impeachment trial and his public apology to Iran’s ayatollah.

Read Full Transcript EXPAND

He’s the filmmaker famous for taking on the establishment and presidents this week on ‘Firing Line.’

I am here to make a citizen’s arrest.

Not exactly known for shying away from an opinion…
We want our money back!

…Michael Moore has gone after the gun industry…

…the American healthcare system…
These are 9/11 rescue workers.
They just want some medical attention.

…and more than one president.

Oh, hi.

George Bush spent the rest of August at the ranch.
We live in a time…
When Moore won an Academy Award, he was booed for bringing his politics to the Oscars.

Shame on you, Mr. Bush!
Shame on you.

The Flint, Michigan, native took another contrarian position back in the summer of 2016.

I think Trump is gonna win.
I — I’m sorry.

He was right.
What does Michael Moore say now?

‘Firing Line with Margaret Hoover’ is made possible by… Additional funding is provided by… Corporate funding is provided by…
Michael Moore, welcome to ‘Firing Line.’

Thank you so much for having me here.

You’re an Academy Award-winning filmmaker, and more than that, you created a new genre of documentary films that really drove the national discourse about key issues in our country, from the Iraq War to guns to healthcare.
And you’ve now started a new podcast — ‘Rumble with Michael Moore.’


I don’t want people to forget that in 2016, early, you called who was going to win the presidential election.

Yeah, sadly.
I never wanted to be more wrong, but I live in Michigan, so I saw what was going on.
And so, I don’t know — it was four or five months before the election, I just said, ‘Donald Trump is going to be the next president, and he’s going to win by winning Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.’
And I first said this on the ‘Bill Maher Show,’ and I was booed by the audience.

I’m gonna show the clip.
Here is exactly when you said it.
Let’s take a look.

I’m sorry to have to kind of be the buzzkill here so early on, but I think Trump is going to win.
I — I’m sorry.
You know what?
Boo if you want.
I am glad you’re saying it.

I don’t want to say it.

No, no.
The enemy is complacency.

So, why did you know?

‘Cause I drive on the roads of Michigan, and I saw Trump signs everywhere, and I saw no Hillary signs.
And just the way people in Michigan were so angry about the last 20 or 30 years of losing all the industrial jobs, or most of them, and… nobody in Washington was listening to them.
They didn’t so much like Trump as a person — people had a lot of problems with him — but they wanted to throw a Molotov cocktail into the system that had made their lives so difficult.

So, I don’t know if people are listening now, but you have a prediction for 2020?

Well, I can just say —
Do you have a prediction for 2020?

I don’t know if it’s so much a prediction, but, again, because I’m paying attention to where people are at, I think it’s very possible that Trump — He lost the popular vote to Hillary by 3 million votes.
I think he’ll lose the popular vote again to whoever the Democrat is by 4 million to 5 million votes and could still win the Electoral College and get four more years.

Most of the polling, if you look at Michigan right now, suggests that Trump is not going to win it again, at least at this moment.

Yes. In part because of what we did in ’18.
We really blew out the Republicans.
We removed all of them from Lansing, from the state capital.
The top four positions were all Republican a couple years ago.
Now they’re all Democrats, and they are a female governor, a black lieutenant governor, a lesbian Attorney General, and a single mom who’s the Secretary of State.
We removed — No offense, white guys, but we removed all the white men from power and replaced them with the majority of the country, which again 70% female, people of color, young adults.

So, no offense to white guys, but you’re supporting Bernie Sanders.

Yes, I’m not a self-hating white guy.
I just — I don’t want — The white men who are watching this, I know it’s feeling like the women are taking over.
You know, it’s — it’s okay, guys.
It’s okay.
We’re gonna be okay.
Women like us. Mostly.

But you’re supporting Bernie Sanders.

Yes, I am.

In 2016, you had this theory that was the last stand of the angry white man.
And it’s one of the reasons that you thought that Trump would win.
And you wrote, from the perspective of an angry white man that… How much of a sense do you have that this is still at play?

I think it’s very much at play.
I think especially guys — guys I grew up with are like, ‘Geez.
You know, we’ve held this power for 200-plus years.
How is it that, on our watch, that this could happen?’
And I think it frightens people, and they shouldn’t be frightened.
You know, it’s — it’s — The country will be a better place with more women in charge, with more women running things.
It’s just — It’s — Look around the world in those countries where women have more power, both political power, corporate power, all kinds of power — things are just a little bit better.
They’re a little kinder.

There was a feud that erupted this last week between Bernie supporters and Warren supporters around this question of whether a woman could be elected in 2020.


And there is some disagreement between the candidates about who said what.
So what did you think about this feud between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders this week?

It was very sad.
And, again, I know her, and I’ve had her in my films, and I — I — I’ve always loved her.
And so I’m just — The focus has to be about Trump.
It has to be about the system that gave us Trump, to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.
And the fact that we would be talking about this — And I’ve known Bernie since the ’80s.
So there’s no way he said anything like the way it’s been reported.
I mean, to be honest, the night that that happened, my first thought was, ‘They will mark this day, January 13th, as the day Donald Trump was re-elected.’
Because once again, the Democrats, the liberals, the left couldn’t get it together, couldn’t figure out — Instead of — So happy to get right in there and fight each other like this.
And I’m like, ‘When are we ever going to learn?’
This is on us.
This is not on the Russians.
It’s not on the Republicans.
It’s on the Democratic Party for not getting its act together and not using its head.

You know Elizabeth Warren well.
She’s been in your films.
I mean, you all have sung from the same song sheet for years, as well.
Why do you support Bernie over her?

Because Bernie has been the same consistent fighter for equal rights, against war, civil rights since the 1960s.

And has she not been consistent?

No. Well, no, she’s been a Republican.
I mean, she’s talked about this.
So, she was a Republican to 1996.

So that’s the hit against her?
That’s why you don’t support her now?

No, no, no. But you said that she hasn’t — No, she hasn’t been consistent since the time she was young.
She was a young conservative Republican, which I don’t hold that against her.
Hillary ran the Republican…
Goldwater Girl.

Yeah, she was a Goldwater Girl.
So, no, you have to be — You know, I can — I — I’ll tell you the truth — I actually, as a freshman in high school, went door-to-door for Nixon because he was gonna end the Vietnam War.
I was so anti-war, there was no way Humphrey, he could be elected.
And so, I didn’t like Nixon, but I thought, ‘Well, he has said publicly he has a plan to end the war within six months.
Good enough for me.’

But why Bernie, not Warren?

You know what I think they should do?
I think they should they should go back into a room and talk again — ’cause they are friends.
And they should agree, whoever wins the most delegates by the end of the primaries is going to be the candidate, and the other one gives their delegates to that person, and then one is the presidential candidate who has the most delegates and the other is the vice presidential candidate.

Let me ask about the Electoral College.


I’ve heard you say you’re for eliminating it.

Absolutely, yes.

So, help me understand then, if we got rid of the Electoral College, how would we be paying any attention to Michigan, Pennsylvania, or Wisconsin right now?

What you’re saying is that if we didn’t have the Electoral College, we would just be — Americans are so selfish, they’re only going to consider what’s good for New York and L.A. and Seattle.

Or if I’m a candidate, I’m gonna go campaign in the population centers in order to get the most votes.

Right now, they don’t go ever campaign in California or New York, and they never get a visit.
That is just wrong.
It’s just — It’s just not —
Well, that’s not true.
Every single candidate comes through New York City every week and twice on Sunday.

Well, because it’s the media capital.
And it’s the money capital, so they come here to get money.

And they go to Silicon Valley for money, and they go to L.A.

They don’t go to Schenectady.
They don’t go to Schenectady.

That’s true.

And they don’t go to Grass Valley, California, so…
I guess the point I’m making, though, is, doesn’t the Electoral College, because it forces us to reckon with less-represented parts of the country…
That was not the reason it was set up.

But it’s one of the effects now, I agree.

Slave states, so they could count their slaves as 3/5 of a human so they could get larger congressional representation.

We have a storied past.

You know this.

But the effect of it now is that it’s causing us to focus on voters that might otherwise easily be forgotten.

Yeah. Well, I can say, from my end of the political spectrum, we don’t forget people.
We’re actually about remembering the people that are forgotten and fighting for them.

Well, Hillary didn’t even go to Wisconsin.

Well, I don’t consider her when I say ‘my side of the fence.’
I don’t — I mean —
She was the Democratic nominee!

I wrote in my book once…
And you voted for her.

…that Bill Clinton was the best Republican president we had since Abraham Lincoln.

That still doesn’t answer my question about the Electoral College.

Which is — What’s the question?
The question is, ‘Should I get rid of it?’
Yes. I would get rid of it.

But if you got rid of it, I mean, doesn’t it serve a purpose now in forcing us to reckon with voters who are forgotten and left behind?

Who are these forgotten voters?

The white working-class voters that you predicted would vote for Trump.


That Hillary and the Democratic Party forgot about.

Okay. But people —
And I know you don’t claim that part of the Democratic Party, but there is systemically — Isn’t the Electoral College serving a purpose?

Listen, I watch the show, so I know you know that the real forgotten people in this country, the people that don’t — still have the power, that don’t have the voice — women, people of color, young people.
These are the forgotten people.
These are the people who are struggling.
On $7.25 an hour?
You know?
Whenever they say ‘working-class,’ you always think of that white, working-class lunch-bucket guy, but the average working-class person now is female.
The average person…
But it’s regional, and it depends on what part of the country you’re in.

And African-American and Latino.
These are the forgotten people.
And, you know, what if some white people —
It’s not just forgotten people.
I mean, South Carolina — People go to South Carolina, where the African-American population gets a say early in the electoral process.
We’re gonna agree to disagree on the Electoral College.

Yeah, yeah.

I want to turn to your filmmaking.
I’d like to ask you about your documentary work, which includes 11 feature-length documentary films…
All in color.
…one for which you won an Academy Award — ‘Bowling for Columbine.’


And I’d like to read you a quote about something you said after your breakout 1989 ‘Roger & Me.’

You said, ‘No documentary is in linear, chronological order.
If you are looking for that, watch C-SPAN.’


What liberties do you take when you’re making a documentary and telling a story?
What is the difference between making a documentary and telling a story and, say, writing a column for a newspaper?
That’s a good point because I always have tried to explain that my documentaries are like an op-ed.
But you cannot write an op-ed for and have things in there that are wrong.
You can’t have facts in your op-ed that are not correct.
They will fact-check that.
So I make these op-ed films where I’m presenting the facts as they are, but then my opinion — The facts are right.
My opinion may not be right.
I think it’s right ’cause it’s my opinion, but I may not be right.

You have to admit there are people who have disputed many of the — the facts in your documentaries.

Well, people don’t like the facts, and so then they dispute them.

The fact that the CIA trained Osama bin Laden, for example.
That was fact-checked.

Yeah, the CIA —
No, the CIA funded the Mujahideen, but they didn’t train Osama bin Laden.
Big difference.

Well, he was one of the leaders of it.
And you can’t get around that by saying, ‘We gave money to the Mujahideen,’ which he’s a part of and one of the leaders of, and say, ‘Oh, no, we had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden.’

Well, I don’t know.
The fact-checkers came back and said that was a stretch.

He’s an unintended consequence of the fact that —
That’s closer.
That’s closer to fact.

Before you assassinate the top general of a country, you should pause and think about the unintended consequences of that.
Before you invade Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11, you know, you should stop and think about that.
And the consequences of that.
And so, naturally, when I put out a film like ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ I mean, they’re gonna come at me with everything they’ve got.
But the fact of the matter is, is that people don’t want to hear that we had something to do with helping to fund the very thing that eventually gave us 9/11.

So, I think, getting back to how you choose to tell stories, I’d like to show you a clip from an original ‘Firing Line’ that aired in 1995 with William F. Buckley Jr.
and another Academy Award winner, Charlton Heston, who also appears in ‘Bowling for Columbine.’
Let’s take a look.

Okay. All right.

As ‘Le-nin’ — Lenin presciently observed in — goodness — I think it was like 1919 — very long ago.
He said, ‘The moving picture is the most powerful tool ever invented to shape the mind of man.’
Very smart fella.

From which you — Well, not all that smart.
[ Both laugh ] From which you conclude what?

From which I conclude that it can be dangerous.
People believe somehow what they see in the moving image, in a curious way, often more than what religious clerics and even politicians tell them.
If they see it in a movie, it somehow is true.

Is the moving image the most powerful tool invented to shape man’s ideas?

I don’t know about that, but I think if you’ve seen ‘Police Academy 3,’ you know the dangerous impact a movie like that can have on our young people when they watch things like that or ‘Transformers’ or whatever.
Well, I mean, I’m being facetious, but, yes.
Of course movies are powerful.

Look, editing is part of how you create a documentary, right?
Because that’s your opportunity to opine, right?
And to shape the message.


So how do you think about that editing process as a documentary filmmaker?

In the same way you’re thinking about it.
You are going to edit this conversation in order for it to tell a good story, to make sense, to cut out the this or that or whatever.
As artists, we all have the opportunity to present the story in the way that we want to present it.
And so when I present a film of mine, like, let’s say, ‘Bowling for Columbine.’
So I have these strong feelings about guns and how we should be dealing with it.

And you look into why America has such a violent culture and why we’re more violent than Canada and all this — yeah.

And even countries like Canada, who have guns — they have hunting — tons of hunting guns in Canada, and they don’t shoot each other.
And I wanted to explore, ‘Why is that?’
Because the Canadians aren’t better than us.
They’ve got the same 23 chromosomes in each of their selves that we have.
So why us?
Why do we do this?

All right.
So, can I give you an example of the editing and ask you, sir, how you made the choices?

Yeah, yeah, sure.

So let’s watch a clip from ‘Bowling for Columbine,’ which takes place in Littleton, Colorado, which is where I went to high school.
You talk about how the NRA came to Colorado 10 days after the massacre.
And let’s watch how NRA President Charlton Heston, who we just saw on ‘Firing Line,’ is portrayed.

So he shot the girl, and he shot her in the head in front of me.
And he shot the black kid because he was a black.
I have only five words for you — from my cold, dead hands.
[ Cheers and applause ]
Just 10 days after the Columbine killings, despite the pleas of a community in mourning, Charlton Heston came to Denver and held a large pro-gun rally for the National Rifle Association.

Good morning.
Thank you all for coming, and thank you for supporting your organization.

All right. So the question there is, how did you make that choice in editing?
Because the clip of Charlton Heston saying, ‘Over my cold, dead hands,’ actually came from an NRA rally a year later, in North Carolina.
So how do you —
Yeah, we begin — now we’re gonna begin the Charlton Heston section of the movie.
So, we have a generic Charlton Heston thing that we know that people know ’cause they’ve seen that ‘From my cold, dead hands’ everywhere.
So we’re gonna set up the fact that we’re now gonna go to Charlton Heston.
There’s your iconic video clip of Heston.
And then I say, ’10 days later,’ and then I show the billboard in Denver, and now I show him there 10 days later.

Do you worry that it leaves people with the impression that he said, ‘From my cold, dead hands’ 10 days later?

He always said that.
It was in every — It just wasn’t in the clip package that we could get.

Except for that he didn’t say it 10 days later in Colorado, and it leaves you with the impression that he did.

Well, I don’t think so.
I think it — Because that part of him at the convention is after that.
That part, that — It’s hard to explain this if you don’t —
So you don’t think that it leaves people with the impression that he said that in Colorado 10 days after the Columbine shooting?

It leaves people with the impression that Charlton Heston believed very strongly in the Second Amendment and so strongly that — that he would always say this ‘From my cold, dead hands.’

I guess the question that I have for you is, you know, what about people who aren’t familiar with Charlton Heston?
What about people who didn’t know he always said that and they were left with the impression —
That’d be like somebody who didn’t know who Santa Claus was.

That’s not true.

You know, it’d be like, all of a sudden, if I showed some footage of Santa going, ‘Ho ho ho!’ and he’s on the sleigh, and then you say, ‘Well, you know, you went from there, him on the sleigh, but then, the next sleigh he was on was in Idaho.
And, you know, people are gonna be confused ’cause they’re gonna think, on that other sleigh, when he was actually in Oregon…’
I really disagree.

You’re trying to split a hair on this.

I disagree, because here’s why.
So many people watch that film, it won an Academy Award, and they were familiarizing themselves with the issues and the details of Columbine.

They may not have known that he said that.
Frankly, I grew up in a Republican family, was a member of the NRA when I was 12 and I’d never seen him say that.

You never heard Charlton Heston say, ‘From my cold, dead hands’? That was his slogan.

I hadn’t.

What would be wrong in that is if I showed him holding up that gun and then dubbed in from — you know, so you didn’t see his lips moving, ‘I love this gun so much, I sleep with it every night.’
You know, obviously, that would be wrong.

So you’re saying he said it, and it doesn’t matter that you said —
He said it all the time.
The bad thing would be is if you put something in there that he didn’t say.
That’s what he said all the time.

You made some headlines recently because you tweeted an apology to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei for the U.S. strike against General Qasem Soleimani.


You wrote, ‘I deeply regret –‘ This is according to Google translation, because you wrote it in Farsi.
‘I deeply regret the violence on behalf of a man that most Americans never voted for.
Avoid power.
Sincere man, Michael Moore, American citizen.’
Why did you feel the need to apologize to Ayatollah Khamenei?

Because I do not want the assassination of a human being done in my name with my tax dollars.
I want them to know in Iran that we Americans do not do that.
We are not at war with Iran.
We have made life so miserable for the Iranian people since 1953 when our CIA and the British MI6 overthrew and helped to stage the coup that removed the democratically elected prime minister of Iran.
We are not a good player here.
And they have every right to be upset.
That doesn’t justify anything the Ayatollah’s done.
I have friends — I have film– I have a filmmaker friend who’s under house arrest.

And he’s probably lucky to be under house arrest and not actually in jail.

Yeah, only because I and other members of the Academy here, in this country, have organized support around him is he probably not in — That’s why he’s not in prison.
No, no. This is — Iran, just like a whole lot of other countries, do not do well by their people.

It’s not that you think that Ayatollah Khamenei is a good leader or is just to his citizens or was democratically elected himself, or…
No. They do have democratic elections.
They do have a — Well, no, now you gave a look like, ‘Oh, no, come on.’
They do. They do have democratic elections.
They have opposition parties.
The year I was born —
The ayatollah’s not elected, though.

The — the year — And neither is Trump.

But Trump came to power through a constitutional process that we’ve all agreed upon, which is different from Ayatollah Khamenei.

I never agreed to this provision in the Constitution.
I’m against it, and I will work to get rid of it.

Okay. One of the things you also said to the ayatollah, ‘I want you not to respond violently but to act bravely instead.
We will take care of this in the Senate or at the ballot box nonviolently.’
In other words, ‘We’ll take care of Trump.
Don’t worry about Trump.
We’ll take care of it in the Senate.
The Senate’s impeachment trial is about to start with.


We have learned that it will begin next Tuesday.


Do you believe there is a chance that Trump could be convicted by the Senate?
That we will take care of it in the Senate?

Weirdly enough, I am that kind of optimist that believes that, of the 53 Republicans, Trump can keep the majority — 33 of them — in support of him.
I believe that there are 20 Republicans who could possibly vote to remove him.
That could happen.
It could.
There’s a sliver of a chance if the John Bolton testimony shows people what else is there besides the Ukrainian phone call.

And we don’t know if he’ll be allowed to testify.
I want to end on one fun thing.
I should mention something that surprised me when I was watching another PBS program by Henry Louis Gates Jr.


Skip Gates, who interviewed you and conducted thorough study of your genealogy.
And what he discovered, Michael Moore, was that… Let’s take a look at what he discovered.

We’ve been told that we’re 100% Irish.

I understand that.
I started with Michael Moore.
Moving back on his paternal line, we came to Susanna and Henry Hoover.
They’re Michael’s third-great grandparents.
We found them in Indiana in 1810 listed in the minutes of a group known as the Whitewater Friends.

Henry Hoover, as it turns out, is related to my great-grandfather Herbert Hoover.
Now we’re no serious genealogists at ‘Firing Line,’ but it appears that you and I are sixth cousins once removed.

Yes. So now people right now at home are trying to adjust their screen ’cause they’re trying to figure out what happened here.
I know. Let me just say, obviously your branch of the family ended up okay.
Ours was — There was probably too much moonshine.

Well, they’re all Quakers.
I don’t know if any of them drink.

Actually, that’s true.
Yes, that’s the part of our past is that we, our ancestors are Quakers.

They were pacifists.


They were abolitionists.

They were abolitionists.
And when he told me I was related to one of the 45 presidents, I was, like, thinking, ‘Oh. You know, Kennedy or, hey, maybe Obama.’
You know, he’s got the Irish wing.

So here’s what you tweeted when you found out it was Herbert Hoover. You said…
Okay. I will say this, that since I wrote that tweet, I’ve done a little more research on my fourth cousin, President Hoover, and —
What have you learned about Herbert Hoover?

I’ve learned that he was — Let’s just say he was the — maybe the right guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Well, when it comes to the Great Depression.

Yes, I’m talking about the Great Depression, because there were so many other things about him — And I was talking to you before the show, and you really know the history of our family.

The great humanitarian who kept 1/3 of Europe’s population alive between 1914 and 1923.


This is an extraordinary story of somebody who pioneered international humanitarian food relief.

Here’s my question to you.
How come I haven’t been invited to any of the reunions?

You’re coming now.
You’re coming now.
I’m gonna make all sorts of relatives turn over in their graves.

Yes. It’s something.
At least next Thanksgiving.
It should be a very interesting Thanksgiving between us Hoovers.

That would be fantastic.
I hope you’ll come back, Michael Moore.

No, thank you.
And it’s an honor to be on this show.
I watched as a kid when Buckley was the host, and I — I always thought it was important to hear the other side.

Michael Moore, thank you.

Thank you so much.
Thank you.

‘Firing Line with Margaret Hoover’ is made possible by… Additional funding is provided by… Corporate funding is provided by…
You’re watching PBS.