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Moore rips ‘n roars: Filmmaker praises duo who spurred his Utah visit

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OREM — Perhaps as a nod to his politics, Michael Moore was liberally cheered and applauded Wednesday by a sold-out crowd that crowed in delight when the "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker launched into a bit of Bush-bashing.

Scattered boos and minor disturbances caused occasional flare-ups at Utah Valley State College's McKay Events Center. But the firestorm surrounding Moore's appearance, which has raged for more than a month, seemed to dissipate as quickly as it began.

Moore, unkempt brown hair peeking out from under a UVSC baseball cap, was cheered throughout his afternoon speech. The crowd also loudly lauded UVSC's student body leaders, who invited Moore and resisted intense pressure both on and off campus to rescind the invitation.

"No amount of money, no threat of recall, nothing would make them back down," Moore said of UVSC student body president Jim Bassi and vice president Joe Vogel.

"If that doesn't give everyone in this room hope for this country that it was students in Utah — not at Berkeley, not Madison, not Ann Arbor — Utah stood up. I can't thank you enough."

Moore, sporting jeans and a baggy black T-shirt, looked like many of the students on the Orem campus. But he played the role of sage elder, urging all the students to vote. A few students even left with packages of underwear — a gift Moore has been bestowing as he completes his "Slacker Uprising Tour."

"Only two more weeks of George W. Bush," Moore yelled, only to be booed by a small group in the events center.

That remark was booed by a small group in the events center.

"Boo! Boo!" Moore mocked back. "We'd feel that way, too, if we only had two weeks left. We understand it's tough knowing that it's almost over. The words 'President Kerry' are upsetting."

Rallying student voters is Moore's goal on his 61-city tour. He wasn't scheduled to come to Utah, but UVSC student leaders begged him to come. Those student leaders drew ire, however, for spending most of its $50,000 budget to book the filmmaker, whose Bush-bashing isn't popular among Utah Valley conservatives.

To counter Moore's liberal viewpoints, UVSC brought in conservative talk show host Sean Hannity last week. Hannity waived his $100,000 speaking fee, but UVSC swallowed a $50,000 bill for his travel.

Moore poked fun at political pundits and conservatives Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.

Few were spared Moore's sarcastic jabs. He also took light-hearted aim at members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who burst into laughter when, after cursing, the filmmaker made a reference to former LDS apostle J. Golden Kimball.

"The whole country loves the Mormons — why would I feel unsafe here?" Moore said. "I haven't seen a lot of Utah gangs; Mormons with chains and knives and Uzis."

But he admitted it would take a "miracle" for the predominantly Republican state to go against Bush in the November election.

Bush wasn't his only topic. He drew on the enthusiasm of the crowd, which cheered wildly for women's rights, banning automatic weapons and legalizing gay marriage.

Moore wasn't the only celebrity at UVSC stumping for Kerry. Utah native Roseanne Barr made a guest appearance and mocked President Bush with a tongue-in-cheek monologue on his administration.

"Every day I pray to God that George Bush will get another six years so that he can keep creating more jobs in other countries so that they, too, can have the freedom to build their own Wal-marts so they can get Chinese goods at a good price," Barr joked. "That is what freedom is all about. Well, that and forced prayer in the public schools."

UVSC junior Meg Hall said she didn't mind the sarcasm. She preferred Moore's speech over Hannity's. "I was open to hear both sides, but this one was better," Hall said. "It was definitely worth the $40,000."

But Orem resident Kay Anderson, who this week filed a lawsuit in 4th District Court seeking to prevent UVSC from paying Moore for his appearance, said he wasn't impressed. The lawsuit contends UVSC student leaders violated school rules when they agreed to pay Moore's $40,000 speaking fee plus some $10,000 in travel costs.

"It's what I expected out of a Democrat rally, and I have no problem with it," Anderson said. "But I think the students will have a hard time knowing they paid for a political rally for residents of Salt Lake who came down on their tab."

E-mail: lwarner@desnews.com