At ‘West Wing,’ pornography and bigotry apparently go hand-in-hand
New York (12/17/99) – The NBC TV program “West Wing” generated a considerable amount of positive publicity this week in the print media (e.g., Time, 12/20/99, USA Today, 12/15/99, N.Y. Times, 12/15/99, N.Y. Daily News, 12/15/99). Morality in Media president Robert Peters had this to say about the Dec. 8 episode:
“Last Wednesday, I arrived home to find my wife in state of distress. What had upset her was a scene in ‘West Wing,’ which she began telling me about before I could take off my coat.
“As she described it, two ‘fundamentalist Christians’ (her description), stereotypically portrayed, were challenging the president (Martin Sheen) to enforce laws against pornography.
“In response, Mr. Sheen informed his visitors, in so many words, that First Amendment concerns outweighed their concerns and that they should get their ‘asses’ out of the White House.
“Had a sympathetically portrayed conservative president told ‘ultra-liberal’ rabbis opposed to school prayer to get their rear ends out of his office, the ADL would be rightly outraged.
“Had a sympathetically portrayed liberal president told ‘ultra-conservative’ Catholic priests opposed to partial-birth abortion to get their rear ends out of his office, the Catholic League would be rightly
“One wonders why the ‘religious right’ is not also outraged. Perhaps they are too busy fighting the flood of hardcore porn unleashed into their communities because of the failure of the current real-life president to enforce obscenity laws.
“That brings me to the primary purpose of this release. Contrary to what the folks at ‘West Wing’ apparentlybelieve, one can support enforcement of laws against pornography without undermining the First Amendment. In fact, when running for president in 1992, Bill Clinton promised that if elected, he would make ‘vigorous enforcement’ of federal obscenity laws ‘a priority.’
“In its 1973 Miller v. California decision, a majority of the Supreme Court Justices also drew an important distinction between, on the one hand, discussion and debate on public issues, and, on the other hand, obscene material or “hard-core” pornography:
“But today…a majority of this Court has agreed on concrete guidelines to isolate ‘hard-core’ pornography from expression protected by the First Amendment…To equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitation of obscene material demeans the grand conception of the 1st Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom. It is a ‘misuse of the great guarantees of free speech and free press.'”
“Also contrary to what the folks at ‘West Wing” apparently believe, it is not just politically conservative evangelical Christians who support enforcement of obscenity laws. In 1997, Morality in Media commissioned Wirthlin Worldwide to conduct a national opinion poll. Eighty-percent of adult Americans supported ‘vigorous enforcement’ of federal obscenity laws.
“In the spirit of Christian charity, one can choose to forgive bigotry, but in the interest of public safety and of protecting family life
and children, left wing misconceptions about porn, the First Amendment and the American people cannot be ignored.”