Sen. Voinovich On Campaign Against Celebs Testifying

Ohio Senator George Voinovich was on The Big Story with John Gibson on Monday. While not mentioning his boycott of star Kevin Richardson, he did expand on his feelings about celebrities testifying before congress, explaining when it is and isn’t acceptable to him. Read on for a transcript.

Celebrities contributing a powerful voice for cause suddenly may
appear before congress to testify. But, does being a famous, charming actor
automatically make you an expert on any of these subjects? Earlier I spoke
with Ohio Senator George Voinovich about what he thought about celebrities
and their testimony on causes?

Sen. Voinovich: The real issue is that who are they and whether it’s
show business or is it substance? In some instances I think they’re excellent
witnesses. For example, Rob Reiner is a friend of mine and he is an expert
on zero to three. Michael J. Fox, Mohammed Ali, talking about Parkinson’s
or Christopher Reeves talking about spinal cord injury, or Bono talking
about AIDS and debt for third world countries. These are people that have
established themselves as experts, in contrast to other people who come
in and don’t contribute in terms of the substance that we would like to
have in these hearings.

John Gibson: A lot of us, I have mouthed off about this myself, I’m
afraid. A lot of us think what is really going on is that celebrities are
using their celebrity status to push a point of view that they have, and
they may just be an ordinary citizen in terms of a political question,
but they get a louder voice because of their celebrity status. Is that
— do you think that’s a fair objection to them entering these debates?

Sen. Voinovich: Well, I think it’s a combination of a lot of things.
One is that I think a lot of my colleagues who are holding these hearings
understand that the only way maybe they can get C-Span or CNN or somebody
else to cover them is to have some celebrity that will bring some notoriety,
the frosting on the cake, if you want to call it that. And others, I think
I agree with you, they’re promoting a particular issue and use their celebrity
status to get on an agenda when ordinarily somebody else might be better
in terms of a witness. And I think some frankly embrace some of these issues
because they think it helps their career and puts it in a different dimension
on them as a celebrity.

John: You know, I know that, for instance, and Don
Henley, they talked before a congressional committee having to do with
copyrights, which they have a serious interest in.

Sen. Voinovich: Absolutely. And it affects their livelihood and I puts
a real face on an issue for congress. And that’s fine.

John: But, on the other hand, if it were to come in, the same two, let’s
say, hypothetically, come in and talk about nuclear arms reduction, is
that — is that something you want to hear?

Sen. Voinovich:  No, I don’t think we do want to hear that. I think
when that kind of thing happens, what it does is marginalizes the hearings
and, I think, really hurts the cause. And we have a lot of things on our
plate up here in Washington. We have lots of hearings. And when I go to
a hearing, I’m really — and I’m going to spend the time, I want to hear
from some people that can give me a real good perspective on something,
and that is an informed perspective, albeit one I may not agree with. And
that could be a celebrity or it could not be a celebrity. John: Senator
George Voinovich, I appreciate your joining us. Good luck with the flash
bulbs going off in your eyes at those hearings.

Sen. Voinovich: Let’s hope there are less of them now.

John: Thanks. And U2’s lead singer Bono’s the latest contributor and
he announced plans to open his own “think tank” in D.C.

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