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A Night At the Smackdown Hotel

Brent Bozell is looking like a jabroni in his crusade against the World Wrestling Federation.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/5/2000

It was probably not the best week L. Brent Bozell III has had. Hard-core meddling conservatives like himself were mostly shunted aside at the Republican National Convention. And, to add insult to injury, a target of his latest crusade got to speak at the convention.

Bozell was undoubtedly cringing at the sight of a professional wrestler called The Rock introducing House Speaker Dennis Hastert as a speaker at the convention. But he got to argue with the wrestler on TV, so that probably salved the wound a little.

In case you've missed it, Bozell has declared war on the World Wrestling Federation, The Rock's employer, under the aegis of the Parents Television Council, one of the tentacles of Bozell's Media Research Center (where donations are not merely welcome, but tax-deductible as well). Behind the smiling public faces of entertainer Steve Allen and others on the PTC's "celebrity advisory board," Bozell has been using his virulent rhetoric to drive advertisers away from WWF programming in general and specifically the version that airs on UPN, called "Smackdown!" (This would be the same guy who has called a similar effort against "Dr." Laura Schlessinger's TV show "repugnant.")

How virulent? Oddly, you can't find his most vicious stuff at the PTC website. You have to dig through his syndicated columns, archived at the MRC:

  • July 25: "The most disgusting program in the history of broadcast television."
  • March 9: "Despicable" and "disgusting." And the WWF is slammed as a "terrible outfit."
  • Feb. 29: An "ultra-violent, raunchy ode to the brain cell-impaired."
  • Dec. 1, 1999: "It is garbage – smelly, rotten, despicable filth." He calls Vince Russo, a former writer for the WWF (let's not get into the "reality" of pro wrestling here, shall we?) now with World Championship Wrestling, the "Shakespeare of sleaze." And he announces that "it is my duty to point out that “Smackdown!” is one of the most revolting programs in the history of broadcast television, period."

The PTC web site uses somewhat milder terms to describe "Smackdown!" The site also treats us to the following unintentionally hilarious sight under its "E-Alert" section:

  • 7/31 -- PTC Calls For GOP to Drop The Rock
  • 8/02 -- PTC Repeats Its Call For GOP To Toss "The Rock"

Well, the GOP didn't listen to either plea — not to mention a third PTC press release and a letter from Bozell to Hastert — and The Rock appeared as scheduled.

Bozell got his other minions in on the act, too. His worker bees at the MRC and the Conservative News Service were undoubtedly under orders to note the Rock's appearance -- and make sure the WWF gets criticized as well; and both dutifully complied. However, CNS gets a conflict-of-interest demerit for not noting that the head of CNS is also the head of the PTC.

One could raise an ethical concern about Bozell using various parts of his empire (his syndicated column, MRC, CNS) to generate free publicity for another part (the PTC), but we're talking about a guy who plagiarizes himself and steals the work of his employees without credit.

All this righteous concern, though, didn't get in the way of shameless self-promotion; at the end of the Aug. 2 PTC press release it is noted: "The Rock is still scheduled to appear at the convention at 7:30 this evening, but he may be making an interesting appearance on CNN with PTC chairman L. Brent Bozell around 7:10 p.m."

Which indeed happened. The PTC has immortalized the exchange in RealVideo on its site. For those without the computer power, check out Wrestling Observer, a site that compiles news in the world of pro wrestling. The site's Dave Meltzer called the exchange "underwhelming":

    (Dwayne) Johnson (aka The Rock) did the 'you can switch the channel if you don't like it' argument, while Bozell got bogged down in arguing whether the WWF's fan base totals 14 million or 22 million, each of which are basically misleading worked numbers (... Johnson understood the numbers well enough to point out that 22 million was the total audience and 14 million was those of voting age, which Bozell didn't know beforehand, and to me he looked bad when he didn't have a grasp on as basic a misleading statement as that was). Bozell was critical because during a scripted segment on RAW (the WWF show that airs Monday nights on the USA Network), Rock assaulted a woman wrestler, which is something that does happen on other prime time TV shows. He did mention that he'd be thrown off the air if he talked about some of the terms Johnson uses, and there are numerous points the WWF has not done well defending . ... Johnson claimed the WWF shows were tame by the standards of network and cable prime time programming, which is ludicrous. Bozell missed several good opportunities, such as asking Johnson to name one show on television tamer than wrestling watched by so many young children. Johnson didn't come off well when it comes to what he said, but his delivery was strong. I think he came off slightly the better of the two, but he also was the one who resorted to the name calling immediately. ...

Yes, a professional political activist had trouble holding his own against a non-political "sports entertainer." Of course, when you get called a "jabroni," the trademark insult The Rock used against Bozell, what can one do?

That's not the only thing Bozell has had trouble with; he also can't seem to keep current on the latest WWF action, even when it's about him. The Aug. 2 PTC press release describes "a character known as 'The Godfather' ” who "is always accompanied by a group of women known as his 'Ho's.'"

Well, a few weeks earlier, the Godfather became the Goodfather, dumped the "ho's," joined two other wrestlers in donning matching white shirts and ties and forming the "Right to Censorship" (RTC), a group designed to mock the PTC by pushing for a cleanup of the WWF. (The "ho's" are not happy about this, by the way, leading a "save the ho's" demonstration on a recent show.) This is what WWF head Vince McMahon said he would do in a letter to Bozell, reproduced on the PTC site:

    ...You've given me an idea for a new character. A pompous, self-righteous character with a name like L. Brent Bozell, III. This character will not give a damn about certain constitutional rights. This character will attempt to dictate and control content of all television, then on to radio, then on to books! He will stop at nothing including trampling other peoples' freedoms in an effort to accomplish his selfish goals. However, this censorship-laden character is eventually going to meet my character on television, Mr. McMahon. Oh boy, there goes the neighborhood!

The PTC laughably described McMahon's letter as "threatening;" the only "threat" that was issued is creating a character in Bozell's humorless image. Since McMahon carried through on this "threat," will Bozell now get a restraining order?

Another of The Rock's favorite sayings is "Shut your mouth and know your role." Bozell obviously won't be shutting up any time soon -- there's too much publicity to be generated -- but the WWF has given him a role he knows exceptionally well: A censorious bluenose who applies standards to others he doesn't follow himself.

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