Dole Denounces Hollywood 'Values'

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole found a fat target to shoot at when he lambasted Hollywood in a speech this week.


His comments denouncing the entertainment industry not only won the plaudits of social and religious conservatives, but tapped into broader public sentiment to rein in Hollywood's portrayal of sex and violence.


In his speech Wednesday in Los Angeles, Dole denounced the "mainstreaming of deviancy" by the entertainment industry, attacking films such as "Natural Born Killers" and "True Romance," and rap groups such as Cannibal Corpse, Geto Boys and 2 Live Crew. "A line has been crossed, not just of taste but of human dignity and decency," Dole said.


Dole's assault on Hollywood is designed to blunt doubts about his candidacy among religious and social conservatives -- a powerful constituency within the Republican primary electorate.


But the criticism Dole leveled against rap lyrics and sexually explicit movies and the corporations that profit from them reaches well beyond the core of Republican activists. Hollywood ranks at the bottom when Americans are asked which institutions reflect their values, and a recent survey conducted by Dole's pollsters found that, by a margin of 2 to 1, Americans believe the country faces a moral crisis rather than an economic crisis.


This cultural conservatism was one of the forces powering the Republican takeover of Congress last year and is considered one of the party's most potent weapons for 1996.


Politicians across the political spectrum recognize the power of "values." Both President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary have recently spoken out on issues of character and morality, and Clinton criticized rap lyrics during his 1992 campaign. On the right, Patrick Buchanan has sounded similar themes in his presidential campaign, while Senator Phil Gramm has struggled to establish conservative credentials on cultural and moral issues.


But Dole so far has done more to elevate the issue of Hollywood's values in a way that is reminiscent of what then vice president Dan Quayle did with his speech criticizing the TV sitcom "Murphy Brown" -- which presented a positive portrait of a single mother -- in 1992.


His latest comments appeared to complete the process of converting skepticism of his bid among leaders of the religious right to enthusiasm, just a few step short of endorsement. "He clearly recognizes not only the importance of the religious-conservative vote, but understands the broad appeal that can be gained by making themes about the culture a centerpiece of his campaign," said Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition.


Gary Bauer, the president of the Family Research Council who was consulted about the speech before its delivery, said Dole had firmly established his credentials as a candidate willing to make moral and values issues central to his campaign. "We were looking for an arena to give the speech where it would have maximum impact," one Dole official said Thursday. "Going into Hollywood's backyard was a way to draw attention to the issue."


To draw additional attention, Dole advisers beefed up specifics -- singling out Time-Warner, naming names of movies and rap groups. "There was a decision made internally that from [the media's] standpoint, we needed to name names and be specific," one Dole adviser said.


Dole officials said Thursday the candidate had not seen the movies he attacked, nor has he heard the music he denounced. "He's seen the typed out lyrics and he's read a bunch of reviews."


Dole has received $21,000 from Time-Warner for his campaigns since 1987, according to the Associated Press.