Jewish World Review April 8, 2002 / 27 Nisan, 5762
Fearing request to go to Afghanistan,
Phil Donahue flees to MSNBC
Uses Little-Known 'Talk-show Host Exemption' to Avoid National Service
Retired talk-show pioneer Phil Donahue, fearing that President Bush was on the
verge of asking him to go to Afghanistan, quickly signed a deal to host a show for
By doing so, he followed the lead of popular chatter Oprah Winfrey, who recently took
advantage of the so-called "talk-show host exemption" which enables TV hosts with
busy schedules to turn down onerous requests from the President.
The exemption, contained in a little-known clause buried deep in the United States
Constitution, guarantees every American the right to "the pursuit of ratings and
"The exemption shows tremendous foresight on the part of the framers of the
Constitution," said Professor Irvin Talbot of Harvard Law School. "They envisioned a
world in which people like Oprah Winfrey and Phil Donahue would be too busy with
their TV shows to go to Afghanistan."
With rumors swirling as to which TV personality President Bush might tap next for
an Afghan tour, former talk-show hosts Joan Rivers, Chevy Chase, and the
recently-retired Rosie O'Donnell were scrambling to secure new shows in order to
avoid visiting the war-torn region.
Oddly, the one TV host about whom the White House has expressed no interest is
also the only one eager to go: Kathie Lee Gifford, who reportedly is eager to travel to
Afghanistan to promote her latest CD.
But such a trip by Ms. Gifford is unlikely, State Department officials say.
"The situation in Afghanistan is very fragile right now," one source at State said
yesterday. "Kathie Lee's singing could really tip things over the
JWR Contributor Andy Borowitz, a former president of the Harvard Lampoon, is a regular humor columnist for Newsweek.com, The New Yorker, The New York Times and TV Guide. Recognized by Esquire magazine as one of the most powerful producers in television, he was the creator and producer of the hit TV series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and producer of the Oscar-nominated film Pleasantville. He is the author, most recently, of "Trillionaire Next Door: The Greedy Investor's Guide to Day Trading" and "Rationalizations to Live By". Comments by clicking here. Visit his website by clicking here.
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© 2002, Andy Borowitz