Joe's No Star In Hollywood

joe lieberman al gore nashville, tennessee august 8, 2000
Joe Lieberman is not the most popular man in Hollywood. The Connecticut senator, tapped by Al Gore as his vice-presidential running mate Tuesday, has riled many in the traditionally Democratic show-biz capital with his frequent attacks on the entertainment industry.

But, say Hollywood insiders, the selection of Lieberman is unlikely to have much of an impact on Gore's support among the entertainment elite, or stop the flow of big-bucks contributions to the Democrats. As of this month, the TV, movie and music industries had donated over $5.8 million to the Democratic Party, versus just $3.7 million to the Republicans, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Despite some misgivings, some of the biggest names in Hollywood – who are also among the biggest donors to the Gore campaign – are continuing to express support for the Democratic ticket, which will be officially nominated at the party's convention in Los Angeles next week.

Acknowledging that Lieberman is "sometimes overly critical of Hollywood," Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of the powerful DreamWorks SKG studio, said "We're excited about the choice. I've had dealings with Sen. Lieberman over the past dozen years. I've always found him to be a man of extreme integrity and independence."

Jack Valenti, chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, also said that while he disagrees with some of Lieberman's views, he has respect for the man.

"I count him to be one of my dear friends, a man of unquestionable integrity," said Valenti, a former aide to President Lyndon Johnson.

Valenti, though, railed against a proposed "responsible entertainment" plank in the Democratic Party platform which calls for the entertainment industry to "accept more responsibilty and exercise more restraint" - language which resembles Lieberman's own on the subject.

"I can't imagine what idiot on the Democratic National Committee put those in there," Valenti said. "For 32 years, we have been in the vanguard of giving information to parents so they can make informed judgments about viewing habits."

Some Hollywood conservatives, meanwhile, are cheering Gore's selection of Lieberman.

"I think he's a good man and I think it's clearly a good choice. And it's about time a Jew was nominated," said actor Tom Selleck, a long-time conservative activist who got to know Lieberman through their involvement with Character Counts, a nonprofit educational organization.

"I worked with him a lot. I'd vote for him," said Selleck, who's currently portraying a Democratic presidential candidate in the television film, Running Mates.

L. Brent Bozell III, chairman of the Parents Television Council, a conservative advocacy group on whose board Lieberman sits, said "We applaud the decision by the vice president to select Se. Joe Lieberman as his vice-presidential running mate. …This clearly signifies that the vice president has joined the fight to clean up television and hold Hollywood responsible for the content they serve to our nation's children."

Lieberman and conservative former Education Secretary William Bennett have been leading a fight against what they consider excessive sex and violence on television and in the movies. The pair handed out "Silver Sewer" awards to programs and networks they considered "cultural polluters." Among those singled out were shock jock Howard Stern for his syndicated radio show and the Fox Television Network for its entire fall schedule.

"The network has not yet worked its way up to a naked live execution, but viewers will see plenty of crass displays of nudity," Lieberman said last September.

He even went so far as to suggest that the quality of a TV station's programming should help determine if its federal license is renewed.

In addition, Lieberman helped write the law requiring television manufacturers to include a V-chip in their sets to help parents monitor children's viewing habits. He also pushed makers of violent video games to put warning labels on their products.

Although Lieberman's crusade against the entertainment industry puts him out of step with many of his fellow Democrats, he is aligned with at least one key Gore supporter: the vice president's wife, Tipper, who led a campaign a few years ago against explicit lyrics in rock and rap songs.