Jim Kenefick, 36, is the founder of Moorewatch.com, one of the Web's most visited anti-Michael Moore sites. So imagine Kenefick's surprise when he received a friendly voice mail last month—from Moore himself, calling from the Cannes Film Festival premiere of his agitprop documentary “Sicko.” The lefty filmmaker had two things to tell his cybercritic. First, he wanted Kenefick to know that he and his Web site appear prominently (albeit anonymously) in “Sicko,” his soon-to-be-released attack on the American health-care industry. In the film, Moore shows several of Kenefick’s blog posts where he pleads for money to keep MooreWatch.com alive because his wife's medical bills (Kenefick says she has a neurological disorder) have almost bankrupted him. He is saved at the last minute when a mysterious donor sends a $12,000 check, enough to keep the site going and pay insurance premiums for a year—which brought Moore to his second point. Before the world found out from his film, the filmmaker wanted his nemesis to know: he was Kenefick’s guardian angel. Kenefick spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Tony Dokoupil about his unwitting stardom and new opinion of Michael Moore. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: Have you seen the film?
Jim Kenefick: I’ve only seen some promotional stills and the clips, but I plan to see it.
How were you approached about the $12,000 gift?
On May 1, 2006, I received an anonymous e-mail from a “Nora Lavelle”—who is absolutely a Google ghost ... I can’t verify her existence anywhere online, so who knows if she’s real—and the e-mail said: “I know an Angel who wants to pay for at least some of your wife’s care so that the site doesn’t go down.” I was skeptical, of course. But I also thought you never know. I joked with her that I’ve always wanted a guardian angel.
Then what happened?
The person wrote back to clarify how much my [health-insurance] premiums were. A month or so later a checklike document for $12,000 arrives from one of those anonymous third-party check companies. My first thought was that this was some kind of scam—the kind where you cash the check and then suddenly the person calls asking for like $8,000 back. But the check cleared, and I felt this immense wave of relief.
Where is Michael Moore in your mind at that moment?
Nowhere. At first, I thought it was a well-heeled friend of mine, but not Michael Moore. Then some things started clicking. I happened to notice the bank that guaranteed the funds had like five locations around Moore’s Dog Eat Dog headquarters, several more locations around his New York apartment and then still more around his hometown in Michigan. All this was obvious from Google Maps, which I clicked on innocently after searching the bank name online. I still wasn’t jumping to any conclusions.
When did you know it was Moore?
On May 10th or so of this year, I get this e-mail from someone with a famous name—I won’t say who, just in case they really were who they claimed—saying: “What if, just what if, Michael Moore sent you a check for your family’s medical bills????? you should immediately prepare a quick unpredictable response.” And I have to say that I did. I felt played. I felt like, Oh f---. I can’t believe he would do this. I regret the tone and content of my response, but I felt betrayed, if that’s even the right word. A few weeks later Moore himself called me from Cannes saying that the film was about to premiere and he wanted me to know that he was my “guardian angel.” The sound file is right there on my Web site.
Has Moore’s gift changed your opinion of him?
Look, I don’t oppose Moore as a human being, or even on all of his positions, and I don’t know where I stand on health-care reform. Nor do I presume to be so intelligent as to know how to solve this monumental issue. My issue with Moore is an issue with how he goes about doing things. He gives people quick peeks, juxtaposing images that stir people up but don’t give them enough information to make judgments for themselves. He’s harming the big picture with his chicanery—with his ridiculous, malicious, dishonest and deceitful way of doing things. I haven’t seen “Sicko,” but it sounds like more of the same. I’m not saying that anyone in his film is faking or exaggerating their medical problems, but how can anyone know that? Medical records are sealed by law. Moore’s got people who can say or do anything and no one can check the facts. The American doctors and health-insurance companies he attacks have no voice either because they’re restricted by law from discussing medical cases. It’s the perfect Michael Moore situation.
But has the gift changed your life?
Oh, yes. Let me clear about this. I’m grateful to Michael Moore. I’ve said this about nine times on my Web site: "Thank you Michael Moore." Your gift took a huge burden off my shoulders. But I still don’t like your style.
Why do you think he decided to help you?
It’s in his interest for the site to stay running. Moore’s publicity depends on us and others like us. I think he understands that.
If you had known it was Michael Moore giving you the money, would you have accepted it?
I think so. It's obviously not a problem for him that Moorewatch exists, which is kind of commendable if you think about it. He seemed genuinely interested in keeping us online. I can handle the heat generated by being used in the movie as some kind of "gotcha" moment, and in the end, that $12,000 made our lives a little easier. In the end it reduced the stress on my wife, and taking away even one of her worries—in this case it made it possible for us to pay off everything faster than we'd planned—is worth a lot. Besides, Mike's not the devil or anything. It's not like Joe Stalin made me an offer! He's a guy who sees value in us being out there, analyzing his work and asking questions.