Outspoken documentarian MICHAEL MOORE split the audience at last night's (23MAR03) Academy Awards by repeating his verbal attack on PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH.

Moore used his 45-second acceptance speech for Best Documentary to blast Bush, as he had on Saturday (22MAR03) at the Independent Spirit Awards.

The director, who invited his fellow nominees to join him onstage to show their solidarity in his message to the President, received a standing ovation from most of the OSCARS audience but a minority booed as he hammered Bush.

Moore said, "We live in a fictitious time. We live in a time where we have a fictitious President conducting a war for fictitious reasons. We are against this war Mr Bush. Shame on you."

OSCARS host Steve Martin helped to calm things down after Moore bounded offstage by joking, "The teamsters are helping Michael Moore into the trunk of his limo."

But Moore continued his rant backstage when he faced the press. When he was asked why he chose to make his comments at the Academy Awards, he said, "I'm an American and you don't leave your citizenship when you enter the KODAK THEATRE." He then played down the booing that could be heard during his speech: "Those were all my friends and relatives. I said Hollywood has got such a bad rap for being a bunch of left wingers it would be really cool if a bunch of you booed.

"But, seriously, do your jobs - don't report there was a split decision in the hall because five wild people booed."