Monday, October 27, 2003

Celebrities voice their political opinions in many ways. They sign petitions, make donations, appear at rallies and sound off on late-night talk shows.

And sometimes they just stay on hold. That is what Cher did yesterday.

Anonymous and unsolicited, the singer joined the line of callers for C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” shortly after 7 a.m., remaining on hold for about four minutes until her moment came to speak on the war in Iraq.

“Thank you for C-SPAN,” she said, simply as a generic “caller from Miami” who offered an immediate and graphic description of wounded soldiers she had met, including “a boy about 19 or 20 who had lost both his arms.”

Alert for bogus claims, on-air host Peter Slen pressed the female caller for more information, establishing she had seen the soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, working as an entertainer.

“Are you USO?” Mr. Slen demanded.

“No. I actually was called by the USO. But I’m just an entertainer. I really don’t want to go much beyond that,” Cher replied.

By then, Mr. Slen had figured out his mystery guest was the singer, who had spent the day with wounded soldiers at Walter Reed on Oct. 10.

“These boys had the most unbelievable courage, they felt it was their duty. And it took everything I have as a person to not, you know, break down,” Cher continued.

This is not the first celebrity call to C-SPAN. Former President Ronald Reagan called in during his first term in office. Barbra Streisand also checked in during 2000, though her appearance was prearranged, according to C-SPAN spokeswoman Robin Scullin yesterday.

In recent years, Cher has not earned many brownie points with the Bush administration. James Hirsen, author of the just-released “Tales From the Left Coast” places the singer in the “I Hate Bush Club” category in his book, which examines celebrity politics.

While vowing she was an independent, and “no Bush supporter,” it was not foreign policy that Cher disputed yesterday, however.

“Why are Cheney, Wolfowitz, Bremer, the president — why aren’t they taking pictures with these guys,” she demanded. “I don’t understand why these guys are so hidden, why there are no pictures of them.”

Cher also chided the news media for omitting the “devastatedly wounded” from their coverage.

“Don’t hide them. Let’s have some news coverage where people are sitting and talking to these guys and seeing their spirit,” the singer said, adding that she watched C-SPAN’s morning show daily, along with the BBC and World Link.

“The news we get in America has nothing to do with the news you get outside of this country,” she observed.

“A celebrity on hold at 7:16 a.m. is not typical,” said C-SPAN’s Miss Scullin. “But it’s business as usual. Cher came in like just another regular caller with something on her mind.”

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