- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Porn problem

Employees at the National Endowment for the Arts felt like they’d been the victim of a hit job when Fox News reported that the federal agency was handing out stimulus money for porn.

The funding, the NEA argues, is being used to provide salaries for employees at art centers, not for the possibly pornographic work being produced there - a distinction important to the NEA but not to the GOP.

At issue was a $50,000 grant the NEA gave to Frameline, a San Francisco-based film house with a mission “to strengthen the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community by supporting and promoting a broad array of cultural representations and artistic expression in film, video and other media arts.”

One of Frameline’s sanctioned “artistic expressions” included a viewing of “Thundercrack,” billed as “the world’s only underground kinky art porno horror film, complete with four men, three women and a gorilla.”

The Fox article’s headline was “Stimulus Bill Funds Go to Art Houses Showing ‘Pervert’ Revues, Underground Pornography,” though there were plenty of ribald puns as the story was widely picked up by conservative blogs and talk radio, much to the NEA’s dissatisfaction.

“It was clearly orchestrated,” said NEA Communications Director Yosi Sergant.

“Frameline is an organization that has funded many, many activities,” Mr. Sergant said. “The San Francisco LGBT film festival has over 80,000 people attending, with over 300 films shown. There was midnight screening of a 1974 kitsch movie that was mock porn. So they, of course, lead with the headline that NEA funds porn.”

The NEA also doled out a $25,000 grant from its stimulus money to a group called CounterPULSE, which produces a weekly show called “Perverts Put Out,” where audience members are invited to enjoy “explicit, twisted fun.” It also awarded a $25,000 grant to Jess Curtis/Gravity Inc., which has created the Symmetry Project, a showcase of nude couples, sometimes with their children.

When Rep. Cliff Stearns, Florida Republican, heard about these projects, he fired off a letter to the NEA that said there “is no justification for using tax dollars for these abhorrent projects,” a sentiment joined by the 49 other Republicans who co-signed the letter.

The NEA replied last week that stimulus cash was not used in this matter. Rather, it’s providing salaries for struggling artists - who happen to work at places that may produce controversial material.

The NEA explained that the $50,000 Frameline received is paying for a film director to help oversee the LGBT Film Festival. And the money for Jess Curtis/Gravity is being used to hire an “artistic director responsible for artistic oversight and management” and a program manager. CounterPULSE was using its $25,000 to pay for a program manager too.

Mr. Stearns still isn’t satisfied with the NEA’s rationale.

“My objection is that taxpayer dollars should not be used to support offensive and indecent projects,” he said in a statement provided to the Washington Times. “If these art organizations are such a benefit to their communities, then those who indulge in these pornographic exhibitions should support those organizations instead of taxpayers who find these projects abhorrent.”

Schlafly honored

The women of Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute awarded longtime conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly with a Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday for her leadership over the past four decades.

Mrs. Schlafly burst onto the national scene in 1964 with her book designed to promote Barry Goldwater’s presidential candidacy, “A Choice Not an Echo.” She went on to author or edit 19 more books over her storied career. Mrs. Schlafly counts defeating the feminist-led push for the Equal Rights Amendment among her biggest accomplishments.

Today, in addition to writing a syndicated column and recording radio features for more than 500 stations, she pens a monthly newsletter titled “The Phyllis Schlafly Report” that is now in its 42nd year of publication.

In her acceptance speech, she hearkened back to her first book, likening the Republicans’ political fortunes at that time to today. Mrs. Schlafly told the conservative-leaning audience not to fret; the Republican Party had been here before.

“The landscape was like this before the Goldwater Revolution,” she said, adding that she felt spurred to take action because “the establishment country-club-type Republicans had been dictating our nominees.”

Mrs. Schlafly originally was scheduled to receive the award at a luncheon during the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, but at the last minute she couldn’t make it. She had fallen and broken her hip stepping down from a podium at the University of California at Berkeley, where she had delivered a speech on “Feminism vs. Conservatism.”

But on Monday, the 85-year-old Mrs. Schalfly walked to the podium at the National Press Club with ease.

In her address, she spoke directly to the young women in the audience.

“You need to understand how destructive the feminist movement is that teaches that you are the victim in an oppressive and unjust society,” she said. “That is ridiculous. American women are the most fortunate women to have ever lived on the face of this earth.”

“Don’t waste your education dollar on any of those [feminist] courses,” she advised.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@ washingtontimes.com.

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