- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mocking Bush

“Let me see if I understand the rules: If you’re an American celebrity, it’s permissible to criticize the president, but not if you do it overseas (see: Dixie Chicks). Now, it appears, there’s a converse rule: It’s also not permitted for a foreign celebrity to come to our shores and criticize our president and tell us how to vote. … That’s the gist of the complaint against VMA host Russell Brand for his blunt political advocacy during his opening monologue and throughout [Sunday’s] show.

“In particular, he urged Americans to vote for Barack Obama and called George W. Bush a ‘retarded cowboy’ who, in the U.K., wouldn’t be trusted with even a pair of scissors. … The anti-Brand complaint seems to be: You have no right to come over here from Limeyland to tell us how to vote or to mock our president — that’s our job. Then again, many commenters thought Brand was hilarious and spoke truth to power.

“Brand also courted controversy by repeatedly making fun of the Jonas Brothers’ virginity pledges (and using them as an excuse to make teen pregnancy jokes about Bristol Palin and her fiance). He issued a sort of non-apology apology about that later in the show, as if someone had twisted his arm backstage …

“Brand has a history of destroying his career through his own outrageous behavior, and if public sentiment is any guide, he could have done it again [Sunday]. But the Hollywood types in attendance on the Paramount lot … seemed to enjoy him, and their opinion may matter more than ours in terms of his job prospects. Besides, [Sunday’s] VMAs were as mediocre as ever, but no one can stop talking about Brand, who two days ago was a virtual unknown in America. He’ll certainly be a solid test case for the theory that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”

Gary Susman, writing in “Popwatch Blog” on EntertainmentWeekly.com Sept. 8.

Getting revenge

“Britney Spears won three big awards at Sunday’s MTV Video Music Awards. It will be called a comeback. And at the same time, she got revenge against John McCain for running an attack ad vilifying Britney and Paris Hilton for being ‘celebrities.’

“Paris claimed vengeance last month when she made a response video, calling McCain ‘that wrinkly white-haired guy’ from ‘the olden days.’

“At Sunday’s VMAs, host Russell Brand pleaded, ‘Please elect Barack Obama.’ Britney clapped approvingly. So there you go. Britney supports Obama, apparently. …

“If you think it’s dumb that Britney, Paris and the VMAs went political, remember that McCain started it. And Sunday’s VMA host spread the response to cover McCain’s running mate Sarah Palin’s pregnant daughter’s 18-year-old boyfriend. …

“‘I think that is the best safe-sex message of all time. Use a condom or become Republican,’ Brand said.”

Doug Elfman, writing in “VegasLand” in the Las Vegas Review-Journal Sept. 8.

Switching hosts

“There were probably multiple explanations for shaking up MSNBC’s anchor team for political events, but the available evidence suggests the right complained enough to make the network act.

“MSNBC tried a bold experiment this year by putting two politically incendiary hosts, Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, in the anchor chair to lead the cable news channel’s coverage of the election. That experiment appears to be over.

“After months of accusations of political bias and simmering animosity between MSNBC and its parent network NBC, the channel decided over the weekend that the NBC News correspondent and MSNBC host David Gregory would anchor news coverage of the coming debates and election night. Mr. Olbermann and Mr. Matthews will remain as analysts during the coverage. …

“Ultimately, though, it appears Republicans were incensed by a perceived ideological balance, and outraged by the presence of perceived liberals on television, and MSNBC felt compelled to respond to the complaints.

“Simultaneously, Fox News announced over the weekend that it, too, was shaking up its coverage, and, in response to complaints from Democrats, would no longer allow Brit Hume and Bill Kristol to anchor the network’s coverage of major political events.

“No, no, I’m just kidding. MSNBC doesn’t want those perceived as biased anchoring its coverage, but Fox News remains unconcerned about charges of a Republican bias.”

Steve Benen, writing in “Political Animal” at WashingtonMonthly.com Sept. 8.

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