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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release May 7, 1999
                             PRESS BRIEFING

The Briefing Room

12:18 P.M. EDT

MR. REED: Good afternoon. Okay, let me just tell you briefly, I'm Bruce Reed, the President's Domestic Policy Advisor. Let me tell you briefly about what we have planned for Monday, and we've got a couple of handouts that they'll get to you at the end of the briefing about who is coming and about our parallel efforts on this that we've done in the past.

As the President said this morning, we'll be having a brainstorming session on Monday to lay the groundwork for a national campaign to reduce youth violence similar to what we have done in the past in creating a national campaign to reduce teen pregnancy and in launching a Welfare to Work partnership to encourage businesses to hire people off of welfare.

There will be a broad representation of a number of relevant players on Monday. It will be about 50 people from outside the administration, including leaders from the entertainment industry, representatives of gun owners and the gun industry, religious leaders, parents, young people, experts in the field of youth violence, and they'll meet for about two and a half hours to talk about ideas for this campaign.

And then out of it, we will form a nonprofit organization along the lines of the two I mentioned, the teen pregnancy campaign and the Welfare to Work partnership that will work in the weeks and months to come to identify what works in reducing youth violence, help to spread what's working in one community to other communities and do research to evaluate that success, and work with the media and others to make sure they're sending the right signals about youth violence.

Q Up until now, just about everybody who was involved with this has sort of been pointing fingers at the other -- gun manufacturers as parents' responsibility, turns blame on Hollywood and CD rom manufacturers for putting out these gory video games, they in turn say it's the fault of parents. Do you have any specific specifications from either gun manufacturers or Hollywood or people who produce these video games?

MR. REED: We'll have to see. But certainly, the reason we're having this session is because we think it's time for all sectors of society to step up to the plate and take responsibility. We're not interested in pointing fingers; we want to find solutions and we think that there is a lot that each of the groups I mentioned can do to take more responsibility.

Q Mr. Reed, speaking of stepping up to the plate, Diego Tintorero is a citizen of Miami. He ran on to the field of the Baltimore Orioles/Cuba game carrying a sign: "Human rights for Cuba." For this, he was chased, repeatedly slugged and body slammed by a much larger man, a Cuban umpire named Cesar Valdez, who was not arrested for this assault and battery by the Baltimore police who did arrest Tintorero for trespassing.

And my question is, as you are the President's Domestic Advisor, do you regard this as equal justice under law, and do you agree with Orioles owner Angelos that we didn't want defections in Baltimore, which was once identified as part of the land of the free and home of the brave?

MR. REED: Well, first, I'm an enormous baseball fan, but I'm a Pirates fan, not an Orioles fan. And second, I think that for purposes of this briefing, I will regard that as a foreign policy question, not a domestic one.

Q It took place in Baltimore. It's domestic, Mr. Reed. Do you want to just evade the question?

MR. REED: Yes.

Q You do? (Laughter.)

Q Mr. Reed, any specific things you're looking for from the media participants, like any specific programs they're advancing? I understand that there might be a PSA.

MR. REED: That's a possibility; we'll see. I think that as the President has said before and as the Vice President said last night on Larry King and the First Lady has said in the past, the entertainment industry has enormous ability to send the right message or the wrong one, and I think we were all impressed by an op-ed piece that ran in The New York Times yesterday by Gary Ross, the Director of Pleasantville and some other movies in which he committed to from this day forward, making sure that every time he wrote or made a movie, that he was going to consider the long-term consequences of it. We'd like to see that kind of commitment from others in the industry, and there are undoubtedly a number of things that they can do on the positive side to spread antiviolence messages.

Q What segments of the entertainment industry? Will there be someone from the movies? Will there be someone from video games?

MR. REED: Well, shortly, you'll receive a list that is not the whole list of everyone who is coming, but the main ones that have confirmed so far. Every sector of the entertainment industry will be well represented. Jack Valenti will be there representing the Motion Picture Association, Hilary Rosen will be there; she's head of the Recording Industry Artists Association. Eddie Fritts, President of the National Association of Broadcasters, Decker Anstrom, President of the National Cable Television Association. Doug Lowenstein, who is President of the Interactive Digital Software Association, which is the leading video game group. Steve Case, CEO of America On Line. So all sectors of the industry will be there.

Q What was the decision to exclude elected officials from this?

MR. REED: We have not excluded elected officials. As far as members of Congress go, we asked the congressional leaders in both parties in both Houses to designate a representative and I don't have those names to release yet. We probably should have those firmed up by the end of the day.

Q I understand that the press is not going to be allowed into this meeting. If that is true and not even a pool, how exactly is the message from the meeting going to be gotten out?

MR. REED: Well, I suspect that the President will have something to say at the beginning of the meeting, and that several people will speak after the meeting. The meeting itself we wanted to have as a working session. We wanted to have a candid discussion about ideas for this campaign and it's more difficult to have that kind of discussion when it's live on C-SPAN.

Q Will there be an NRA representative on this list we're going to be handed? Were they invited?

MR. REED: This list does not include the representatives of the gun industry and gun owners. There will be representatives of the gun industry and gun owners and I hope that by the end of today or tomorrow I can give out those names, but I don't have them yet.

Q Has anybody refused to come? Has anybody told you that they won't show up?

MR. REED: As you would expect, given that we announced this last week and we're having it on Monday, some people have scheduling conflicts and won't be able to make it.

Q Like who?

MR. REED: Well, Edgar Bronfman, for example, is -- he and his whole company are launching a new theme park in Orlando on Monday which they've been planning for several months, so -- but we have a good list of folks, and --

Q Did you ask anybody like Jerry Levin or any editor or any other heads of major entertainment?

MR. REED: Bronfman is head of a major entertainment --and as I said, there may very well be other names. I don't want to get into everybody's scheduling problems, but --

Q How about the First Lady? Will she be there, or will she be campaigning in New York with Air Force One being paid for by the taxpayers for her politicking, and what do you think of that as the Domestic Advisor? Should all the taxpayers have to be paying for Hillary's campaigning in New York, Mr. Reed?

MR. REED: Yes. The First Lady will be at the meeting on Monday, and on that subject, I should tell you that tomorrow here at the White House, the First Lady will be having an event, a Mother's Day event with victims of gun violence. Representative Karen McCarthy will be here as well as one of the parents of one of the slain students in --

Q What about the business of paying for the money? What about the money that's being paid for Air Force One? Do you believe that's right, Mr. Reed, as the Domestic Advisor, or not? Could you tell us?

Q Has she already been invited to participate --

Q You just going to ignore that question too, Mr. Reed?

MR. REED: Yes, I'm going to evade that one, too.

Q You're going to evade that one, too, oh, Mr. Reed.

MR. REED: Yes.

Q What about the NRA? Last time I checked, you had not invited them, but you invited American Shooters --

MR. REED: As I said --

Q -- groups that -- American Shooters, I think is the name of one. I'm not sure of the other, but I think there are gun lobbyists I never heard of. I mean, obviously NRA is the big player in town; why not invite them?

MR. REED: As I said, the gun industry and gun owners will be well represented and you'll see when I put out the names -- I'm just not putting out the names yet because I want to confirm with them that they're actually going to be here.

Q Well, then can you say whether he invited the NRA?

MR. REED: The -- you'll see when I put out the list that we have people with --

Q You'd like to evade this, too?


Q Bruce, have you invited them? Yes or no, please?

Q Yes or no? Are you considering it?

MR. REED: As I said, we will have people there with ties to the NRA.

Q Charlton Heston's going to be there.

Q Does he have a letter?

MR. REED: I didn't say that.

Q You didn't say that?

MR. REED: Sorry.

Q Who will be there from the NRA?

MR. REED: I'll tell you when I put out the names.

Q Bruce, why shouldn't we see this as another White House bull session at a time of crisis? I mean, what will make something actually happen out of this, other than people sitting around and chatting?

MR. REED: Well, first off, the whole purpose of this is to start a campaign outside government to carry out practical solutions, to, as I said, spread the word on what works. If you look at the track record of both the campaign on teen pregnancy, which has played an important role as teen pregnancy has dropped considerably in recent years, as well as the Welfare to Work partnership, which has helped move 400,000 people from welfare to work.

We're not bringing people together to just talk about these issues; we want to put people to work in solving them.

Q It sounds like -- I mean, you say you want this to be outside of government, it sounds like you've invited a bunch of lobbyists. Why haven't you invited, you know, celebrities or role models that would touch teens instead of Jack Valenti, who I don't think has a lot of sway with teenage America?

MR. REED: Well, I think that we will have a lot of both real people here at this meeting and people who know what they're talking about, people who have influence in their particular walks of life, and our goal is not just a one-day event; this is the beginning of a long-term campaign.

Q How about Tipper Gore? Will she be there?

MR. REED: She'll be there, yes.

Q And will she be asked to resume her campaign against violent and filthy lyrics, or is that still on hold?

MR. REED: Tipper Gore was very successful in getting the music industry --

Q It stopped. Do you remember? She stopped. Just suddenly, she stopped.

MR. REED: She did not stop.

Q Oh, she's still doing it?

MR. REED: There is now in place, thanks to the leadership of Tipper Gore, a rating system for the recording industry that wasn't there before she raised this issue.

Q At a Capitol Hill hearing this week, this suggestion came up and I wanted to know what you thought of it. I think it was Bennett -- Bill Bennett said that he thinks that Hollywood, video games and other mass media purveyors, I guess, are trying to get kids hooked on violence the way cigarette companies --they're marketing violence to kids to get them hooked on violence the way cigarette companies marketed to kids to get them hooked on nicotine. What do you think of that parallel or that analogy?

MR. REED: Well, I think that there is real cause for concern about the level of violence in movies and video games and other entertainment media, and it's well worth looking at how those media are marketed. I think that it's probably best to look at this industry's strengths and weaknesses on its own and not draw parallels to other industries.

Q I want to get back to the question of access. You had us inside the East Room all day for school safety, for child care. I mean, the list goes on and on, covering these sessions wall to wall -- where a lot of you would argue, I'm sure, concrete solutions or seminars, other programs, other administration initiatives came out; why can't we be inside for this one?

MR. REED: I suspect that you'll hear all about it, and that the stakeout afterwards will be relatively crowded. So I wouldn't worry too much about keeping secrets. It's sometimes easier to run a meeting when the TV lights aren't on.

Q Where did the idea to close the meeting come from? In other words, is that the White House or was that a condition under which these people --

MR. REED: Oh, no, no. No one who is coming knows one way or the other on that.

Q -- where you're going to have this meeting in the White House?

MR. REED: That was our decision.

Q Where within the White House are you going to have this meeting, and are you going to have one big table with all these people around it or different discussion groups? How are you going to organize this two and a half hours?

MR. REED: I believe it will be in the East Room at a U-shaped table.

Q Mr. Reed, is the shape of the table an issue?

MR. REED: Not as yet, thank you.

Q Down the road, do you see this nonprofit organization getting into an investigation of cause and effect? Because I think Valenti said on the Hill this week he wasn't too sure that there was a connection between depictions of violence and the behavior of young people.

MR. REED: Well, there may well be a call for further research in that area. I'm not sure that this particular organization would lead that research. The Campaign on Teen Pregnancy, for example, has done a lot of evaluating of existing studies and tried to make it easier for states and communities to tell what's working and what's not working without having to get a sociology degree to wade through all the stuff. So --

Q You stressed the nongovernmental aspects of this work up to now. Is the administration contemplating any legislative initiatives in the area of regulating the entertainment that's directed at young people?

MR. REED: Because of the First Amendment, it's a very difficult area in which to regulate. We have been -- we were successful in enacting legislation on the V-chip and this year, half the new televisions sold in America will contain the V-chip. We'd like to do a lot more work to inform parents about the V-chip, make sure that they know how it works and that they're taking advantage of it. And there is, of course, in conjunction with that now a voluntary rating system which every network except NBC takes part in.

We're happy to look at other legislative ideas. We don't have any in mind at the moment. The Communications Decency Act, which the President signed until law was struck down. So, it may be possible to enact and sustain some kind of legislation, but in the meantime, we'll want to challenge the industry to do its part.

Q Do you believe that --

Q -- report that called for a Surgeon General's report by Lieberman, and Valenti endorsed that as well, and also, some kind of national commission on violence?

MR. REED: I saw both those ideas. I haven't had a chance to talk to others about them.

Q Do you believe the Annapolis school that --

Q Bill Bennett, will he be a part of this? He's long been an advocate for tougher program standards and --

MR. REED: He's not going to be there on Monday. His wife actually has been involved, I believe, in the teen pregnancy campaign.

Q Was he invited?


Q What's the timetable for starting this nonprofit -- you talking weeks, months, when are we going to see something coming out of this, and who do you have in mind?

MR. REED: Well, we'll need to select an executive director and put together a board and that can take some time. So, I can't give you a firm timetable. We'll do it as quickly as we can.

Q A school in Annapolis expelled a nine-year-old for drawing a picture of a gun. Do you think that was wise? And the other thing, having this behind closed doors, like the Hillary health plan -- that didn't lead to much. Why haven't you learned, and could you tell us how you feel about the Annapolis gun drawing ban?

MR. REED: I'm not sure which of those questions I want to evade, first. (Laughter.)

Q You'd like to evade both of those questions. Do you want to evade both of them?

MR. REED: Let me just say a word about expulsions. Because of legislation the President signed in 1994, we do have an expulsion policy in place nationwide. Kids who bring guns to school are required to be expelled, however it allows schools to make a waiver in circumstances where it's appropriate.

Q If it's a paper gun? You can make a waiver if it's a paper gun?

MR. REED: Yes, if it's a six-year-old who brought a gun and didn't know that he had a gun in his backpack. There's plenty of hypotheticals you can come up with.

Q How big of a budget do you think this foundation should have, and where is it going to get the money?

MR. REED: Both of these others raised money independently, and my guess -- it would be best to check with them to know exactly what their budget is -- each of them.

Q Beyond the formation of this nonprofit, is there anything else that you can say will firmly come out of the meeting? And secondly, what, if anything, do you know about these reports about some kind of violent activities at schools around the country on Monday?

MR. REED: On the second part of it, I saw the story in The Post this morning, which talked about rumors spreading on the Internet -- I'm not clear what they were related to. So, I don't have any firsthand knowledge of those, and there may be other things to emerge from Monday, we'll just have to see.

Q When the White House set up the Race Initiative, you did not give a seat at the table to the Affirmative Action -- the people who oppose the Affirmative Action. That may have been a mistake, because you didn't have a conservative voice and that board really didn't come up with much of anything. Do you see the same danger now that you're not giving a seat at the table to the NRA?

MR. REED: Well, I said that we'd have --

Q Yes, but you said --

MR. REED: That they would be represented at this meeting. So, no, I think -- not everybody at this table is necessarily going to agree with what we're saying. That's true for the entertainment industry. It may be true for the gun industry. We're not trying to just preach to the converted here.

Q On another subject --

Q Tomorrow's anti-gun event? Can we just follow up?

MR. REED: Sure

Q What time is that? And will that be open coverage?

MR. REED: I'm sure it's open. I think it's either outside or in 450, depending on the weather, and I don't have the time.

Q 1:45 p.m.

MR. REED: Is that right? And while I'm on the subject of guns, let me say one more thing. Yesterday, Senate Democrats introduced the President's gun legislation which he had announced a week ago here in the White House. And some of it may come to a vote next week. Senator Lott has pledged to bring up the juvenile justice bill, and it's entirely the Senate Democrats would bring up some of these gun issues.

Q As the President's Domestic Advisor, do you agree with UNICEF in their condemnation of school children across the country who are raising money to buy slaves and give them their release? Do you think that UNICEF is wrong or right to condemn that? And do you think that the Reverend Jesse Jackson should go to Sudan and apply his talents to help eradicate slavery? Or don't you care about slavery?

MR. REED: (Laughter.) I think I better read the newspaper more carefully. I've been missing some of these --

Q Well, it's been in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Newsweek -- among others -- in the last two weeks. Half a page in The New York Times. Undoubtedly you must read that newspaper, don't you, Mr. Reed?

MR. REED: Anyone else have questions that I can evade?

Q You're going to evade that, too?

MR. REED: Yes, I have a perfect record.

Q Can I try again? Did you send the National Rifle Association an invitation to this event?

MR. REED: As I said, we will have --

Q Yes or no?

MR. REED: We don't send letters. We -- so --

Q You send couriers?

Q Have you called them?

MR REED: We contacted a representative of the NRA who I believe will be coming to the event. So --

Q When are we going to -- will it be early this afternoon that we get the list of participants?

MR. REED: There's one that's being xeroxed by now that you should have had by now, I'm sorry.

Q On this legislation next week, there's a group of Democrats who have an eight-point plan. That's not the whole Democratic Senate. They're not all in favor of offering all those things. Daschell is working on a package of amendments that will probably include a gun things. Given that you had a number of proposals -- 10 or so -- what would you -- if you get three on the floor next week, which ones do you want to see?

MR. REED: Well, I think that we'd very much like to move quickly to close the loophole for gun shows -- to require background checks at gun shows. We'd like to raise the age of the youth handgun ban from 18 to 21. I think that background checks for explosives -- the juvenile Brady legislation to ban violent juveniles for buying a gun for life -- so

Q Did Hatch put that in?

MR. REED: Did he? Yes. So, you know -- we think that everything in our bill is important, so I don't mean to leave anything out. But we'd like to see all of these come up to a vote as soon as we can.

Q Representative Archer sent a letter to the White House this week asking for a meeting with President Clinton to talk about Social Security Reform. Has there been any response to that letter? Was it received cordially?

MR. REED: I don't know the answer to that question.

Q At the end of the day, how are you going to prevent all these initiatives from being perceived as big government?

MR. REED: Well, this one is definitely non-government, and I think that we've seen, in our campaign to reduce teen pregnancy, in our efforts to move people from welfare to work, that there's an enormous enthusiasm around the country in the private sector, at the community level, from citizens themselves to fulfill their responsibilities and at the same time, we have to keep doing ours. And we're not relying entirely on government, but we're not shying away from using government to reduce access to use guns, to doing more to keep kids safe at school, and so on.

Q May I ask how you can have these people with the differing views -- I'm sure you have a variety of views -- within two and a half hours when, for instance, a couple of days ago one Senate committee hearing on just a small part of these problems -- their hearing took about five hours. What is it you're trying to do --

MR. REED: Maybe it will run long.

Q No, I mean is it that what you're trying to do is convince people to back this future nonprofit, and sort of pitch them --

MR. REED: Not necessarily. The President, First Lady, Vice President -- they're very good at running these kinds of sessions, and we hope we can get some good ideas.

Q Thanks.

Q Will you have another meeting in New York for this, by any chance?

Q Thank you.

END 12:48 P.M. EDT