The Daily Record

Rutgers' Publicity Politically Tinged And Unexpected

Daily Record — Friday, October 2, 2009

By RICK MALWITZ
STAFF WRITER

In recent weeks Rutgers University has been receiving publicity it neither sought nor endorsed, covering both wings of the political spectrum.

During a public relations tour promoting his latest movie, left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore has worn a Rutgers hat, including during appearances on segments on "The Jay Leno Show," "Larry King Live" and MSNBC's "Hardball."

The movie, "Capitalism: A Love Story," opens to wide distribution Friday. It suggests that capitalism is the root of all kinds of evil.

"People have noticed the hat," said university spokesman Greg Trevor, adding it's been a topic of conversation among students, staff and alumni.

Rutgers is not involved in the movie promotion.

Moore's choice of hats comes several weeks after the Fox News Channel gave heavy play to videos taken with a hidden camera at offices of ACORN, showing the work of James O'Keefe, a Rutgers graduate.

O'Keefe became a darling of the right-wing cable network for exposing ACORN to ridicule.

In telling that story, Fox and other media outlets showed an earlier publicity politically and unexpected Wearing his Rutgers University hat, film director Michael Moore answers questions at the Toronto International Film Festival last month. video made by O'Keefe, when he tried to get Rutgers officials to ban Lucky Charms cereal from the cafeteria menu. He claimed, with tongue in cheek, that the Lucky Charms leprechaun was an inaccurate depiction of Irish-Americans.

Moore started wearing a Rutgers hat in 2006 during a promotional tour for "Sicko," a film critical of the American health-care system. He wore it as a tribute to Ann Sparanese, a 1990 graduate from the library studies program at Rutgers.

In 2001, Moore wrote 'Stupid White Men ... and Other Excuses for the State of the Nation.' It was a scathing critique of President George W. Bush and the first year of his administration.

Following events of Sept. 11, 2001, the publisher, HarperCollins decided that the timing was not right to release a negative book about the president, at a time when he was trying to rally a nation and his popularity had peaked.

Sparanese, a librarian at the Englewood Public Library, began a letterwriting campaign among librarians, urging them to write to HarperCollins and insist that the book be published.

"Had that book not come out, it would have had a chilling effect on all kinds of books and movies," she told The Home News Tribune in a 2006 interview.

Sparanese learned of the publisher's withholding of the book when Moore spoke in December 2001 to New Jersey Citizen Action, a citizen watchdog coalition, at the Rutgers Labor Center.

Moore, who had previously favored a Michigan State University hat, wore the Rutgers hat at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival, and during media appearances.

On the fifth anniversary of his talk at Rutgers, Moore sent Sparanese flowers as his way of saying thanks.

"He's spoken well of librarians. We're on the front line of First Amendment rights," she said.

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