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Lieberman stays mum on H’wood, morals

Friend Bennett decries 'cultural debasement' partially caused by showbiz

In his 30-minute acceptance speech to the Democratic National Convention Tuesday night, vice presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman made only a veiled reference to Hollywood, saying that parents shouldn’t have to compete with “popular culture” in raising their kids.

But hours earlier he gave his informal proxy to conservative friend William Bennett to decry the “morass” of sex and vulgarity promoted by Hollywood.

Bennett said Lieberman had given him “power of attorney” to speak for him on a panel sponsored by the Creative Coalition and Hollywood Stock Exchange on violence and children. Lieberman was scheduled to participate but canceled at the last minute in order to prepare for his convention speech at Staples Center in downtown L.A.

Bennett reiterated that the entertianment industry is responsible for “the degradation of our culture” and that movies, TV and music have led to “a debasement of the moral environment.”

Bennett also quoted a 1995 statement by Lieberman about the “vile” lyrics of a Warner Brothers artist.

Bennett said he and Lieberman are crusading not only against violent programming for children, but against a more general “cultural debasement” caused, at least in part, by the entertainment industry.

Producer/director Sydney Pollack, another panelist, said the entertainment industry cannot be blamed for the public’s appetite for blood and gore.

“I suppose we’re not completely innocent,” Pollack said. “But I don’t believe it’s an industry intending to create an appetite, but to feed an appetite.”

Also participating in the forum was talk show host Montel Williams, CBS prexy-CEO Leslie Moonves, actress Juliette Lewis and journalist Carl Bernstein. The Creative Coalition is a nonprofit group of actors and artists that focuses on the First Amendment and child education.

Generally, panel members concluded that it’s up to parents to control the images seen by children, and were reluctant to fool with the First Amendment by advocating government intervention.

Lieberman has said he’s also against censorship, but has advocated that the FTC become involved in a labeling system for violent programming.

Across town, Lieberman and his Hollywood crusade was the subject of discussion at a Democratic Convention-related lunch thrown by the Directors Guild of America.

Sen. Blanche Lambert Lincoln (D-Ark.) warned about 60 Hollywood directors that they may have to battle heightened efforts in Washington D.C. to censor sexual and violent content in movies and TV shows.

Lincoln also urged the helmers to prevent objectionable images from being seen by children. “I don’t need a study to tell me the impact of violent images on children because I have two four-year-old boys and I see the difference in them,” she added.

“We have to find where the middle ground is,” said Lincoln, who was elected to the Senate two years ago. “If we don’t define ourselves in the debate, someone else will do it for us.”

Most important speech

Lieberman walked onto the podium at Staples Center shortly after 7 p.m. to begin delivering the most critical speech of his political career, touching upon the key issues of the Democratic presidential campaign, including family values, work and prosperity.

Lieberman’s speech was expected to be the highlight of the Democratic convention, and an impromptu appearance Tuesday on the convention floor was replayed on stations across the country.

“It’s the new hit show — ‘Everybody Loves Lieberman,” Democratic Rep. Edward Markey said during the Creative Coalition panel.

Indeed, considering that CBS was prepared to push back its hit show “Survivor” if Lieberman’s speech pushed into the 8 p.m. time slot in the West.

Joe Andrews, national chair of the Democratic National Convention, said the focus of the four-day convention is spontaneity. If the schedule backs up, so be it, he said earlier Tuesday.

The best time slot for exposure is 7:45 and 8: 15 p.m. PST, since it’s still only 10:15 in the Midwest, a key political battleground for the Democrats. The slot is also good because local news on the East Coast begins at 11 p.m.

“We are making no promises that someone will speak at a particular time,” Andrews said. “Sometimes the unexpected things happen. People love surprises on live TV.”

Andrews said the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia was too scripted.

Meanwhile, the GOP has complained that the networks have given more time to the Democratic confab, especially Monday night, when First Lady Hillary Clinton and President Clinton gave speeches.

Cliff May, communications director for the Republican National Committee, said it’s understandable why the networks would cover the Clintons, but that voters lost out when the networks barely covered a speech by Gen. Colin Powell on opening night of the Republican National Convention.

The GOP doesn’t intend to file any formal action with the FCC, but wants voters to know about the discrepancy.

Meanwhile, actor Tommy Lee Jones, a college friend of Al Gore’s, nominated Gore for president following Lieberman’s speech.

“There are plenty of people who can and will speak to the big policy issues. I have one very big issue to talk about … and that is the quality of this man’s character. He is a good, caring, loving man,” Jones said.

Gore’s daughter, Karenna Gore Schiff, followed with another nominating speech. Gore himself then made an unscheduled appearance before the convention. He will make his official acceptance speech tonight.

(Dave McNary contributed to this report.)

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