Hollywood executives asked by the Bush administration to help with war on terrorism

Monday, November 12th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ The White House has asked Hollywood executives to help in America's war on terrorism, but both sides agree that that no one is interested in the dreaded ``P'' word _ propaganda.

Instead, leaders of the country's global entertainment companies Sunday were asked to encourage volunteerism, boost the spirits of citizens and help entertain soldiers at home and abroad.

Top Hollywood executives met with Karl Rove, a senior adviser to President Bush, in a closed-door meeting at the Peninsula Hotel to discuss the entertainment industry's role after Sept. 11. The meeting resulted in warm mutual praise, but few specifics.

``We're not going to set out to in any way to influence opinion in a manner which can be construed as a propaganda effort backed by the administration,'' said Robert Iger, president of The Walt Disney Co.

``This is a recognition that Sept. 11 was a day that changed the world and if we can step forward and help our country contend with how their world has changed, I think that's the patriotic thing for us to do,'' he said.

Present at the meeting were the chiefs of Hollywood's biggest studios and television networks and the heads of its major unions, including Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone and Melissa Gilbert, president-elect of the Screen Actors Guild.

They emphasized there was no discussion of altering either the content of movies or television shows to respond to world events.

``Content was off the table,'' Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America, said. ``Directors, writers, producers, studios will determine the kind of pictures they choose to make and the compelling stories they want to tell.''

Rove said he discussed seven broad themes with the participants, including the need to encourage volunteerism; to offer support for American troops and their families; and to keep in mind that the administration's war is against terrorism, not Islam.

``It's clear that the leaders of the industry have ideas about how they want to contribute to the war effort, and we certainly want to encourage that,'' Rove said.

``I'm looking forward to hearing what specifically the requests are for our help,'' Gilbert said. ``There are a lot of opportunities for Hollywood to portray the reality of what's going on in America today.''

Executives said they would meet among themselves to discuss more specific proposals. No further meeting with administration officials has been planned.

``I think there will be a lot more work tomorrow than there was today in terms of specifics,'' said Bryce Zabel, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. ``The Hollywood community is as patriotic as other Americans and wants to help get America's message out there.''