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Democrats "Cashin' In" on Cindy Sheehan

Reported by Melanie - August 18, 2005

Cindy Sheehan was the topic of a segment on Your World today (August 18, 2005) that seems to have been produced for the sole purpose of planting the idea that a desperate Democratic party is turning Cindy Sheehan into a "cash cow."

"Sheehan Cashin' In" was the preliminary title but it quickly expanded in a chyron that appeared throughout the segment to "Money-Maker for the Democratic Party?"

Substitute host Brenda Buttner opened with: "So, think about this, Cindy Sheehan a cash cow for the Democratic party. We know she's quickly becoming a poster mom for the anti-war movement, and if one of my next guests is right, she could be a big money-maker too. He's Ellis Henican..." Buttner introduced Henican, a Fox News "political contributor" (he's supposedly one of Fox's "liberals") and a writer for Newsday, and Kellyanne Conway, a Republican strategist, who "says no way."

Buttner turned to Henican and said, "She does put a human face to the anti-war movement, which basically has been unfocused until now." Henican agreed, saying that when you "boil a big complicated" political issue "into one person," especially one "that every American can relate to, of any political persuasion," that is a "powerful political fact," and "if you don't find a way to channel that effectively, you're missing a big opportunity." Henican said there will be a "lot of fundraising letters that mention Cindy in the next few weeks, I promise you that."

Buttner asked Conway if the GOP should "be scared?" Conway ignored Buttner and lit into Henican. She said that was "the saddest thing I've heard since John Kerry lied about his war record in Vietnam." She said if Democrats "cash in on the death of Casey Sheehan," and support a party that is "bereft of ideas," I think it's "completely shameful." She said other mothers who've lost children aren't "grandstanding looking for their own moment in the sun," and they're going to wonder why the Democratic party is "cashing in" on this. Conway said that if this "presented a money making opportunity for the Democrats," Chuck Schumer would be "down in Crawford, Texas sharing a bunk bed with her."

Buttner again turned to Henican and said, "Well, there is some sense that the Democrats may be exploiting her story. Doesn't that work against them?" Henican said, "Well, you gotta be careful about exactly how you present it," and then he lit into Conway saying that if we can't discuss "politically the realities of this war" when a "solid majority of Americans now agree with many of Sheehan's points," and if "you can't find a way to tell that story in a way" that "Americans can relate to it," you "could fail politically."

At this point Fox began airing video of old anti-war demonstrations. Some of it looked to be from the Vietnam era, and some of it was of hundreds of people marching through what looked like New York City. None of the video was identified. Some Fox viewers may have mistakenly believed that some or all of it was of Sheehan's supporters in Texas.

Conway said Kerry, Edwards and Dean, with the "full effect of the Democratic party" and $100 million failed to "beat the commander in chief with that very message," but now "you have a new trump card," with "dead soldiers to exploit" which is "beyond the pale." Henican said "you want to be the only side to use the pandering," to which Conway said Sheehan's "own family members are looking in her eyes and telling her to stop." She said if Henican "cared about her" he'd go to Crawford himself. She said it's "easy for Hillary Clinton to be in Alaska with John McCain," and "you pretending sanctimoniously that you're helping her out, you're not. You're just using the death of her son to raise dollars."

Henican asked whether, "beating up on this woman, insulting her, and trashing her all over the airwaves is the kind thing to do?" Conway insisted she hadn't trashed Sheehan and said we "can't disgrace" the people who are "over there fighting for our freedom" and "our security" by "giving so much airtime to this one woman's plea." Henican put me out of my misery when he wrapped it up with, "I think she's got the respect of an awful lot of people."

Comment: My first thought was how does Henican know, with such certainty, that the Democratic party will send out a "lot of fundraising letters" that mention Cindy Sheehan? Maybe they will, but maybe they won't. And if he's such a big liberal, why did he let himself be used like this? He should know Fox. He should know this segment was designed to get the message out (which Buttner did so successfully) that Democrats are "cashin' in" on, and "exploiting" Sheehan, the "cash cow," "big money-maker." And besides, so what if Democrats do include Sheehan's name in fundraising letters? What's wrong with that? Republicans exploit people and events all the time. Both parties do. Why didn't Henican make that point?

My second thought was that Fox could only air a segment like this if it knew its viewers were uninformed. The Democratic party machine hasn't rallied to Sheehan's support. It's been absolutely silent...its usual wimpy self.

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