In 2000, Will Saletan described Joe Lieberman’s crusade against lurid Hollywood. Joe, he explained:
has spent years trying, through shame and intimidation, to cleanse movies, television, pop music, and video games of gratuitous sex and violence. […]
When asked on Meet the Press about the possibility of “legal restrictions” on Hollywood, Lieberman swore allegiance to the First Amendment but added, “The average family feels as if it’s in a competition with a lot of the stuff … coming out of the entertainment industry, and government has to be on the side of standing with those people to help them, because they feel helpless against the big entertainment industry. […].” Lieberman described his mission as “fighting for average families when it comes to cultural and moral values.”
On Face the Nation, he delivered the same pitch. When asked whether Hollywood could “expect a lot of pressure from the Gore-Lieberman administration,” Lieberman rejected censorship but accused “the entertainment industry” of making it “harder for parents across America who are trying so hard to give their kids good values to do so. I’ll never forget the woman I met at a supermarket in New Haven a couple of years ago who pleaded with me, ‘Keep up this fight.’ Because, she said, ‘I feel as if I’m in a competition with the entertainment industry to raise my own children, and they’re [the industry] winning’[…].”
On This Week, Lieberman repeated his script almost word for word. The entertainment industry “makes it very difficult for parents who are working so hard to give their kids values and discipline to do so, because, as one mother said to me a couple years ago … ‘I feel,’ she said, ‘as if I’m in a competition with the entertainment industry to raise my kids, and they’re winning.’ … A Gore-Lieberman administration will be concerned about what government can do, within appropriate constitutional limits, to improve the moral future of America as well as the economic future of America.”
In explaining why he was the first Democrat to criticize President Clinton over the Lewinsky affair, Lieberman invoked his longstanding criticisms of the media:
Mr. President, I have come to this floor many times in the past to speak with my colleagues about the concerns which are so widely shared in this chamber and throughout the nation that our society’s standards are sinking; that our common moral code is deteriorating and that our public life is coarsening. In doing so, I have specifically criticized leaders of the entertainment industry for the way they have used the enormous influence the wield to weaken our common values. And now, because the president commands at least as much attention and exerts at least as much influence on our collective consciousness as any Hollywood celebrity or television show, it is hard to ignore the impact of the misconduct the president has admitted to on our culture, on our character and on our children.
He called Marilyn Manson “the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company,” and blamed the performer for the Columbine shootings.
Now, a former executive with World Wrestling Entertainment is running to be Lieberman’s junior Senator from Connecticut. WWE presents programming that is violent, sexually charged, and vulgar. Which is their right, and I’m not one to criticize them. I enjoyed what was then called WWF in my childhood. But given Lieberman’s background, you’d expect him to have some concerns about having his Senate colleague be a purveyor of content he might once have called “profane”, “violent”, “filth”, and “crap,” not to mention “vile, hateful, nihilistic and damaging.”
Interestingly, as he’s become more conservative in his politics generally, his attitude towards violent and sexual imagery on television seems to have become more lax. Asked who he’d vote for in the Senate race, Lieberman acknowledged that he’s had harsh words with WWE executive Linda McMahon, but insists:
But you know, she’s running for the Senate now, so I’m not gonna hold her accountable for anything she did in the past. I want to hear what her ideas are on foreign policy, domestic policy.
Not quite his standard with Bill Clinton, was it?