White House sees Hollywood role in war on terrorism
From John King
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush's top political strategist plans to meet with an array of entertainment executives Sunday to discuss the war on terrorism and ways that Hollywood stars and films might work in concert, in ways both formal and informal, with the administration's communications strategy.
The effort is spearheaded by senior Bush adviser Karl Rove and Jack Valenti, chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, who attended a White House meeting earlier this week to lay the groundwork for the session.
The meeting is set for 11 a.m. local time at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. A final roster of attendees is not set, but an industry source said major studio executives and and network entertainment chiefs were invited along with "top tier" creative minds from Hollywood.
"This will be a summit-level group of people who make things happen -- a serious discussion," the industry source said, predicting about 40 people would join the discussions.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Thursday the meeting was organized by Sherry Lansing of Paramount and said CBS television, Viacom, Showtime, Dreamworks, HBO and MGM were a few of the companies expected to be represented.
Fleischer compared the Hollywood outreach to meetings that White House has held with other U.S. communities to shore up support for the U.S. action in Afghanistan, such as the disabled community and NASCAR.
"Across America every community is looking to pitch in, Hollywood included, and this White House is pleased" to be meeting with entertainment executives, Fleischer said.
One senior administration official familiar with the planning said Rove had a number of thoughts about how the entertainment industry could "be part of the spirit" in the country.
The official said Rove "anticipates the industry would be doing a lot of things on its own, but also sees an opportunity to do some things together."
Among the ideas that have come up in informal discussions: public service announcements saluting U.S. troops, or discussions of homeland security efforts here in the United States.
Another possibility is for prominent Arabs and Muslims to make statements reflecting the White House line that it is a war against terrorism, not Islam. Such "shorts" -- brief productions -- might be aired in movie theaters before feature films or provided to media outlets as public service announcements.
Rove also wants to give industry executives a general outline of a multifaceted campaign "because it is clear that the topics the president and the world are dealing with are topics the entertainment industry is going to deal with in its full spectrum of programs and other products," the official said.
This official said there was no effort to pressure the industry, but that as issues like homeland security, terrorism, and chemical and biological warfare are portrayed in entertainment and other media programming and products, "it is our hope that these issues are handled in a responsible manner and providing information on what we are up to and what we see as the challenges hopefully is something they will find useful."
Many Republicans were scathingly critical of former President Clinton's close ties to Hollywood and the entertainment industry's deep Democratic fund-raising reservoir.
But Rove has worked to have at least cordial if not better relations with many industry officials, and Valenti is a periodic visitor to the White House for briefings on major issues and initiatives. He was described as eager to help arrange Sunday's meeting in Los Angeles.
The industry source credited the president and Rove with building solid relations with the industry and said, "It is a relationship of respect. Clinton liked to mine us for money, but we have accomplished more with this administration than we ever did with Clinton."
"We don't expect them to ask 'Make movies glorifying the president or the troops' and that is not something we would be receptive to if they did ask," this source said. "But there is a high level of interest in being supportive and informative and these are the people who give things the green light and get projects moving along."
In addition to programs aimed at domestic audiences, this official said the discussion was almost certain to include "things that can be tailored for more of an international view, and also things for the Armed Forces networks so we can reach the troops overseas. ... This will be a solid brainstorming session."
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