US asked Clark Govt to explain Fahrenheit 9/11 fundraiser - cable

By Paul Harper

A detail of a Fahrenheit 9/11 poster. Image / Supplied
A detail of a Fahrenheit 9/11 poster. Image / Supplied

The prospect of a New Zealand Government Minister hosting a screening of a Michael Moore film prompted United States diplomats to approach Helen Clark's office for an explanation in 2004, a cable released by WikiLeaks has revealed.

The cable said the US embassy in Wellington learned on July 30, 2004, that then Environment Minister Marian Hobbs was "reportedly hosting a special screening of Michael Moore's controversial movie Fahrenheit 9/11 as a local fundraising event".

US deputy chief of mission David Burnett wrote that he contacted the Prime Minister's office who told him they were unaware of the issue but would look into it. Mr Burnett then contacted Ms Hobbs' office, but they "declined to make her available to discuss the matter".

"Hobbs' staff later informed Embassy that Hobbs would not be hosting the fundraiser. However, she would be attending the event," he wrote.

Mr Burnett said the incident showed why Ms Hobbs' was "nicknamed 'Boo Boo' Hobbs".

"That said, it is probable that this potential fiasco may only have been averted because of our phone calls - it is apparent to us that neither the Minister nor anyone else in the Labour government seems to have thought there was anything wrong with a senior Minister hosting such an event," he wrote.

Mr Burnett wrote that the US ambassador, who at the time was Charles Swindells, would use a scheduled meeting with Miss Clark to discuss the matter and "remind her that we would really rather not get dragged into internal NZ political issues, such as Ministerial fundraising events for Clark's Labour Party".

Ms Hobbs, who retired from politics in 2008, told the Guardian newspaper she did not recall the event.

"To be honest I can't remember anything about it at all," she said. "Possibly my staff didn't tell me because they knew I wouldn't take any notice."

Mr Moore told MSNBC's Rachael Maddow the revelation illustrated the importance of transparency in government.

"If they were micromanaging me that much, if they were that concerned about the truth in Fahrenheit 9/11 that they have to go after a screening in a place I don't even really know where it is - I know it's way too long to sit in coach for me - I want to know. Because I think it speaks to a larger issue: if they have the time for that, what else are these guys up to?"

The leaked cable follows another which claimed Michael Moore's film Sicko, about America's health system, was not screened in Cuba, when in fact it screened on Cuban television.

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