Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, appearing in Los Angeles to raise money for his presidential bid, on Wednesday condemned Hollywood for debasing the nation's culture with movies, music and television programs that have produced "nightmares of depravity" drenched in violence and sex.
The Republican senator from Kansas, who brings his campaign to Orange County today, accused the entertainment industry of marketing images of evil to American children in an amoral thirst for profit.
Dole's broadside, deliberately delivered in the heart of the entertainment industry, marked an escalation of his campaign to win the support of conservatives concerned about the coarsening of American culture.
His language was full of condemnation and moral absolutes. It was the harshest criticism leveled at the entertainment industry by any of the current crop of presidential candidates and was much stronger than any of the mild criticism voiced by President Clinton.
"My voice and the rising voices of millions of other Americans who share this view represent more than the stodgy old attempt of one generation to steal the fun of another," the 71-year-old Dole said Wednesday evening at a reception for political donors at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in Century City. Few if any entertainment industry officials were present.
About 300 people heard the GOP senator's remarks, including actresses Bo Derek and Stacy Scoggins, and former ambassador to Mexico John Gavin, who was once an actor. The response to Dole's remarks generally was tepid, but the event raised $400,000 for his campaign coffers.
"A line has been crossed--not just of taste, but of human dignity and decency," Dole said. "It is crossed every time sexual violence is given a catchy tune. When teen suicide is set to an appealing beat. When Hollywood's dream factories turn out nightmares of depravity."
Dole added that he intends to continue speaking out against what he considers cultural contamination and will name those he considers most responsible.
"We will contest them for the heart and soul of every child, in every neighborhood. For we who are outraged also have the freedom to speak. If we refuse to condemn evil, it is not tolerance but surrender. And we will never surrender," Dole said.
He cited the movies "Natural Born Killers" and "True Romance" and the recording groups Cannibal Corpse, Geto Boys and 2 Live Crew as products and artists who "revel in mindless violence and loveless sex."
"The mainstreaming of deviancy must come to an end," Dole said.
One of those singled out for criticism, producer and director Oliver Stone, later called Dole's remarks "a '90s form of McCarthyism."
"I understand Sen. Dole's need to appeal to the right-wing voters and the Republican Party," Stone said through a spokesman, "but my intention in 'Natural Born Killers' was to satirize, not glorify, violence."
Dole singled out Time Warner Inc., whose record division several years ago produced the violent and sexually explicit rap album "Cop Killer" by Ice-T and which continues to publish music by a variety of African American rap artists.
He accused Time Warner officials of "marketing evil through commerce" and asked rhetorically: "Must you debase our nation and threaten our children for the sake of corporate profits?"
But Dole notably avoided mentioning three top stars of often-violent movies who are Republicans--Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis.
But even as he indicted their products, Dole also reached out to industry executives, asking them to aid in his efforts to reclaim the culture.
"I know that good and caring people work in this industry," Dole said. "Prove to us that courage and conscience are alive and well in Hollywood."
A senior record industry executive called Dole's attack on rap stars racist and hypocritical and accused him of pandering to the right wing in search of primary votes and campaign money.
"This is just the shallowest form of headline mongering," said the executive, who asked not to be identified by name.
A Time Warner spokesman noted that Ice-T has not been associated with the company for more than three years and said that company Chairman Gerald Levin had ordered the chiefs of the company's record divisions to review their products to see if they fall within acceptable industry and societal standards.
Spokesman Ed Adler of Time Warner said that Levin wants "a balance between the creative process and our responsibilities as corporate citizens."
Today Dole will speak at a $1,000-a-plate breakfast at the Sutton Place Hotel in Newport Beach.
While much of his speech Wednesday was addressed to industry executives, Dole had a larger audience in mind--middle-class American families concerned about the images that their children get from television, movie screens and the radio.