WASHINGTON — Dan Quayle may have led the way for vice presidents who dragged television characters into politics, but he apparently doesn't like how his successor has followed.
Quayle issued a brief statement Friday criticizing Al Gore for applauding a lesbian TV character a day earlier during a speech in Beverly Hills, Calif.
"I'm always surprised to hear politicians promoting the agenda of Hollywood elites," Quayle said. "If there's anybody whose agenda needs promoting, it is the middle-class American family."
Gore hailed the lesbian lead of "Ellen" and other TV shows and characters as making important contributions to society during a speech to the Hollywood Radio and Television Society.
"When the character Ellen came out, millions of American were forced to look at sexual orientation in a more open light," Gore said.
The remarks were reminiscent of when Quayle five years ago denounced TV character "Murphy Brown" for having a child out of wedlock. He was derided at the time, but his remarks sparked a national debate about single motherhood.
On Friday, Christian Coalition Executive Director Randy Tate assailed Gore's comment as "nothing more than craven pandering to the Hollywood left" and "way out of the mainstream of what most American families want to see on prime-time television."
Said Tate, a former Republican congressman from Washington state, "I can only think of one reason he wanted to do it and that's campaign financing. Hollywood contributed millions to the Clinton-Gore campaign."
But Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay-rights group, said Gore's comments show he "is far more in touch with the vast majority of Americans" than the Christian Coalition.
"I think it's politically good for him, but I don't think he did it for that reason," she said. "My consistent experience of the vice president is that he cares about this issue and that he wants equality and fairness to operate."