TORONTO — Documentarian Michael Moore says he would eagerly take part in a debate against Steve Bannon, a former strategist for U.S. President Donald Trump, despite controversy over the polarizing pundit's participation in a Toronto forum this fall.
Last week, it was announced that Bannon would defend the merits of political populism at the Munk Debates in November, shortly after he was disinvited from next month's New Yorker festival in response to backlash from readers and celebrities who threatened to drop out of the event.
In Toronto, Bannon will go up against author and editor David Frum at the event on Nov. 2.
The news fuelled a heated debate over whether the ex-chairman of far-right publication Breitbart News should be granted a platform to share his views.
But Moore, who premiered his new documentary "Fahrenheit 11/9" at the Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday, said it's too late for that.
Bannon already has a place in the public discourse, he said, and it's better to engage him than to let his rhetoric go unchallenged.
"You want to hear him speak," Moore told The Canadian Press in an interview. "You always want to hear the devil speak. You always want the devil to tell you his plans."
Moore said he would jump at the chance to square off with Bannon over their clashing brands of populist politics, but played coy about who he believed would prevail in a hypothetical debate.
"I know how it would go," he said. "I can't say right now. You'll find out."
Documentarian Errol Morris made a similar case in defending his decision to profile Bannon in "American Dharma," which is set to be screened at TIFF on Sunday.
"To interview Bannon is not to endorse him OR his ideas," he tweeted Thursday. "(Is this so difficult to understand?)."
A representative for the documentary quashed speculation that Bannon would attend Sunday's screening after he was reportedly spotted in Venice during the film's world premiere, which he did not attend.
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