Michael Moore got into a heated debate with BuzzFeed Monday night, after the website accused him of overhyping the recent detention of a Palestinian filmmaker at the Los Angeles airport.
Emad Burnat, who was nominated for an Oscar for his documentary "5 Broken Cameras," said last Tuesday that he had been held at LAX for 90 minutes after customs officials said he did not have the right papers to enter the country. Moore, who became involved in getting Burnat released, wrote a series of tweets saying that LAX staff told Burnat he did not have proof that he was going to the Oscars, even after the director showed his invitation. "Apparently the Immigration & Customs officers couldn't understand how a Palestinian could be an Oscar nominee," he tweeted.
Burnat also appeared on HuffPostLive to talk about his detention.
Five days later, BuzzFeed's Tessa Stuart wrote a story taking issue with Moore and Burnat's version of events, and asking whether the whole thing was a "publicity stunt":
Sources 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.
Stuart then cited one source who was "familiar with the situation" and said that Burnat was merely asked to produce his ticket for the Oscars — and that, when he found it, he was let in immediately.
"This source insists the whole process took no longer than 25 minutes total, and was standard practice for anyone entering the country," she wrote.
A few hours later, Moore issued a volley of tweets in response. Saying Stuart had been "snookered" by Homeland Security officials, he took on her story about the "Oscar ticket":
BuzzFeed then attached the following to Stuart's story:
Having now received Moore's response to the story via Twitter, the accuracy of the TSA's account seems to hinge on the characterization of the document being searched for as a "ticket." BuzzFeed has now asked our TSA source to clarify and will update the story as soon as that we receive more information.
The site later updated its story more fully, saying that "the LAX official did not immediately respond to a request to clarify the sort of documentation he was referring to," and clarifying that it only had one source for its piece.
BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith defended Stuart after blogger Glenn Greenwald criticized the story:
UPDATE: BuzzFeed wrote a second story on Tuesday, this time quoting five LAX officials and saying that the logs from the airport showed that Burnat was detained for 23 minutes. The story still differs widely from Moore and Burnat's account of the detention.