Publicists With a Cannes-Do Attitude
By Richard Leiby
Wednesday, May 19, 2004; Page C03
Those who love conspiracy theories entwining Hollywood and Democratic politics, please have at it: Miramax Films has hired a team of hardened Clinton-Gore spinmeisters to help promote the new Michael Moore documentary, "Fahrenheit 9/11," saying it wants to counter any Republican attacks on the decidedly liberal filmmaker.
Parachuting into France for the documentary's Cannes Film Festival launch, a Miramax rep told us, were Howard Wolfson, ex-campaign press secretary for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Michael Feldman, a top adviser on Al Gore's 2000 presidential race. (Feldman founded the Glover Park Group, a D.C. communications outfit, with ex-Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart.) Also providing PR expertise on the anti-Bush movie: former Clinton White House advisers Mark Fabiani and Chris Lehane.
"We knew the film would obviously draw a lot of political attention and attacks, and we try to do what's best for our movie," Miramax spokesman MatthewHiltzik said from the film festival. "We felt that having the political expertise to withstand the political attacks would require hiring the people who have the most experience on that terrain."
Moore's latest polemic has already generated considerable publicity, thanks to Disney, which owns the film (and Miramax) and blocked its original July 4 release. Moore's Miramax patrons Bob and Harvey Weinstein are expected to buy the picture and get "Fahrenheit 9/11" into theaters nationwide in July (followed by DVD release in September).
Hiltzik is a onetime spokesman for the New York state Democratic Party who worked on Hillary Clinton's Senate race (aha!). He said of consultants Wolfson and Feldman's tough duty on the Riviera: "They were only there to represent the movie, not any other agenda. They helped position it at Cannes, and hopefully we'll have a distributor in the next few days. A permanent publicity [team] decision will be made once a distributor is found."
Lockhart spun it thus: "We're not working for Michael Moore, but we are working for Miramax."
Cosby, Saying the Darndest Things
• Bill Cosby was anything but politically correct in his remarks Monday night at a Constitution Hall bash commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. To astonishment, laughter and applause, Cosby mocked everything from urban fashion to black spending and speaking habits.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the lower economic people are not holding up their end in this deal," he declared. "These people are not parenting. They are buying things for kids -- $500 sneakers for what? And won't spend $200 for 'Hooked on Phonics.' . . .
Bill Cosby, ready to let off steam.
(Lawrence Jackson - AP)
"They're standing on the corner and they can't speak English," he exclaimed. "I can't even talk the way these people talk: 'Why you ain't,' 'Where you is' . . . And I blamed the kid until I heard the mother talk. And then I heard the father talk. . . . Everybody knows it's important to speak English except these knuckleheads. . . . You can't be a doctor with that kind of crap coming out of your mouth!"
The Post's Hamil Harris reports that Cosby also turned his wrath to "the incarcerated," saying: "These are not political criminals. These are people going around stealing Coca-Cola. People getting shot in the back of the head over a piece of pound cake and then we run out and we are outraged, [saying] 'The cops shouldn't have shot him.' What the hell was he doing with the pound cake in his hand?"
When Cosby finally concluded, Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert, NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and NAACP legal defense fund head Theodore Shaw came to the podium looking stone-faced. Shaw told the crowd that most people on welfare are not African American, and many of the problems his organization has addressed in the black community were not self-inflicted.
• Add one more to the Republicans-who-live-in-Hollywood list. (How many is that now? Five?) The ever-shrinking Lara Flynn Boyle tells Us Weekly that Democrat John Kerry ain't her man. "I'm Irish Catholic, so a Democrat by blood," Jack Nicholson's former flame reveals, "but I'm 100 percent for Bush. I want my president to be like my agent: Not afraid of people, but wants my best interest."
• Economic indicator? On April 24, 2003, President Bush visited a Timken Co. bearings plant in Canton, Ohio, where he praised Timken's productivity and said his plan to end the double taxation of stock dividends would mean "companies like Timken have got a better capacity to expand, which means jobs." The dividend tax was cut. And Timken? The Post's Dana Milbank reports that company, run by a big Bush supporter, announced last week that it's shutting down the Canton operation, which employs 1,300.
This Date in Gossip
148 years ago:
Sen. Charles Sumner, an abolitionist from Massachusetts, delivered his fiery "Crimes Against Kansas" speech, in which he decried the efforts of southerners to force slavery into that territory. He singled out Andrew Pickens Butler, a pro-slavery senator from South Carolina, declaring: "Of course he has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows, and who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight. I mean the harlot, Slavery."
Butler wasn't present to hear Sumner's screed, but a fellow South Carolinian, Rep. Preston S. Brooks, was. Three days later he took his revenge. Brooks quietly entered the Senate chamber, found Sumner working at his desk, and announced, "I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." Then Brooks started whacking Sumner with a cane until it splintered and his victim fell from his chair in a bloody heap. Sumner's injuries were so severe he was unable to return to the Senate for three years. Brooks resigned from Congress but was promptly reelected to fill his own vacancy.
With Anne Schroeder
© 2004 The Washington Post Company