Michael Moore Targeted by Parents of Sandy Hook Victims
UPDATE: The "Bowling for Columbine" director tells THR that he supports the Connecticut victims' rights bill: "I'm opposed to anybody releasing any photos without the parents' permission."
Relatives of the 20 children and six adult staff members murdered by a lone gunman at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, are targeting Michael Moore in pursuit of a law that would prevent the release of gruesome police photos and 911 audio from the crime scene.
The Bowling for Columbine director has previously argued that a leak of such material could help sway public opinion on gun-law reform.
UPDATE: Moore has reached out to The Hollywood Reporter to explain that his comments about crime scene photos were misconstrued.
Over 20 parents and spouses of Sandy Hook victims gathered at the Connecticut Capitol in Hartford on Friday to call on legislators to pass House Bill 6424, "An Act Concerning Fees for Searches of Accident and Investigative Reports of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection."
The bill contains within it an amendment that would prevent the release of any photos, videotapes, digital recordings or other depictions of any victim without the permission of the victim’s immediate family. The bill has until midnight on Wednesday, June 5, to pass.
A Change.org petition written by the parents of three first-graders murdered at Sandy Hook alleges that Moore and "the hoaxers" -- a reference to fringe conspiracy theorists -- are arguing that the sensitive materials be released for political purposes.
The petition currently has over 12,000 signatures, and contains heart-wrenching comments of support from survivors and the citizens of Newtown.
"Other gruesome scenes have been kept private -- like the scene around Congresswoman [Gabrielle] Giffords' shooting, Vince Foster's suicide, and Dale Earnhardt's automobile accident," the petition reads. "This crime has received such international attention, it should be afforded the same treatment."
In addition, a letter to the Connecticut legislature and Gov. Dannel Malloy has been signed by 71 surviving victims and family members of victims. And Jennifer Hensel and Jeremy Richman, parents of Avielle, 6, killed in the massacre, penned an op-ed in Monday's New Haven Register.
"We cannot stand the thought of seeing the graphic depiction of our child’s death promoted to serve anyone’s political purposes," they write. "For example, the documentary filmmaker Michael Moore began what was, to us, a horrific campaign to make the crime scene photos public on the grounds that it would incite action on gun legislation. We do not want our child to be collateral damage in a partisan, political fight."
Approached for comment, Moore tells THR that his remarks, made in a blog entry posted written last March, were misinterpreted and that he would never advocate for having crime scene photos released without the consent of the surviving victims and victims' families.
"Frankly, I'm opposed to anybody releasing any photos without the parents' permission," Moore says. "What I said is that when and if they do come out in this day of Internet and social media, the likelihood of that happening is reasonable. So what to do when it happens? I was just saying that that's what will happen, and I asked that Americans not turn away from it."
"I just found out about this [petition] in the last 20 minutes," Moore adds. "I'm going to contact [victims' parents] tonight. And I'll make sure that whoever is stirring the pot stops stirring it and stops lying about me."
Moore pointed out that he had graphic security camera footage of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, which he refrained from putting in Bowling for Columbine out of respect to the victims and their families.
"I just didn't think that that was right," Moore says. "If somebody sent me crime scene photos out of Newtown, there is no way I would put them on my website -- and in fact, I would inform the parents right away that somebody's attempting to do something without their permission."
Read THR's entire interview with Moore on Sandy Hook Elementary School here.
"We've somehow all decided together that we don't need to look," Moore wrote in the original blog post, which cites Ku Klux Klan murder victim Emmett Till's open-casket funeral in 1955 as a turning point in the civil rights movement. "That in some way we're okay with what's in those pictures (after all, over 2,600 Americans have been killed by guns since Newtown) -- just as long as we don't have to look at the pictures ourselves."
"I have a prediction," Moore continued in the post. "I believe someone in Newtown, Connecticut -- a grieving parent, an upset law enforcement officer, a citizen who has seen enough of this carnage in our country -- somebody, someday soon, is going to leak the crime scene photos of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. And when the American people see what bullets from an assault rifle fired at close range do to a little child's body, that's the day the jig will be up for the NRA."
In April, Gov. Molloy signed sweeping legislation that gave Connecticut some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Weeks later, President Barack Obama declared it a "shameful day for Washington" after the Senate defeated an effort to expand background checks and ban some semi-automatic weapons.