From firstname.lastname@example.org Fri Sep 22 07:39:18 2000
Bennet blasts Lieberman over censorship waffling, religious joke at fund raiser
AANews, #821, 21 September 2000
Possible Democratic party efforts to rein-in Sen. Joseph Lieberman's Old Testament-style blasts at the entertainment industry drew the wrath yesterday of William J. Bennett, former secretary of education and author of the "Book of Virtues." Bennett is also a close friend and associate of Mr. Lieberman; the two have been active in groups like Empower America, and have led a crusade critical of what they charge is excessive violence, sexuality and irreverence in popular media.
In a statement to the news media, Bennett accused Mr. Lieberman of retreating from that objective following his appearance at a glitzy fund raiser on Monday night in Beverly Hills, Calif. The soiree was attended by many of the stars and moguls in the industry which Vice President Gore and Lieberman have been targeting. The Democratic candidates appear to be mimicking their GOP counterparts, and following a round of recent hearings on capitol hill even pledged to use the power of the Federal Trade Commission in trying to regulate the content and marketing of salacious or violent materials, especially to children.
Waffling on the threats of overt censorship or "regulation," Lieberman told his Monday nights hosts, "Al and I have tremendous regard for this industry. It's true from time to time we will have been, will be critics, or noodges, but I promise you this: We will never, never put the government in the position of telling you by law, through law, what to make."
"We will nudge you," added Lieberman, "but we will never become censors."
Lieberman's assurances, though, fell on skeptical ears. It was hard to reconcile "nudging" with last week's round of capitol hill hearings before the Senate Commerce Committee which saw Lieberman team up with Lynne Cheney, wife of GOP vice presidential wanna' be Dick Cheney, in excoriating much of modern culture and the entertainment industry. Violent movies, salacious lyrics, video games, even popular rap artist Eminem all took hits as Lieberman denounced "the culture of carnage surrounding our children" and entertainment which was "a toxic mix turning some of them into killers."
Bennett quickly reacted to the Lieberman waffling. "I am deeply disappointed by Senator Lieberman's recent comments to members of the entertainment industry. Senator Lieberman so softly voiced his criticism about the products of that industry that they were barely audible."
He continued, "I did not realize that when Joe Lieberman and I were denouncing the filth, sewage, and mindless bloodletting of the popular entertainment industry, calling it what it is -- degrading and dehumanizing -- we were just being 'noodges.' " Bennett then added, "I wonder whether this is a sign of a campaign that's faltering or kind of anxiously trying to figure out how to regain the momentum."
Jesus Jokes A Taboo?
Bennett also cited an incident at Monday's fund raiser where "Seinfeld" executive producer Larry David allegedly made fun of Christianity with a joke. According to the Washington Post, David, who like Lieberman is a Jew, allegedly said: "Like (George W.) Bush, I too found Christ in my 40's. He came into my room one night, and I said: 'What, no call? You just pop in?' "
Bennett characterized the innocent remark as a statement "ridiculing Christianity and reducing it to the level of Borscht-belt humor." He told the Times that Lieberman should have immediately left the party, and that his continued presence at the affair was a tacit endorsement of David's humor.
"You've got to walk out. At least you've got to say, 'Gentlemen, this isn't the kind of thing we should be talking about making fun of,' " Bennett declared. "I can't tell you how disappointed I am in Joe Lieberman."
Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network quickly pounced on the joke incident, and quoted Bennett: "This is just further confirmation that the only kind of bigotry still permissible in America is anti-Christian bigotry. This kind of thing ought to be renounced in the strongest terms, and I would hope that Vice President Gore and Sen. Lieberman would have been among the first to do so. Upon hearing these remarks, they should have walked out."
The faith issue remained on the media to-do list last night, as Democratic spokesmen responded to Bennett's salvos. Lieberman campaign handler Jodi Sakol told reporters that the candidate "has a great respect for persons of faith and he would never agree with anyone who make disparaging remarks about someone else's faith..."
Mixed Marriage Also A Taboo?
And just when America was finally getting a big more tolerant of racially mixed dating and marriage...
Mr. Lieberman is also taking hits for statements made last Friday during an appearance on the radio-television program hosted by shock jock Don Imus. The popular media ham asked the Democratic candidate whether Judaism placed a ban on "interracial or interreligious marriage or dating or that sort of thing."
"No, there is no ban whatsoever," replied Lieberman. "Certainly not interracial. And not on interreligious."
Orthodox Jews quickly swung into action, contesting Lieberman's remark. Rabbi Avi Shafran of the Orthodox umbrella group Agudath Israel told an internet news site (www.JerishWorldReview.com) that there is a "clear and irrevocable Torah prohibition" against Jews who choose to marry outside of their faith.
"It has nothing to do with race, as anyone from any ethnicity can become a Jew if he or she is sincerely motivated and willing to undergo Halachic conversion."
The Review noted that Lieberman sits on the board of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, and according to one official of the group, holds a position because he engaged in "Kiddush Hashem," or public sanctification of God's name. When questioned about recent Lieberman statements which appear to be at odds with Orthodox teachings such as voting against the partial-birth abortion ban and favoring gay rights, Dr. Mandell Ganchow of the UOJC said that Jews should give Lieberman "don l'kaf zechus," the benefit of the doubt.
When asked if Lieberman or any other board member could be removed for inappropriate conduct, Ganchow replied yes, but said that in the senator's case it was "unlikely."
Less God, More Politics, Oh, My!
Some religious right groups which had initially approved of Sen. Lieberman's statements on the role of faith in public life now seem to be adopting a more conditional rhetoric about the Democratic vice presidential nominee. Christian Broadcasting Network is leading with a story noting that in recent days, "Lieberman has been mentioning God less frequently." The story cites his appearance in Peoria, Ill. where the candidate talked about tax cuts and care for the elderly. "Again, no God," noted the CBN report.
Late this afternoon, Associate Press released a story with a similar theme noting, "God has a lower profile in Joseph Lieberman's campaign these days." It cites results from a Pew Research poll (see related story below) which suggests that Americans may be growing weary of the "God talk" in the election campaign.
Lieberman aides deny any sort of plan, though, to tone down the religious rhetoric. One campaign spokesperson declared, "If we went to a church or a prayer breakfast today, I'm sure you'd see it."
(Thanks to Margie Wait for information used in this story -- Ed.)
For further information:
http://www.atheists.org/flash.line/eleclob.htm (Archive of articles on the year 2000 campaign)
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