CNN PEOPLE IN THE NEWS
Inside the Sniper Attacks
Aired October 26, 2002 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, a Gulf War veteran with a history of domestic disputes.
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SHERON NORMAN, MUHAMMAD'S FORMER SISTER-IN-LAW: John, he's done some things to my family. He's done some things to my family.
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ANNOUNCER: A 17-year-old Jamaican immigrant with a sketchy past.
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CHIEF RANDY CAROL, BELLINGHAM, WASHINGTON POLICE: He had arrived at Bellingham High School without transcripts or without documents.
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ANNOUNCER: Suspects in the sniper attacks that held the Washington area hostage. Who are these two men now in custody and what key pieces of evidence led investigators to track them down?
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UNIDENTIFIED POLICE OFFICER: He said that you may want to check on a case that happened in Montgomery, Alabama.
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ANNOUNCER: Also, lives lost and loved ones left behind. Families shattered by a single sniper bullet. Those stories and more on a special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: INSIDE THE SNIPER ATTACKS.
AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At least one thing seemed certain about John Muhammad and the 17-year-old he traveled with, John Lee Malvo, they were nomads. Most recently, they were here, living for a time it appears in this condominium complex in Clinton, Maryland, just south of Washington. One of John Muhammad's ex-wives, Mildred, is listed as the owner of the two-story townhouse. The neighbors say she had no car. She and her three children always used public transportation. Then, a couple of months ago, neighbors say, a Chevy Caprice showed up in this parking space, and so did John Muhammad, to walk his dogs. VINCENT LAWRENCE, NEIGHBOR: We were just walking the dogs along the path. I walk them two or three times a day and he happened to be standing over here. And he commented on the dogs and we just spoke about the dogs and the weather. And that's about it.
BROWN: There are more addresses, many more, a nation's worth. The Caprice, for instance, is registered to an address here in Camden, New Jersey, registered in John Muhammad's name. But both John Muhammad and John Lee Malvo spent more time, a good deal of time, out west in Tacoma, Washington, south of Seattle. They lived in this neighborhood. And at the beginning of the year according to one neighbor, in a now-familiar story, engaged in target practice in the backyard. A fact that may have led police to dig up that tree trunk for any possible bullet fragments it might hold.
But discord followed Muhammad here as well. In the spring of 2000, his then wife, Mildred, applied for a protection order against her husband. "John came to inform me that he will not let me raise our children," she wrote. "His demeanor is such that it's a threat to me. I do not want him around. I am still fearful of him." And later she said, "I am afraid of John. He was a demolition expert in the military. He is behaving very, very irrational. Whenever he does talk with me, he always says he's going to destroy my life and I hang up the phone." And this in a call to 911 -- "He hushed his way in to the house and pushed me out of the way." As part of the protection order, this was attached, a federal firearms warrant, chilling in retrospect. Muhammad, according to the government, was in possession illegally of a rifle -- quote -- "that is one Bushmaster rifle, semiautomatic, .223 caliber."
As for Malvo, police in Bellingham, Washington, just south of the Canadian border and 90 minutes from Seattle, say he wound up there.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He arrived at Bellingham High School without transcripts or without documents. We were attempting to assist the school district in verifying where he came from and assist them in finding out his point of origin to see if we could help him obtain documents that would verify his past education.
BROWN: He briefly attended this high school, and he and Muhammad spent nights at this homeless shelter in Bellingham.
UNIDENTIFIED CLASSMATE: The kid was nice. He was a nice guy. I mean he might -- he might not be that kid, but he was a really nice guy, like he always talked a lot in class.
BROWN: Some authorities are now saying that the teenager was just posing as John Muhammad's son. Either way, the boy was taking karate lessons from him in Tacoma, where the older man had established a karate school. His business partner was Felix Strozier.
FELIX STROZIER, FORMER BUSINESS PARTNER: And I knew that they were taught to be decent people -- good hygiene, keep their hair combed, be proud, that type of thing.
BROWN: We know very little about their relationship, but we do know that prior to their arrival in Washington State, there had been still some more trouble in the past.
NORMAN: He's done some things to my family. He's done some things to my family, and I'm just hoping that this something he didn't do.
BROWN: Muhammad had another marriage, one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where he was born, and it, too, was not a happy one.
NORMAN: I have a nephew, John's son. And I just feel really, really bad for those families that lost all their family members and the way I feel because we've lost a lot of family members this year. So I know the hurt that they're going through. And it's senseless. And I'm just praying that John did not do this. I'm praying that his heart is not that cold and he's not that capitalist, that he went out and did, you know, this.
BROWN: His ex-wife, Carol, wouldn't speak for cameras, but another relative, Sheila Tazando, said he forced the teenager to live on a strange diet, honey and crackers.
SHEILA TAZANDO, MUHAMMAD'S FORMER SISTER-IN-LAW: We even went out, you know, later that night to get honey and crackers, you know, to make sure they had something to eat.
BROWN: Muhammad has led a varied life. He served in the Army in the Gulf War, but the Pentagon says he was trained as a combat engineer, as a machinist, not a sniper. He was given an administrative discharge. The Army says the kind of thing that might indicate a disciplinary problem. And long before he changed his name, friends say he became involved in causes. He helped provide security for the Million Man March in Washington in '95, according to one friend. That same friend said of Muhammad, "Any time he shook your hand, he would crush it."
STROIZER: I thought the world of him. You know, I was like, this guy, wanted to take a chance with me, and start something, you know, I'm going to make the best out of it.
BROWN: But now as he and the young Jamaican, Malvo, are in custody, those who knew them are left with two very different memories -- astonishment and hope against hope.
STROIZER: Something has happened in John's life that has created this because this is totally out of character for him.
ANNOUNCER: We now return to a special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: INSIDE THE SNIPER ATTACKS.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: September 21 -- two women are shot at a liquor store in Montgomery County, Alabama. One lives. One dies, an unreported mystery that would later help crack the case of sniper terrorist. October 2, 5:20 p.m., Montgomery County, Maryland, a bullet through a window. No one is injured, just a silver dollar sized hole above a cash register at a Michael's craft store in Aspen Hill, dismissed at first as a prank shooting. Then, less than an hour later, just a couple of miles away, James Martin, gunned down in another parking lot, dead. The next day, a shooting spree piles up more victims. Thursday, October 3, 7:41 a.m. Rockville, Maryland, a landscaper shot in the chest while cutting grass. Eight-twelve a.m., nearby Aspen Hill, a cab driver shot and killed while gassing up. Less than a half hour later, just up the road, a housekeeper from El Salvador, shot and killed while sitting on a bench, waiting for her ride to work. Nine fifty-eight a.m. at a gas station in nearby Kensington, Maryland, a young nanny is shot in the back, killed while vacuuming out her minivan.
Later that night in Washington, D.C., 9:20 p.m., a Haitian immigrant shot just below the neck while crossing the street, dead within an hour. The next day, Friday, about 50 miles away, 2:30 p.m., a 43-year-old woman shot in the back while loading packages. One of only three of 13 shot who would survive the sniper's aim. The next two days are sniper-free, but no one is free from fear.
CHIEF CHARLES MOOSE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE: We will make an effort to have much increased visibility around each and every school. But I cannot stand here and absolutely promise that there will be a police officer visibility at every school, every hour, every minute.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Monday, October 7, 8:08 a.m., a 13-year- old boy is shot in the abdomen. His aunt, a nurse, rushes him to a trauma center where he survives. After which, a chilling message found at the scene. "Mr. Policeman, I am God," written on a tarot card. Also found, the first shell casing. Local schools go to high alert, keeping kids inside, and away from the windows.
Wednesday, October 9, 8:18 p.m., Prince William County, Maryland, a man shot in the head and killed while pumping gas. The body count, now at seven dead, two wounded. Two days later, October 11, 9:30 a.m., another man shot and killed while pumping gas. Residents react, no longer lingering outside as police look for a pattern and deputize the public.
MOOSE: We want to encourage anyone with any information to call the national hot line.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Then comes what's first considered a big break. Monday, October 14, 9:15 a.m., Falls Church, Virginia, an eyewitness claims he saw who shot and killed an FBI analyst in a Home Depot parking lot. He lied -- a setback for the task force. Five days and no shootings, then, 90 miles away from his initial killing ground, he strikes again. Saturday night, October 19, Ashland, Virginia, a 37-year-old man shot in the stomach after leaving a Ponderosa steakhouse. He survives surgery. In the wounds behind the restaurant, police find a letter they believe to be from the sniper. He now wants $10 million, and threatens to hurt children. Richmond, Virginia, closes its schools. FBI profilers are scripting dialogue for Chief Charles Moose to keep the killer talking, sources say, desperate to keep him calm and avoid triggering him to kill again.
MOOSE: To the person who left us a message at the Ponderosa last night, you gave us a telephone number. We do want to talk to you. Call us at the number you provided.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: They expect a call from a Richmond pay phone and stake it out Monday morning, October 21. Two men are detained -- the wrong men, two immigrants and a white van. Police would later say they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, another setback and the next day, another murder.
Back in Aspen Hill, the initial killing grounds, a bus driver shot, just before 6:00 a.m., within and hour he's dead and the police chief puts parents on alert with the killer's threat.
MOOSE: "Your children are not safe anywhere at any time."
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: The next day, a frenzy of information, an angry killer, furious at police for missing his calls. And as part of their strategy, police are eager to placate.
QUESTION: Each and every time you've spoken, courteously, even respectfully to the sniper. Why?
MOOSE: Well, sir, you know, my parents, they've preferred if I'm a gentleman at all times.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: As it turns out, the sniper himself unwittingly gave police the clue that would break the case. An earlier warning to take him seriously and check out Montgomery, led police to look at crimes in Montgomery, Alabama, like the September 21 liquor store murder. It proved to be the lucky break they needed. Fingerprints taken from the Alabama murder were fed into a national database. Up came a match with John Lee Malvo, an illegal immigrant from Jamaica, who had lived in Bellingham, Washington, then a link with John Muhammad.
MOOSE: A federal arrest warrant has been issued for John Allen Muhammad, also known at John Allen Williams, a black male, 42 years of age, approximately 6'1", and approximately 180 pounds in weight.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Then a link with a blue Chevrolet with New Jersey tags. A nationwide alert, and a wide-awake motorist led police to the suspects, asleep in their car at a Maryland rest stop.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome back to a special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS: INSIDE THE SNIPER ATTACKS.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MICHAEL OKWU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Around Washington, it's been a collective wish for weeks to see the face, to look into the eyes of the man, the men, who could do this. For one family, it is now bitter relief, and realization there are no answers.
LARRY MEYERS, VICTIM'S NEPHEW: You Know, it's like putting the face, you know, to a killer. What happened to this person to get him to the point to where he became so inhumane, had no sense of humidity, had no sense of loss of life?
OKWU: Larry Meyers' uncle, Dean, was shot and killed at a gas station on October 9, the sniper's ninth victim. The nephew believes he's seen the face of his uncle's killers and he initially felt rage.
L. MEYERS: But that doesn't mean, you know, we want to go out and have a lynching party or you know, take revenge of some sort.
OKWU: Dean Meyers' brother, Bob.
BOB MEYERS, VICTIM'S BROTHER: It's a great relief, because if it is true, then at least at the hands of these two, they'll be no more incidents, no more bloodshed.
OKWU: As Washington's focus shifts from fear to justice, the Meyers are quietly celebrating Dean's life. One of four brothers, he graduated from Penn State in 1975, a degree in civil engineering. As part of the First Airborne Calvary in Vietnam, he survived an ambush by the Vietcong, who fired 80 rounds. He was hit by a single bullet.
L. MEYERS: His platoon doesn't know how he got out alive, so we feel that he's been living on borrowed time for about 32 years or however long that was. And we were happy to have him.
OKWU: But no longer do. In arranging his belongings, they discovered how self-less this single man, who lived more humbly than he had to, was.
L. MEYERS: You know, in here, you'll see all the charities that he made -- Salvation Army, $200, World Vision, $144. I'm not sure what that one is. Habitat for Humanity International.
OKWU: The nephew says uncle received a million dollars, his fee as executor of a French trust, one of many discoveries the family is making in his death. Meyers was a surrogate or second father for neighbors and extended family. The best gift his family could offer in his death are images of a life well lived.
BROWN: You will hear dozens of times the name John Muhammad and John Malvo. Courts and juries will determine if they are the killers, but there is a body of evidence that strongly suggests they may well be. So forget about them for a second and remember these names. Jim Martin, the first person to die in this tragedy. Then there was Sonny Buchanan, a guy who worked with troubled kids. Then, when he had the time, wrote poems. Prem Walekar, a cab driver, worked 12 to 14 hours a day to send his child to college so she would not be a cab driver. Dean Meyers, a Vietnam vet, a much-missed brother and uncle. There are six children tonight who miss Ken Bridges, and a lot of other people miss him, too. He worked in economic development for African-Americans in the Washington area. Sarah Ramos was the mother of a 7-year-old, and Lori Rivera, who loved to spoil her 3-year-old. They are victims, too. Now, husband and daughter will move back to their native Idaho to be closer to her family.
Pascal Charlot is a retired carpenter, who still had an important job, perhaps his most important job, taking care of a sick wife. He was killed en route to the drug store.
You'll remember Linda Franklin, we suspect, the FBI analyst, the breast cancer survivor, almost a grandmother. And then there was Conrad Johnson, the bus driver, the last man to die in all of this. They should not be numbers, and they should be more than just victims. These people, these moms and dads and uncles and workers and dreamers should not be swept aside by a new headline.
ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
PAUL ZAHN, HOST: Filmmaker, Michael Moore became familiar with controversy with his very first documentary, "Roger and Me," a scathing and often hilarious critique of corporate America. Well, now Moore is back and provocative as ever. In his new film, "Bowling For Columbine," Moore takes aim at guns and violence in America. And considering the recent sniper attacks in the Washington area, the film couldn't be more timely. Here's Mike Mockler (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm here to open up an account.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, what type of account would you like?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want the account where I can get the free gun.
MIKE MOCKLER (ph), CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Moore is at it again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow! Sweet!
MOCKLER (ph): The man who became famous for taking shots at General Motors and corporate America with "Roger and Me" has a new target in sight, guns and targets in America, with the movie "Bowling For Columbine."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you it's a little dangerous, handing out guns in a bank?
MICHAEL MOORE, FILMMAKER: What is it about us? Why do we have so much violence? Why are we both the victims and the masters of an enormous amount of violence, both at home and around the world?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Moore basically goes in there and throws this supremely, intelligent hand grenade right in to the middle of the issue. I think to stir it up.
MOCKLER (ph): It's the latest provocative work for Moore, who's no stranger to stirring up controversy.
MOORE: It's just an outrage.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Charlton Heston did it. That's what I was...
MOORE: That's an outrage!
MOCKLER (ph): His book, "Stupid White Men," has spent over half a year on the New York Times Best Seller list. In it, Moore launches an attack on politics in America.
MOORE: Al Gore is the president of the United States. The Republicans and the Democrats to me are two sides of the same coin. They both have let down the American people. The majority of the people in this country believe in the things that I believe in. They don't believe in the things George W. Bush believes in.
JAMES HIRSEN, POLITICAL COLUMNIST: He is a very effective propagandist because he utilizes a combination of incomplete data and emotional manipulation to pursue and push a one-sided agenda.
MOCKLER (ph): Love him or hate him, Michael Moore has established himself as one of America's prominent social commentators.
MOORE: I won't have it on my conscience and I won't have it on my soul. I won't let it be said that I stood by and did nothing, said nothing. You know, while others had a rougher go of it than I had.
MOCKLER (ph): Michael Moore was born in 1954 and raised in an Irish Catholic household in Davison, Michigan, a suburb of Flint.
JEFF GIBBS, FRIEND: He was raised, you know, with the values from his parents and from the church that you take care of the least among you.
MOORE: You know generally, I was a good kid and I did well in school. But I got easily offended at any form of injustice, you know, whether it was, you know, they ran out of, you know, chocolate milk and we had to drink the white milk, you know, in the cafeteria. It didn't matter what it was.
MOCKLER (ph): Moore's father worked in the auto industry making spark plugs, and Moore found himself influenced by a town where General Motors was king and organized labor fueled the machine.
MOORE: Our fathers and grandfathers who built that union created this enormous middle class that for the first time in history allowed the children of working people to go to college, to have a better life, to be covered with health insurance and things like that. And that had, I think, an enormous impact on all of us.
MOCKLER (ph): In high school, Moore was voted class comic, and was on the debate team.
GIBBS: He's actually very similar to how he now. We both loved staying up late, you know, contriving different schemes to change the world and you know, change our town, and watching movies and, you know, listening to rock 'n' roll.
NAN JOHNSON, DAVISON AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY: If there was an issue that he did not agree with, if he felt that someone was being treated negatively, he was never afraid to stand up and speak for what he believed in.
MOCKLER (ph): At age 18, Moore put his words into action. He ran for Davison's school board.
MOORE: I basically had, you know, won, you know, a position, which was, "Fire The Principal," actually, "Fire The Principal and Assistant Principal." I guess that was two positions I had. And I won. And within nine months, the principal and assistant principal turned in their resignations. I thought, geez, you know, this didn't take long, and I'm still 18! You know? I learned at an early age that, geez, well maybe you can affect change by not having to do a whole lot.
MOCKLER (ph): Moore flirted briefly with college. Then, at age 22, started his own independent newspaper, "The Flint Voice."
MOORE: I really saw the mission of the paper to stay on top of General Motors, inform the people what it was doing to the town, and encourage people to think about other issues, too, that were not being covered in the traditional news media.
ED BRADLEY, "FLINT JOURNAL": It had kind of a reputation as a quote/unquote "mud raking paper," I guess, in the eyes of the establishment here in town. It really raised a lot of eyebrows and brought up a lot of issues and did structure up controversy.
MOCKLER (ph): After a decade working on the "Voice," Moore moved to San Francisco to become editor of the left-wing magazine, "Mother Jones."
MOORE: They liked what I was doing in Flint. And they -- "How would you like to do this on a national level?" And I thought, wow what a great opportunity, you know, cover these issues and say the things I wanted to say, but with a, you know, much larger audience.
MOCKLER (ph): His first issue was well received and featuring an auto worker on the cover. But after just four months, Moore was fired. He said for ideological reasons. The publisher said for job performance. Moore's national platform was gone.
When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues...
MOORE: And I'm back home in Flint and you know, I'm depressed. I'm, you know, getting $99 a week on unemployment, not knowing what to do.
MOCKLER (ph): ... down and out in Flint, Michigan.
ANNOUNCER: We now return to PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.
MOORE: Everybody should get fired at least once in their life! It's a life affirming experience.
MOCKLER (ph) (voice-over): In 1986, Michael Moore had lost his national voice as editor of "Mother Jones" magazine. He returned home to Flint, Michigan, where he saw General Motors laying off thousands of workers, and a town on the decline.
JOHNSON: People were losing their jobs. People that had worked for years and years for General Motors all of a sudden didn't have a job. They had families to take care of.
MOORE: I couldn't believe at a time that GM was still posting these big profits that they would be doing this to the town, and so I just decided I had to do something.
Can you hear me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're rolling.
MOORE: Hi, I'm Michael Moore.
MOCKLER (ph): What Moore did was make "Roger and Me," a documentary about Flint's difficult times.
GIBBS: He'd been through a very difficult period of time and he was just obsessed with making this movie and telling the story of Flint.
MOCKLER (ph): Moore was a novice filmmaker learning his craft through trial and error.
MOORE: I knew nothing. I learned that a tripod, about maybe a year in to making a movie, was a good idea, because it kept the camera steady.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Where are you guys going?
MOORE: We're going up to the 14th floor.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have an appointment?
MOORE: No. We're going try to see Roger Smith.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, you're not. MOCKLER (ph): The movie showed Moore on a personal quest to find General Motors' CEO, Roger Smith, and ask him why General Motors was eliminating jobs in Flint? It also became a social commentary on what Moore saw as corporate greed and America's economic ills.
MOORE: We live in the wealthiest county in the world and Flint is the home town of the wealthiest corporation in the world. You know why are they closing factories at a time they're making, you know, $5 billion in profits?
OWEN GLEIBERMAN, MOVIE CRITIC, "ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY": Well, Michael Moore invented his whole style in "Roger and Me," of stalking CEOs. Michael Moore comes on as a fearless proletarian with a camera who's going to get the truth.
MOCKLER (ph): The film was shot for just $250,000.
BRADLEY: Michael actually said at the time that he felt he would be lucky if this movie could be -- they'd put up a sheet in the union hall somewhere and he'd get to show this movie and take it around in a van.
MOCKLER (ph): But instead, it became a surprise hit at film festivals. It got picked up nationwide and would become the highest grossing narrative documentary of all time.
LEAH ROZEN, MOVIE CRITIC, "PEOPLE" MAGAZINE: You're coming out of the Reagan era. You're in the Bush era. The economy is allegedly so good and yet, anyone out there knew there were all these homeless people, knew that things were not nearly as good as they were being portrayed. And this documentary plugged into that.
MOCKLER (ph): But "Roger and Me" also faced criticism. Moore was accused of misrepresenting the facts, filming people being evicted from their homes, who had never worked for General Motors, and not being precise about when GM had laid off 30,000 Flint workers.
ROZEN: The reason it's called a documentary is everything in there is the way it's -- was the way it is. He was a little loose with how he put it all together. The question is -- did he learn from that or has he continued to do it?
MOORE: It was like it was just 10,000 people that lost their jobs, Mike, during those three threes not 30,000 that lost -- I mean it's like can you imagine having that conversation about -- I mean, it's 10,000 people. There's no dates in the film. It's met as an essay about that decade.
MOCKLER (ph): "Roger and Me" appeared on over 100 critic's top ten lists for the "Best Films" of 1989, but for Moore, the film's success is tempered.
MOORE: Well, my hope was that when -- that people would see "Roger and Me" and then do something to help Flint. If that was my main criteria -- and it was -- for making the film, then to me, personally, the film is a failure, because that's not what happened. MOCKLER (ph): But "Roger and Me" did open new doors for Moore to get his voice heard. He went to Hollywood, making the film, "Canadian Bacon," a political satire where the president of the United States tries to boost his popularity by making Canada public enemy number one.
ALAN ALDA, ACTOR: Surrender her pronto or we'll level Toronto.
MOCKLER (ph): But the movie was mired in problems, most notably, the loss of star, John Candy, who died before filming was completed.
ROZEN: "Canadian Bacon" is just a mess. It's a film they barely released, if at all, and I think anyone who has caught up with it at cable doesn't necessarily think he should be making more feature films.
MOCKLER (ph): Moore also the aggressive style he developed on "Roger and Me" to television with the satirical news magazine, "TV Nation."
ANNOUNCER: It's TV Nation with Michael Moore.
MOCKLER (ph): In its two-year run beginning in 1994, "TV Nation" won an Emmy Award. It reveled in going against the grain.
MOORE: We are crime fighters, and the this is a corporate crime fighting chicken, and...
In the first part of the century, we had comedians, who -- like Charlie Chaplin and Groucho Marx -- and they used humor as a means of social commentary. And so, we try to do that every week.
MOCKLER (ph): Moore dropped the same attitude to another show, 1999's "The Awful Truth."
MOORE: Judge Starr, Judge Starr, Judge Starr! I think I found a cheaper way to conduct a witch-hunt!
ROZEN: I think Michael Moore is probably best on TV. Michael Moore is going to go charging in, put his microphone in someone's face and ask embarrassing questions. It's sort of here is the plumper version of Mike Wallace and with a humorist twist.
MOCKLER (ph): Moore also invaded the publishing world way 1996 book, "Down Size This," which took more shots at corporate America.
MOORE: I mean didn't the American dream used to be that if you worked hard and the company prospers, you prosper? Now it's you work hard, the company prospers, and you lose your job!
HIRSEN: He equates corporate downsizing with terrorism. He equated the corporate downsizing of Michigan with the Oklahoma City bombing. So I think his worldview is the far left.
MOCKLER (ph): The book became a surprise hit spending a month on the "New York Times" bestseller list. Michael Moore was a multimedia force.
When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, Moore's gorilla brand of filmmaking puts him in handcuffs.
MOCKLER (ph): In 2000, Michael Moore put on a different hat that of music video director for the politically active rock band, Rage Against the Machine. The video's concept was for the band to barge in and perform at the symbolic heart of the American economy, the New York Stock Exchange.
TOM MORELLO, GUITARIST, RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE: What you see, you know, the band being forcibly ejected from the Stock Exchange, and Michael Moore being led away in handcuffs all really happened.
MOORE: There's lots of things you -- you know that you should take a stand for maybe in your life and it might lead to you being arrested. But one of those shouldn't be a music video for MTV. You know what I'm saying?
I'm voting for Ralph Nader because he is the most qualified candidate.
MOCKLER (ph): Moore spent the 2000 presidential campaign stumping for Ralph Nader and taking shots at Al Gore and George W. Bush.
MOORE: It's Tweedle Dumb and Tweedle Dumber.
RALPH NADER, 2000 PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I think he still likes the Democrat Party to be more progressive, and he's willing to go outside it and challenge it, as he did in support of my presidential candidacy.
MOCKLER (ph): The election results...
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I, George Walker Bush, do solemnly swear...
MOCKLER (ph): ... left him incensed.
MOORE: We've got somebody sitting in the Oval Office that isn't there by the will of the people, and I just thought, you know, I've got to say something about this.
MOCKLER (ph): Moore's outrage turned into the book, "Stupid White Men." In it, he addresses issues of race, education and the state of America. He asks President Bush, are you able to read and write on an adult level? He calls Bill Clinton one of the best Republican presidents we've ever had and he blasts both major political parties. MOORE: They're there to do the bidding of the top 10 percent, the wealthiest 10 percent. It's really wrong in a democracy to have the upper 10 percent, they get to have two political parties, and the other 90 percent have nothing.
HIRSEN: His worldview is, in fact, not centered, certainly not right. But not even -- you ask that question -- not even really mainstream left.
MOCKLER (ph): After the events of September 11, Moore's publisher, Harper Collins, decided the timing wasn't right to release a book that referred to President Bush at the thief in chief. "Stupid White Men" stayed in limbo for months with no sign of being released.
MOORE: I decided not to just let the thing die because the publisher didn't believe in it. I believed in it, and I believe that I'm in the mainstream. I believe I'm in the majority.
MOCKLER (ph): Moore went on his own speaking tour, reading chapters from his then unpublished work.
MOORE: This talk today has been approved by the Office of Homeland Security. Do not be afraid.
Some librarian heard me talk about how the book wasn't coming out, and she got on the Internet and got all these librarians writing e-mails to Harper Collins demanding that the book come out.
ANN SPARANESE, LIBRARIAN: And I wrote a little piece. It was a little letter. It might have had four or five paragraphs in it. Basically, I said, this seems like something we might want to do something about.
MOORE: They called me up and said, "What did you tell the librarians?" I said, "I don't know any librarians." "We're getting hate mail from librarians!" That's one terrorist group you don't want to mess with! Ooh, scary librarians! They freaked out and finally, they said, OK, this is going to be too much trouble for us." And they put the book out.
MOCKLER (ph): "Stupid White Men" reached number one on the "New York Times" bestseller list in its third week of release.
MOORE: It's because it's full of dissent and it's full of outrageous questions and you know going after those in power, whatever. I think that's very American.
MOCKLER (ph): Moore's book has its critics.
HIRSEN: I think he will exaggerate the truth. He'll leave out facts very conveniently. But I think it's true of his ill, that they think that the corporations and the government are secretly behind the scenes trying to shaft all of us. There's a great resonance to that kind of mistruth, half-truth, and Michael Moore takes advantage of that constantly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to do a background check.
MOORE: At the bank here?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: At the bank, which we are a licensed firearm dealer.
MOCKLER (ph): This month, Moore is back in theaters with his latest documentary, "Bowling for Columbine." The title comes from the bowling class the two Columbine shooters attended the day of the tragedy.
MOORE: Ah, sweet!
MOCKLER (ph): The film questions America's culture of guns and violence.
GLEIBERMAN: That is not a simple question and the power of this film is that Michael Moore isn't looking to provide a simple answer for it.
MOCKLER (ph): The film features a series of interviews, including NRA president, Charlton Heston, and shock rocker, Marilyn Manson.
MOORE: If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine and the people in that community, what would you say to them if they were here right now?
MARILYN MANSON, SHOCK ROCKER: I wouldn't say a single word to them. I would listen to what they have to say, and that's what no one did.
MOORE: I'm afraid that as Americans we've lost our compass. When you start to be afraid of everything and you no longer can discern what the real fears are and what the non-fears are, then you're kind of hopeless, and you're lost. And I think that's where we're at right now in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael Moore, "Bowling for Columbine."
MOCKLER (ph): The film became the first documentary to be accepted at the Cannes Film Festival in 46 years, where it received a 13-minute standing ovation.
GLEIBERMAN: I think that he's grown as a filmmaker, in part because the subject is so deadly serious. I mean you feel Michael Moore's passion about these issues as well as his ability to satirize them.
MOCKLER (ph): For Moore, that passion only grows stronger.
MOORE: I have even more responsibility now than I had when I made "Roger and Me." I have even a greater burden on me to make sure that I do something with this camera, with my writing, to try and make this a little better place to live, especially for those who have far less than what I or you have. (END VIDEOTAPE)
ZAHN: That's it for this edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. I'm Paula Zahn. Thanks so much for joining us.
ANNOUNCER: For more on people shaping our world, pick up a copy of "People" magazine this week.
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