Controversial Tapes of Hollywood Execs Lead to Resignations (Exclusive)
Lionel Chetwynd and Norman Powell are upset over remarks they deem discriminatory that were made by some TV Caucus members during interviews with "Primetime Propaganda" author Ben Shapiro.
An organization of politically active TV heavyweights is in turmoil over partisan remarks that some say smack of discrimination, all related to videos The Hollywood Reporter revealed on its website last week.
Two members, Lionel Chetwynd and Norman Powell, have already quit the Caucus for Producers, Writers & Directors, an honor society founded in 1977 by Norman Lear, James Komack, Aaron Spelling, Richard Levinson and others to promote creative freedom and quality and diversity in television.
Chetwynd and Powell quit separately over remarks made by some Caucus members during interviews with Ben Shapiro, author of the book Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How the Left Took Over Your TV.
To promote the book, Shapiro has been flooding the Internet with video snippets of several TV executives -- most of them on the political left -- saying nasty things about conservatives and even celebrating that there are so few of them in Hollywood. Some have advocated that conservatives be shunned.
Beyond the resignations, The Hollywood Reporter has learned that some of the more conservative members are pushing for the Caucus to draft a resolution denouncing some of the remarks made in the Shapiro videos and recommitting the group to political diversity and anti-discrimination. Some who spoke on the condition of anonymity, though, doubt that the liberals who dominate the group will allow such a resolution.
Today's Caucus includes the likes of Tom Hanks, Donald Bellisario, James Burrows, Patricia Heaton, Garry Marshall, Joel Surnow, Henry Winkler and Dick Wolf and is run by chairman Dennis Doty, producer of about 30 made-for-TV movies.
Powell, who once ran CBS Entertainment Productions, hasn't made his resignation letter public, but he emailed his thoughts to The Hollywood Reporter.
"Certainly the fact that our industry has a liberal bias is no surprise," he said. "What is troubling is that now it seems discrimination is an acceptable practice to stifle divergent opinions. Speaking out against this is specifically on the Caucus Mission Statement. Our First Commitment is 'promoting the artistic rights of the creative community,' not solely the rights of the liberal creative community."
Chetwynd, whose TV credits include DC 9/11: Time of Crisis and Ike: Countdown to D-Day, wrote an open letter of resignation to the Caucus, focusing on remarks made by Vin Di Bona, creator of America's Funniest Home Videos. In his recorded interview, Di Bona acknowledged the TV industry is anti-conservative, then he adds that he's happy about it.
In his letter, Chetwynd, who has never hid his conservatism, takes a swipe at the notion of "diversity" shared by his colleagues on the left.
"Mr. Shapiro interviewed a large number of our Hollywood notables on the subject of diversity -- not the sacrosanct melange of race, religion, gender orientation and the like, but a more challenging diversity: that of opinion and policy," he wrote. "The vast majority felt quite comfortable endorsing discrimination against those whose political philosophy was not rooted in the reflexive Leftism of Hollywood."
Chetwynd, in fact, was instrumental in bringing prominent Republicans, like John Thune, Tom Ridge and Eric Cantor, to speak to the Caucus, invitations he now views as an "embarrassment."
"I knew most of my fellow members looked upon the political positions of these people as distasteful; what I now understand is the disgust was not for their views, but for their very person," Chetwynd wrote. "Such people, Mr. Shapiro's sources make clear, must be silenced and it is therefore proper to make them suffer discrimination."
Of Di Bona and others who were caught on tape tolerating political discrimination in Hollywood, Chetwynd writes: "Shame on all of them. Their sickness is an infection that belongs in Europe of the 1930s."
Chetwynd acknowledges that he has spoken to Di Bona, whom he refers to as "a Caucus leader," and has forgiven his remarks, but it didn't alter his decision to leave the group.
"Until now, the Hollywood culture kept mean-spirited and odious persecution carefully discussed out of earshot of we lepers; now, however, there appears to be no problem in openly admitting to cheap and easy prejudice," Chetwynd writes.
Di Bona didn't respond to a request for comment.
"If the Hollywood Left has no compunction in publicly proclaiming its creed," writes Chetwynd, "then for the sake of those Americans who have a different vision for our country, someone must shout, 'Stop!'"
Chetwynd, in his lengthy resignation letter, also addresses the blacklist era of six decades ago when it was Communists and accused Communists who were denied work in Hollywood.
"As I believe you're aware," he writes to his former Caucus colleagues, "I experienced overt blacklisting for my views as a conservative -- at the very hands of those who piously deplore the blacklisting of Communists in a former day."
Toward the end of his letter he writes: "I no longer belong in your midst. I shall miss you all."