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NYT: 'Not everybody [in Hollywood] loves [conservative] Patricia'

Ron Brynaert
Published: Sunday December 31, 2006
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The conservative politics – contrarian to Hollywood – of former Everybody Loves Raymond star Patricia Heaton are discussed in a New York Times article published on New Year's Eve.

Jesse Green reports that Heaton and her late co-star Peter Boyle, who portrayed her father-in-law on the popular sitcom, often "passed much of their downtime jousting about politics."

"More conservative than he, she would call him a 'pinko flag-burning Commie," Green writes. "He would counter, 'So tell me about this Christian God of yours.' Feeling unarmed for such battles, Ray Romano, the show’s star, said he usually hustled off 'to see what the new doughnut was at the craft table.'"

In the past, "Ms. Heaton’s campus speeches and Washington lobbying resulted in the occasional snub from strangers (and the argumentative attention of friends like Mr. Boyle), but she managed to avoid the organized wrath of the left," Green's article continues. "More recently, however, she has found that the protective varnish of sitcom stardom degrades very quickly and that the ideal of affection, or even civility, among people who disagree is not widely upheld."

Five years ago, Heaton joshed on The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, that being one of the few "Hollywood people" who isn't "shy about" admitting their preferences for the Republican Party and President George Bush had its benefits.

"Yeah, and all these Democratic friends who, you know, are like 'I can't believe you voted for Bush' and I was like 'Hey, I get a tax refund, thank you very much,'" Heaton joked.

Heaton is honorary chair for the group Feminists for Life, which, according to its website, is "dedicated to systematically eliminating the root causes that drive women to abortion – primarily lack of practical resources and support – through holistic, woman-centered solutions." The non-partisan, non-profit pro-life feminist organization believes that "women deserve better than abortion."

"I vote Republican because of my pro-life stance, and, of course, that was a real hot-button issue when Bill Clinton was first elected," Heaton told Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly in 2002. "I mean, people really – I wore a Quayle-Bush button, and literally people would stop and look at the button the and look at me and give me dirty looks and, you know, say nasty things to me."

In October, Heaton – along with fellow conservative actor Jim Caviezel and some Missouri-based sports stars – appeared in a television advertisment attacking an amendment for embryonic stem cell research as an effort to make "cloning a constitutional right." The ad – produced by a group called Missourians Against Human Cloning – was made in response to an ad supporting Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill (now Senator-elect McCaskill), which featured the popular actor Michael J. Fox. The former television and film star's acting career was largely halted after he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, which many scientists believe stem cell research can aid in curing or treating.

The Times reports that the political ad ended up turning into "a Mel Gibson-size nightmare" for Heaton, who admits the "disaster" and relates sending a message to Fox "saying that she was sorry and that she prayed for his recovery."

Media critic Brendan Nyhan writes that although he is typically "skeptical of simplistic theories of liberal media bias," he believes that "there's no denying that the New York Times has a problem with its coverage of conservatives, which has been limited in scope and often sneering or uncomprehending in tone."

"In praising Heaton, however, the Times writer Jesse Green derides other conservatives by referring to 'her un-wingnutlike desire for conciliation,'" Nyhan writes. "Would the Times use a term like that in reference to liberals? I doubt it."

Nyhan, whose politics run more "liberal to moderate" according to his Wikipedia entry, recently quit a columnist position at American Prospect after claiming that he was asked to "focus...on conservative targets."

Excerpts from Times article:

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But the video, which also included St. Louis sports figures, turned into a Mel Gibson-size nightmare when it got onto the Internet and, without her knowledge, was then shown as an advertisement on television during Game 4 of the World Series. It didn’t help that it looked so cheesy or that it began, inexplicably, with the actor Jim Caviezel (who had played Jesus in Mr. Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”) staring weirdly at the camera and speaking in Aramaic. “Oh my God, it was a disaster,” Ms. Heaton acknowledged. “And then there was the whole Michael J. Fox aspect.”

Also unbeknownst to Ms. Heaton, Mr. Fox, his Parkinsonian tremors clearly visible, had just appeared in an ad supporting the amendment. Because of the timing, her comments looked like a response to his and became associated with Rush Limbaugh’s suggestion that Mr. Fox was faking his symptoms for sympathy.

Ms. Heaton was appalled, she said. “Not only was the ad so bad, but why was it put on? It took the focus off of what we’re talking about, which is very serious, and made it look like a feud or something, a Hollywood tabloid subject, a media thing of pitting people against each other.”

The Internet floodgates opened. Web sites weighed in on “Fox v. Heaton” and generally eviscerated her. On YouTube.com, April Winchell, a California radio personality, posted a 38-second remix of Ms. Heaton’s clip. It starts out saying, “I’m Patricia Heaton, and I’m a religious zealot who thinks she knows what’s best for everybody” and gets uglier from there: “I could give you the whole story, but I’d rather beat you over the head with my Bible. And besides it’s not like stem-cell research makes you look younger. I mean, if it did, I’d be all over it.”

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NEW YORK TIMES SUBSCRIBERS CAN READ FULL ARTICLE AT THIS LINK

(Editor's Note: Boyle portrayed Heaton's father-in-law on Everybody Loves Raymond, not father, as it was first erroneously stated in this article)