Emad Burnat, Palestinian director of Oscar nominated "5 Broken Cameras" was held tonight by immigration at LAX as he landed to attend Oscars
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Filmmaker Michael Moore departs the Oscars at Hollywood & Highland Center on February 24, 2013 in Hollywood, California.
Last week, Michael Moore wrote that he had rescued Oscar-nominated director Emad Burnat, whom Moore said was detained and threatened with deportation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection when he tried to enter the country to attend the Oscars.
Monday morning though, a source at LAX challenged Moore’s account of the events, calling the allegations that Burnat was detained “baloney” and asserting the whole thing was an elaborate publicity stunt for the film.
Burnat’s movie, Five Broken Cameras, documenting five years of his and his family’s life in the West Bank village Bil’in, was nominated for Best Documentary. (Searching for Sugar Man took home the award.)
On Wednesday, Moore tweeted this play-by-play to his 1.5 million followers:
Media appearances followed:
Speaking on the red carpet before Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, Burnat’s co-director, Guy Davidi, reiterated Moore’s account of the events, and said that he believed Burnat was profiled by Customs officers because his wife was wearing a hijab.
“They saw his wife, a Muslim, with the whole costume, and his son, he has his Arab look, they just couldn’t believe that this guy was really, actually nominated for the Oscar. They were sure that he is not telling the truth. It doesn’t matter that he asked them to Google his name,” Davidi said.
Monday morning though, a source working at LAX familiar with the situation and speaking on the condition of anonymity, offered a very different account of events.
When Burnat arrived at the Customs and Border Protection desk at LAX, the source said, he was asked to state the purpose of his visit; when he said he was here to attend the Oscars, he was asked to produce his ticket.
When he wasn’t able to produce that document on spot, the source continued, Burnat was taken to a secondary inspection area where he found the ticket, showed it Customs officers, and was immediately allowed to proceed to the baggage claim.
This source insists the whole process took no longer than 25 minutes total, and was standard practice for anyone entering the country.
“He was not racially profiled,” the source said.”It is being used as political stunt, and a publicity stunt for the movie.”
The source’s account is consistent with Customs and Border Protection’s policies, which maintain that detention is only used when an individual is found with illegal drugs, undeclared money, or is trying to enter the country illegally.
CBP, for their part, would not comment on the incident, and calls to the Academy and the film’s publicist were not immediately returned. Moore also said that the Academy only Thursday issued formal tickets, and the LAX official did not immediately respond to a request to clarify the sort of documentation he was referring to.
The agency said in a statement, “Due to privacy laws, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is prohibited from discussing specific cases. CBP strives to treat all travelers with respect and in a professional manner, while maintaining the focus of our mission to protect all citizens and visitors in the United States.”
Neither Michael Moore nor Guy Davidi responded to repeated requests for comment, but Moore later responded on Twitter:
Time’s up. Buzzfeed today tried to raise doubts that Oscar nominee, Palestinian filmmaker Emad Burnat wasn’t really detained at LAX on Tues.— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) February 26, 2013
Buzzfeed quotes a “source” at LAX who said that Burnat was simply asked to produce his ticket to the Oscars and when he “couldn’t” he was…— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) February 26, 2013
…moved “to a secondary inspection area where he (Burnat) found his ticket” to the Oscars & was then “immediately allowed” into the US…— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) February 26, 2013
Well, there’s just one little problem with this story - and if Buzzfeed had bothered to ask any of the 6,000 Academy members…— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) February 26, 2013
…they would have learned how they were played by the “source” from Homeland Security…— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) February 26, 2013
You see, Buzzfeed, there was no way for Emad Burnat to show Customs an Oscar ticket on Tuesday because there were no Oscar tickets on Tues!— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) February 26, 2013
Nobody, no nominee, had their tickets on Tuesday because the Academy didn’t release them to Oscar-goers until 2 days later — on Thursday.— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) February 26, 2013
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article referred in its deck and first sentence to “sources” at LAX; in fact, as the body of the story made clear, the criticism of Moore’s account came from a single airport official.
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Mr. Moore’s entire rebuttal seems to be fixated on the fact the TSA employee stated that the director produced his ticket and was released - the gotcha being that tickets weren’t available until Tuesday. That said, Moore’s own account states that the director showed the TSA agents his official invite and was still detained. Is it at all possible that someone less familiar with the minute details of the Oscars (such as a TSA agent) might refer to an official invite as a “ticket”?
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I like many of the things Moore has to say, I just don’t particularly care for how he says them. He’s famous for setting up situations that will play out a certain way and then presenting them in tinted light. It’s frustrating, because the guy says things that need to be said but it feels icky.
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Ok, I don’t know if this is true or not, but Michael Moore sounds like a pretentious brat. “If it weren’t for ME, this poor poor foreigner would have been deported by the evil governmints! I am an hero!!!” The “TSA source” sounds fishy, but Michael does his best to look like bug hero white man in this.
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Moore blew this up on Twitter as it was happening (him getting a call or text from the Palestinian director while being detained) with a tone of suspicion and indignation. Now he has to back himself because he blew it up from the get go. The guy is an attention whore and it offsets any good he does, which is substantial, because he looks like a stereotypical screeching liberal know it all.
2 award-winning documentary filmmakers vs. an “unnamed TSA source” with a motive to cover up a screw up. No calls to the Academy for info. The supposed motive - lying to get PR, for a film already nominated for an Academy Award?! WOW, where did you learn about journalism? The only PR-hungry liar here is out make a name for herself with unsupported sensationalism, next stop - hacking phones for Murdoch!
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