BOSTON - A veteran who lost both arms in the war in Iraq is suing filmmaker Michael Moore for $85 million, alleging that Moore used snippets of a television interview without his permission to falsely portray him as anti-war in "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Sgt. Peter Damon, a National Guardsman from Middleborough, is asking for damages because of "loss of reputation, emotional distress, embarrassment, and personal humiliation," according to the lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court last week.
Damon, 33, claims that Moore never asked for his consent to use a clip from an interview Damon did with NBC's "Nightly News."
He lost his arms when a tire on a Black Hawk helicopter exploded while he and another reservist were servicing the aircraft on the ground. Another reservist was killed in the explosion.
In his interview with NBC, Damon was asked about a new painkiller the military was using on wounded veterans. He claims in his lawsuit that the way Moore used the film clip in "Fahrenheit 9/11" - Moore's scathing 2004 documentary criticizing the Bush administration and the war in Iraq - makes him appear to "voice a complaint about the war effort" when he was actually complaining about "the excruciating type of pain" that comes with the injury he suffered.
In the movie, Damon is shown lying on a gurney, with his wounds bandaged. He says he feels likes he's "being crushed in a vise."
"But they (the painkillers) do a lot to help it," he says. "And they take a lot of the edge off of it."
Damon is shown shortly after U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., is speaking about the Bush administration and says, "You know, they say they're not leaving any veterans behind, but they're leaving all kinds of veterans behind."
Damon contends that Moore's positioning of the clip just after the congressman's comments makes him appear as if he feels like he was "left behind" by the Bush administration and the military.
In his lawsuit, Damon says he "agrees with and supports the President and the United States' war effort, and he was not left behind."
He said that, while at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center recovering from his wounds, he had surgery and physical therapy, learned to use prosthetics and live independently. He also said that Homes For Our Troops, a not-for-profit group, built him a house with handicapped accessibility.
"The work creates a substantially fictionalized and falsified implication as a wounded serviceman who was left behind when Plaintiff was not left behind but supported, financially and emotionally, by the active assistance of the President, the United States and his family, friends, acquaintances and community," Damon says in his lawsuit.
Moore did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday. A message was left for Moore at a personal number in New York and with HarperCollins, publisher of Moore's 2002 book, "Stupid White Men...And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation!"
A spokesman for Miramax Film Corp., also named as a defendant, did not immediately return a call.
Damon did not immediately respond to a request for an interview.
"It's upsetting to him because he's lived his life supportive of his government, he's been a patriot, he's been a soldier, and he's now being portrayed in a movie that is the antithesis of all of that," Damon's lawyer, Dennis Lynch, said.
Damon is seeking $75 million in damages for emotional distress and loss of reputation. His wife is suing for an additional $10 million in damages because of the mental distress caused to her husband, Lynch said. ---
Editor's Note: Denise Lavoie is a Boston-based reporter covering the courts and legal issues. She can be reached at dlavoie(at)ap.org
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