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Bennett: Lieberman Soft on Industry

September 20, 2000

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) _ Former Education Secretary William Bennett, one of Joseph Lieberman’s closest Republican allies, accused the Democratic vice presidential candidate Wednesday of going soft on the entertainment industry.

Bennett and Lieberman have teamed up for three years to issue annual ``Silver Sewer″ awards to media outlets that they deem ``cultural polluters.″ But Bennett accused his friend Wednesday of compromising his beliefs about the entertainment industry for political reasons.

``He remains my friend, but I cannot defend this,″ the former Reagan administration official said in a telephone interview. ``I’m deeply disappointed. He so softly voiced his criticisms in Hollywood that he was barely audible.″

Lieberman spokeswoman Kiki McLean, who did not respond to Bennett directly, said Gore and Lieberman have shown courage in being willing to criticize their own supporters.

``Sometimes you have to challenge your friends and in this case, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman have said that marketing violence to children is wrong.″

A week after threatening Hollywood with sanctions for marketing violence to kids, Gore and Lieberman seemed to soften their tone at a star-studded Beverly Hills fund-raiser earlier this week. Lieberman told leaders of the entertainment industry that, ``We will nudge you, but we will never become censors.″

The event raised $4.2 million for the Democratic National Committee. Guests paid $10,000 each to mingle with actors Dustin Hoffman and Tom Hanks, among others.

At the Los Angeles fund-raiser, Lieberman said he and Gore are ``both fans of the products that come out of the entertainment industry _ not all of them, but a lot of them.″

``And it’s true,″ Lieberman said, ``from time to time we will have been _ and will be _ critics or nudges. But I promise you this, that we will never, never put the government in the position of telling you by law, through law, what to make.″

Republicans have accused Gore and Lieberman of hypocrisy for criticizing the industry’s conduct and then accepting campaign cash from Hollywood.

Bennett said Wednesday: ``Joe Lieberman and I were not engaged in nudging the industry. We were engaged in shaming the industry.″

As recently as two weeks ago, Bennett was defending Lieberman’s expressions of his religious faith on the campaign trail, saying the senator from Connecticut was merely following a national tradition of politicians speaking out about religion.

When Lieberman’s selection as the vice presidential candidate was announced in August, Bennett responded, ``He’s my favorite Democrat.″

``I consider Senator Lieberman a friend. I praised Al Gore for selecting him as his running mate and have defended Joe Lieberman from critics on the left and the right. However, recent events have caused me to reevaluate my opinion,″ Bennett said in a press release.

A report last week by the Federal Trade Commission charged the industry with aggressively marketing violent films, music and video games to young children. Report in hand, Gore and Lieberman urged sanctions against the industry unless it stops marketing violence to kids within six months.

For years, Lieberman has been a leading critic of Hollywood. Lieberman has promoted the use of a V-chip device to help parents control what children watch on TV.

Lieberman was in Ohio on Wednesday to promote a patients’ bill of rights, which would guarantee certain minimum standards of health care.

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