News & Politics

Michael Moore: Flint Water Poisoning Tantamount to 'Ethnic Cleansing'

Michael Moore promoting his book Here Comes Trouble at New York City's Barnes & Noble Union Square.

Notorious liberal movie-maker Michael Moore exploited the water problems experienced by the city of Flint, MI, to attack a Republican governor for “a racial crime.” In doing so, Moore overlooked the actual circumstances of the case and the Democrat-led mismanagement that caused Flint’s water problems in the first place.

The people of my hometown, Flint, Mich., are being poisoned. Let me not mince words: This is a racial crime. If it were happening in another country, we’d call it an ethnic cleansing. Flint is a very poor, majority African-American city, and the Republican governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, knows they have no political power, no lobbyists, no money….So when the residents of Flint…complained about the levels of lead in their water and told the governor their children were getting sick – two years ago! – he didn’t have to listen.

Moore is far from alone on this issue. The New York Times’ Charles Blow and former secretary of state and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have attacked Snyder on racial and economic grounds for not responding to Flint’s water problems.

But the big, bad Republican governor did not cause the problems with Flint’s water supply — small-town Democrats and inept Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials did.

Flint has long had money problems, and in 2013 these dire fiscal straits led the city not to renew its expensive water contract with Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. The city opted instead for the promising — and significantly cheaper — new regional system drawing water from Lake Huron. But that system wasn’t ready yet, so in the interim, Flint decided to reopen an old water plant which relied on the polluted Flint River.

When residents started complaining about the taste and color of the water in 2014, the city denied anything was wrong. Indeed, Flint’s Democrat Mayor Dayne Walling urged residents against “wasting their precious money” on bottled water. But the water was contaminated. Because the Flint River water required high levels of chlorine to disinfect, the water became acidic and started destroying the coating of lead pipes in the water system. The lead started causing a whole host of health problems. Luckily, the fix was relatively easy and inexpensive — just add phosphorus to the water, something that would have cost as little as $50,000 a year.

But Flint didn’t do this. Instead, the EPA denied the problems at first, and then decided not to go public with their findings for fear of stepping on the toes of local authorities. Now, due to the delay, the problems have only gotten worse. Governor Snyder requested $28 million in state funding, and President Obama agreed to release $80 million. As The Week’s Shikha Dalmia explained, “This means that state and federal taxpayers will not be on the hook for a problem they didn’t create and that Flint residents didn’t deserve to suffer.”

Michael Moore can blame Rick Snyder all he wants, but the real buck stops with the Democrat local authorities, who tried to bury concerns and failed to take the easy action required to solve the problem. Snyder may not be blameless, but he certainly isn’t guilty of “ethnic cleansing.”

Image via Flickr