NY Times profiles NEA’s Rocco Landesman–and never mentions the NEA scandal under his watch
New York Times, how could you possibly profile National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Rocco Landesman and never once mention the NEA scandal under his watch?
Mr. Broadway Storms Capitol Hill
By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG
Published: April 7, 2010
On Tuesday, the new, perhaps more politic Mr. Landesman will make his debut on Capitol Hill to testify about his agency’s 2011 proposed budget. In Washington budget testimony is a big deal: a chance for department chiefs to lay out their agendas and beg Congress for cash. Mr. Landesman, who is trying to use his star power to develop the Endowment into a catalyst that can generate far-reaching investment in the arts, has made clear that he has big ideas for his little agency.
The trouble is, he doesn’t have much money. On the up side, the culture wars that nearly put the agency out of business in the 1980s and 1990s now seem a thing of the past. But in an era of deep recession Washington is consumed with cutting the deficit, not spending more on the arts.
President Obama is requesting $161.3 million for the Endowment, the same as his request for the current fiscal year: a piddling sum in a city where budgets are typically measured in billions. Before coming to Washington, Mr. Landesman called the agency’s budget “pathetic.” Now, he insists, he will be “pounding the table” for it.
Yes, $161.2 million is rather low by Obama spending standards, but it’s not until later in the article that you learn that the NEA has received about $50 million in “stimulus” funds.
Considering that Landesman is asking for money, you would think that the article would try to explain away last year’s NEA scandal, but it’s like it had never happened.
Along the way he has become a kind of Pied Piper for the arts.
OK, he’s the Pied Piper. But what about the scandal?
And there was something else he liked: at one of those staid Washington dinners Mr. Landesman turned up in a tuxedo and playful hot-pink bow tie.
What about the scandal?
(His Midwestern roots may account for his culinary preferences; when he is on the road, one of his favorite restaurants is Steak ’n Shake.)
What about the scandal?
When he arrived in Washington, the first thing Mr. Landesman did was redecorate. The chairman’s suite in the Old Post Office Pavilion, a historic structure on Pennsylvania Avenue, was painted the usual shade of government white. Mr. Landesman left white for the trim and ordered claret for the walls and buttercup for the ceilings.
What about the scandal?
ROCCO LANDESMAN, the larger-than-life Broadway producer, was digging into a hefty cheese steak and fries in the Philadelphia train station one night last month, waiting to catch the Acela back to his new home in Georgetown.
WHAT ABOUT THE SCANDAL???
No one cares if Rocco Landesman eats a cheesesteak! No one cares that Rocco Landesman likes Steak ‘n Shake! No one cares that Rocco Landesman once wore a hot pink bow-tie! No one cares that Rocco Landesman likes claret-colored walls and buttercup-colored ceilings!
WHAT ABOUT THE NEA SCANDAL?
Not a word.
Imagine you’re a Sheryl Gay Stolberg’s editor. What do you say? Nice details about Landesman’s eating and dressing habits? Sheryl Gay Stolberg has been with the Times since at least 1991 and is their crack political writer.
The NEA scandal–exposed in August 2009 on Andrew Breitbart’s Big Hollywood site and on Glenn Beck’s Fox News television show–involved a telephone call to NEA stalwarts asking for help on the Obama agenda. The names involved were NEA Communications Director Yosi Sergant, Deputy Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement Buffy Wicks, and surely Wicks’s boss, Valerie Jarrett.
Here’s a Big Hollywood story from November 2, 2009:
NEA Chair Rocco Landesman Mocks Critics
by John Nolte
About ten days ago, in a widely ridiculed address to the 2009 Grantmakers in the Arts Conference – so widely ridiculed he had to walk his Obama-Caesar gushing back some – embattled NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman took a moment to launch a shot at his critics:
Am I starting to sound like an advocate? Well, that seems to be a touchy subject. Some quote-unquote “journalists” have recently accused this agency of losing its independence and becoming a propaganda machine.
Ooh, ouch, that stings: “quote-unquote journalists.” I would have responded sooner but the insult went over my head. You see, in the world where I reside — the land of Where Decent People Try To Do The Right Thing – accusing someone of “not being a real journalist” is like accusing them of “not being a dishonest left-wing poseur with more affectations than a washed-up Shakespearean stage actor.”
But what a punk thing for Landesman to do; acting like the big mouth kid who after a well-deserved playground thumping runs home to talk big in front his fat, fawning Aunts. Gee, Rocco, if you and yours hold so much contempt for your critics, why respond to their criticisms in such dramatic ways:
NEA admits to inappropriate language during NEA call.
NEA Communications Director Yosi Sergant resigns.
White House issues new guidelines.
NEA scrubs leftist call for health-care reform from website.
Nolte ends his Big Hollywood piece:
What is troubling, though, is when a man in charge of millions of federal dollars saves all his contempt for those who point out wrongdoing and none for the actual wrongdoing.
But-but-but Rocco wears hot-pink bowties and eats cheesesteaks! I read it in the New York Times!
Power Line blog also slammed Mr. Steak ‘n Shake:
Rocco’s Modern Life
October 27, 2009
Posted by Scott at 5:37 AM
Rocco Landesman is President Obama’s handpicked chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Last week he gave the keynote address to the 2009 Grantmakers in the Arts Conference. Those of us concerned about the politicization of life and art in the Age of Obama will not be consoled by a reading of Landesman’s speech. The speech bears examination in its entirety, but Landesman’s tribute to Obama is especially worth a look:
This is the first president that actually writes his own books since Teddy Roosevelt and arguably the first to write them really well since Lincoln. If you accept the premise, and I do, that the United States is the most powerful country in the world, then Barack Obama is the most powerful writer since Julius Caesar. That has to be good for American artists.
Well, so what if Landesman is a bootlicker? Landesman is also an idiot.
Here’s my gentle advice to any member of Congress who Rocco Landesman comes before this week.
Tell Rocco that the United States has no money and is losing over $1.6 trillion every year under the brilliant administration of Barack Obama.
Tell Rocco that last year’s NEA scandal must be fully explained, and if he could kindly answer these questions from the “quote-unquote journalists” at Big Hollywood.
Then ask Rocco if he prefers Steak ‘n Shake’s Chipotle Steakburger or Guacamole Steakburger. This information was mystifyingly left out of the Sunday New York Times profile.