Michael Moore had a problem. By the end of April 2004, he'd finished making Fahrenheit 9/11 but had no American distributor. Mel Gibson's Icon Productions rejected the project back in April 2003. (Moore claims he had a signed contract before Gibson acquiesced to White House pressure. Icon executives deny any such contract existed.) Moore then went to Harvey Weinstein at Miramax. Weinstein agreed to back the movie and signed a contract with Moore to acquire the rights. But in order to distribute the movie, Weinstein still needed the approval of his superiors at Disney. Although he does not discuss this publicly, Weinstein's contract explicitly prohibits Miramax, a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney, from distributing any film that's vetoed by the Disney CEO. When then-CEO Michael Eisner exercised his veto in May 2003, Miramax, though it still held the rights to the film, could not distribute Fahrenheit 9/11.
By the time Eisner told Weinstein of his decision, the Miramax head had already given Moore $6 million from Miramax's loan account. Weinstein agreed that this advance was to be "bridge financing" that he would recover when he sold off the film's distribution rights. To make sure there was no misunderstanding, Disney's Senior Executive Vice President Peter Murphy, who was also at the meeting, wrote Weinstein a letter on May 12, 2003, affirming that this money was "bridge financing" and that Weinstein had agreed to dispose of Miramax's interest in the film.