Moore slams Disney over film block
(CNN) -- Oscar-winning filmmaker Michael Moore has accused the Walt Disney Company of stifling free speech by blocking the distribution of his new movie critical of U.S. President George W. Bush.
Moore told CNN on Thursday that Disney had said they did not want to upset the Bush family because of the risk of jeopardizing "tens of millions of dollars" in tax incentives.
The New York Times reported that Disney executives denied the allegation. One unnamed executive told the paper it did not want to be seen taking sides in the forthcoming U.S. election and risk alienating customers of different political views.
"We just chose not to be involved," Walt Disney CEO Michael Eisner said.
When asked if Disney would change their stand on the blocking of the distribution, Eisner replied: "We've made our position very clear on that."
A statement from Disney subsidiary Miramax -- which was to distribute the film in the U.S. -- said it was discussing the issue with Disney.
Moore said media companies such as Disney must allow all voices to be heard.
"We live in a free and open society where dissent is not to be stifled or silenced. They have violated that trust," he said.
"We have only got a few studios left and if we get to a point where they can decide that only these voices can be heard, how free and open is our society at that point?" (Transcript)
The documentary maker said he hoped to find a new distributor so the film, entitled "Fahrenheit 9/11," could be released in the United States this year.
"The good news is that internationally we already have distributors in much of the world. So it will be seen outside of America for sure some time this year," Moore told CNN.
"But I hope it doesn't happen where an American film maker makes a film about America and it can't be seen in America.
"What is the message to the rest of the world then? It's not a good message so I'm hopeful we'll shortly have an American distributor.
"One good thing about Americans regardless of their political stripe is that they don't like to be told they can't see something -- that's what Disney has said. And I'm pretty confident we'll prevail here."
The film -- which links Bush with powerful Saudi families, including that of Osama bin Laden -- is set to debut at the Cannes Film Festival in France later this month.
In a written statement, Disney said it had advised Miramax and Moore's agents that Miramax would not be the distributor of Moore's film.
"Moore has had and continues to have every opportunity to either find another distributor or distribute the film himself," Disney spokesperson Zenia Mucha said in the statement.
The Disney edict could herald the bloodiest political battle yet between Miramax's feisty co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and Disney's Eisner, who oversaw the purchase of Miramax a decade ago, the entertainment trade paper Daily Variety said.
Moore won an Oscar for best documentary feature at last year's Academy Awards for his film "Bowling for Columbine." His acceptance speech, in which he lit into Bush, the 2000 election and the Iraq war, earned applause as well as boos.
CNN/Money contributed to this report.