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Lynne Cheney Addresses Senate Commerce Committee on Violence in the Media

Aired September 13, 2000 - 11:48 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Want to take you live now to Washington, D.C., testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee is Lynne Cheney, wife of Dick Cheney, who is the Republican contender for vice president, running with George W. Bush. The topic today: Violence in the media targeted towards children.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), CHAIRMAN, COMMERCE COMMITTEE: ... and put yourself through the torture of listening to this.

LYNNE CHENEY, FORMER CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE HUMANITIES: I actually listened to it. And I will given Eminem this credit: You can understand every word he says. Many rock singers and rappers, you can't understand. This is absolutely clear. I have lyrics from this song, which is called "Kill You," that I will be distributing today. This is dreadful. This is shameful. This is awful. So what to do?

I decided that since the lyrics were so hateful to women, what I would do is write the two women members of the board of Seagram. Seagram owns Interscope. Interscope distributes and produces Eminem's records. So I've written to these two women, one is Marie-Josee Kravis, the other is Michele Hooper.

And I've written them letters -- which I will also distribute today; they should have received their letters yesterday -- asking them to take up with their board members, such questions as: How can you reconcile corporate responsibility with such social irresponsibility? I serve on corporate board myself, and I completely understand the duty that corporate directors have to shareholders, but aren't many of the shareholders of Seagram women? Is it to their benefit to distribute lyrics -- to put out lyrics under this record label that degrade, demean women, and I think invite violence toward them? Aren't many of their shareholders parents? Don't these parents shudder at what Interscope and Seagram is doing to their children's culture, to the culture that their children are growing up in?

So that's a small step I've taken. And I've encouraged these two women to contact me at any time. I would be happy to enter into a dialogue with them.

A few years ago, I wrote about another example of the entertainment industry's irresponsibility. I don't follow the entertainment industry closely in all its aspects, but every once in a while something like Eminem pops up. Eminem received three awards from the entertainment industry last week, including best male performer at the MTV Awards. Can you imagine that the entire industry honors this man whose work is so hateful?

Well, as I said, every once in a while, something pops up and compels my interest. A few years ago it was a film, a movie called "Kids" -- I think I'm supposed to call them films, but this is no more than a movie -- a movie called "Kids" that depicted very young teenagers, 13 and 14, having explicit sex. One of them was HIV positive and he had sex with as many of his friends, also 13- and 14- year-old girls, as he could. These youngsters smoked dope, they attacked strangers. And the whole film was presented as though this is the way kids behave. Of course, this is the way kids behave.

I have no doubt that many kids saw this film and got the idea that, well, this is the way kids behave, even though it did have an NC-17 rating, because it's very easy for kids to see a film like this.

But even if they didn't, what is the entertainment industry doing to our children when they create a culture in which children are viewed this way, when they make it seem as though early adolescents are sexual objects, that early adolescents should be expected to take drugs and have sex and attack strangers?

Well, so what to do what about this film? I wrote about it in detail. This film was produced by Miramax.

Now, Barbara Boxer made a -- Senator Boxer made a good point earlier when she pointed out that there's usually a mixed bag here. Miramax also does some fine things. It produced "Shakespeare in Love."

Seagram has done some fine things. One of Seagram's artists, one of their recordings artists is Luciano Pavarotti.

But when these corporations do things that are so shameful as produce and distribute Eminem, Senator, whose lyrics we looked at earlier, or a movie like "Kids," shouldn't people of stature hold them to account? Shouldn't people of stature go to Harvey Weinstein, who is the co-chairman of Miramax, for example, and ask him to pledge that in the future he will not fund works that debase our culture and corrode our children's souls?

I notice that two people of stature, Vice President Gore and Senator Lieberman, are attending a fund-raising extravaganza that Mr. Weinstein is holding on Thursday, and I would ask them, please, to deliver this message.

There are many recommendations that can be made specifically about the report before us, and I certainly think it is important, since I've focused on the recording industry, that they have labels that actually mean something. A parental advisory label is not a very clear indication to parents of what the problem with the recording might be. Unless there is some age-specificity, retailers have no way of knowing who should buy the product and who should not.

And let me also recommend that the lyrics of any recording product that is deemed unsuitable for children be published and enclosed with the CD, for example,

As I've said, one thing to Eminem's credit is you can understand him. But many of the rockers and rappers, you have to listen repeatedly, as kids do. And I will tell you, the kids know what these people are saying. It requires repeated listening to understand.

So I would also suggest that as one specific action that the industry might take in an effort to clean up its act and regulate itself, that anything that has a parental warning label on it should have the lyrics included.

We are faced with a problem that stretches across the entire entertainment industry. I haven't meant to focus particularly on the recording industry or just the movie industry today, because there are many problems. But the time has come, I think, to quit issuing blanket denouncements and to zero in and to ask people to be responsible and to be accountable for the products that are distributed.

Thank you, Senator.

MCCAIN: I thank you very much, Ms. Cheney.

KAGAN: We have been listening to Lynne Cheney, as she addresses the Senate Commerce Committee. Lynne Cheney, of course, the wife of vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney, but also a very accomplished woman in her own right, former chairwoman for the National Endowment for the Humanities, having her say on violence that is marketed in the media, specifically to children.



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