published Saturday, June 11th, 2011

Undue ‘star power’ in Washington

An interesting remark attributed to the late movie star Cary Grant was, “I’m opposed to actors taking sides in public and spouting spontaneously about love, religion or politics. We aren’t experts on these subjects.”

Of course, it should go without saying that all U.S. citizens, from the most obscure to the most famous, enjoy the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech.

But Grant’s sensible admonition came to mind when we read a recent article on the constant stream of TV, movie and music celebrities who are invited to speak before powerful committees in Congress, using their “star power” to support various causes, on which they may hardly be experts.

Those causes vary widely, of course. Recent advocacy by celebrities has included everything from shark protection to diabetes research. One actress testified not long ago in favor of safer chemicals. Everything she said “had been said before by scientists, environmentalists, the Government Accountability Office and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator,” the article said. And yet, strictly because of her celebrity status, she was invited to be a witness before Congress.

We don’t suggest that movie stars and pop singers have any less right than anybody else to speak up on issues that matter to them. We might even agree with some of their opinions.

But unless a piece of legislation deals with the entertainment industry itself, is there really any good reason why entertainers should be a major focus of congressional hearings?

Shouldn’t lawmakers instead be deliberating legislative proposals based on hard facts — and not on which celebrity supports which cause?

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