Thursday, April 10, 2008

No forgiving Charlton Heston

Brian Fitzpatrick - Guest Columnist - 4/8/2008 2:15:00 PM

My grandfather was a college football star who even played for the NFL champs back in 1928, so I was looking forward to seeing George Clooney’s new 1920s football movie, Leatherheads, this weekend. That’s before I found out how Clooney, like many lefties in Hollywood and the news media, had treated the late Charlton Heston.
Clooney’s offense took place a few years back. According to Life Site News, “For his conservative stands, however, Heston was attacked and reviled by his Hollywood colleagues. In 2003 actor and leftist political activist George Clooney joked about Heston’s illness [Alzheimer’s disease], and, after Heston criticized him for the remark, he retorted, 'I don’t care. Charlton Heston is the head of the National Rifle Association. He deserves whatever anyone says about him.'”

Making fun of somebody with Alzheimer’s disease and feeling no remorse is about as low as it gets, but it isn’t all that surprising in this case. To Clooney, Heston’s embrace of conservative orthodoxy on the Second Amendment made him worse than persona non grata. He became subhuman, not even deserving of the most basic courtesies.

George Clooney can only dream of rivaling Charlton Heston’s life accomplishments. Let’s leave aside the leading roles in some of the greatest movies ever made, the acting laurels and the celebrity, and look at the man:

• Married to his college sweetheart, Lydia, for 64 years.
• Beloved father of two successful children, one a Hollywood director.
• Unabashed Christian and church attender.
• First among his peers; president of the Screen Actors Guild a record six times.
• Served his country in World War II as a B-25 crewman.
• Campaigner for civil rights; protested as early as 1961, long before it became popular, and marched on Washington alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
• Protector of the unborn; provided the introduction for Dr. Bernard Nathanson’s great pro-life film, Silent Scream.
• Champion of public decency; shamed Time Warner into dropping rapper Ice-T’s contract because of his song celebrating the murder of police officers.
• Defender of individual liberty; president of the National Rifle Association.

Ask Heston which of his accomplishments he treasured most, and he’d probably point to this tribute from his family: “Charlton Heston was seen by the world as larger than life.... We knew him as an adoring husband, a kind and devoted father, and a gentle grandfather with an infectious sense of humor. He served these far greater roles with tremendous faith, courage and dignity.”

Sadly, many in the liberal news media wear ideological blinders that render them incapable of appreciating the entirety of Charlton Heston. In spite of Heston’s admirable private life, sterling character and spectacular career, some journalists could only see Heston waving a musket in the air at the 2000 NRA convention and growling, “Out of my cold, dead hands.” They saw Heston’s pro-gun stance as beyond the pale, as if it were morally reprehensible to stand up for the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. Heston’s death this past Saturday has allowed them to express hostility similar in kind, if not in tone or degree, to Clooney.

• ABC’s Barbara Walters: “He is very controversial or was because of his support of NRA.”
• ABC’s Dan Harris: “As president of the National Rifle Association, he became one of the most polarizing figures in American politics.”
• CBS’s Russ Mitchell: “Once the quintessential big screen hero, in his later years he drew as much attention for his controversial politics.”
• AP’s David Germain: a “fierce gun-rights advocate.”

Not “principled” or “passionate.” Just “fierce.” Charlton Heston was “polarizing” and “controversial” because he refused to toe the line of political correctness.

Heston began his public activism as a liberal, backing Adlai Stevenson in 1956 and Kennedy in 1960. In 1963 he marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., but he supported Barry Goldwater in 1964, Nixon in 1972, and Reagan in 1980. The apparent transformation was mostly superficial, though, a question of party labels. USA Today didn’t quite get it right: “Heston, like Reagan, claimed the Democratic Party left him while his values remained the same -- a personal sea change that by the Reagan ’80s had turned Heston into one of the most prominently public Republicans.”

What “personal sea change?” Though he grew on some issues (notably, the Second Amendment), Heston’s core values, his support for individual liberties from civil rights to life to self-defense, were consistent throughout. “Liberalism” changed, not Charlton Heston.

I met Heston once, in an elevator on the way to a gathering of Hollywood conservatives. No, the meeting wasn’t held in the elevator. Instead of asking him how he parted the Red Sea, I brought up a Second Amendment essay he’d recently written. Engaging his mind, rather than his celebrity, delighted him. He was affable, unpretentious and witty, and he clearly had the courage of his convictions.

After forcing Time Warner to cut its ties with Ice-T over the Cop Killer album by reading aloud the lyrics at a corporate stockholders’ meeting, Heston quipped, “Still, I’m proud of what I did, though now I’ll surely never be offered another film by Warner, or get a good review from Time. On the other hand, I doubt I’ll get a traffic ticket very soon.” Now there’s a man Kipling would be proud of.

This weekend you won’t catch me dead at that Clooney movie. I think I’ll head for the rifle range instead, then crank up the home theater and enjoy my brand new DVD of Ben Hur.

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor for the Culture and Media Institute.

from, link to the article

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