by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
October 29, 2010
A 40 YEAR-OLD QUESTION MAY BE ANSWERED NOV. 2
BRADENTON, Fla., Oct. 27, 2010, 6:35PM -- Ariana Huffington says she is bringing 10,000 people with her on 200 buses that leave Flushing, New York, at 6AM Saturday morning, Oct. 30, for the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear" on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., from 1 TO 3PM ET on Saturday afternoon.
It's a one-time outing for fans of the Huffington Post, her mostly political blog that is apparently taking a break for a badly-needed dose of humor at the bloody end of this fractious mid-term Congressional elections season. (Update: Registration for the Huffington Post bus is now closed, her site says.)
The event will be streamed live on the Internet and shown on Comedy Central. And that should have given certain folks a clue, but apparently it didn't.
No one's coming from National Public Radio (NPR. According to Jim Romenesko, a media blogger for the St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Poynter Institute, Ellen Weiss, a senior NPR news executive, sent out a memo on Wednesday saying "NPR journalists may not participate in marches and rallies involving causes or issues that NPR covers, nor should they sign petitions or otherwise lend their name to such causes, or contribute money to them. This restriction applies to the upcoming John [sic] Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies."
Weiss can't spell Jon Stewart's first name, and may be contextually challenged as well, which would come as no surprise to critics of the recent firing of NPR commentator Juan Williams; he made the mistake of saying (elsewhere) that he felt a twinge of anxiety when he saw Muslim-garbed people on airplanes - and got fired from NPR for it. Her memo seems to indicate that the rallies are an "issue" or "cause" event like the network sometimes covers.
Stewart, though, on the Larry King Live show last week, said that "We're putting on a show here," and has taken pains to establish that the rallies are not political events.
The three-hour event features "performers," not politicians, said Steve Albani, a spokesman for the Jon Stewart Show, and while President Obama is appearing on the show tonight, Albani hints broadly that he wasn't invited to appear at the rally.
Officially, Albani says, the show is giving "no estimates" of possible crowd size. As to any "performers" expected, "we're not discussing that," he said.
Meanwhile, Mitch Mallett is bringing at least 27 Dailiers in two vans from Bradenton and Orlando, Fla., after a luxury bus rental fell through at the last moment. The vans will stop along the way in Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville, Fla., and at the TA truck stop at Exit 119 off I-95 in South Carolina, where it will pick up a woman who needs a ride.
Some 300,000 Facebook visitors have said they plan to attend, and another 150,000 are maybes; the Wall Street Journal reported that enough Port-a-Potty public toilets have been ordered to accommodate a crowd of 150,000. The event was originally positioned as dueling rallies by friendly rivals Stewart and Colbert, but on Oct. 14 Colbert appeared on the Stewart show 'and asked Jon to add his rally as a permanent app," Albani said.
Mallett, a 54-year-old entrepreneur from Bradenton,a resort community of 50,000 on the southern Gulf Coast of Florida where Republicans outnumber Democrats on the voter rolls and in elected office, the trip is a sequel to the Washington rally pulled together by MSNBC cable anchor Ed Schultz, which Mallett also attended. At a meeting of the Democratic Executive Committee Tuesday night, where Mallett, a state committeeman, spoke about the trip at the end of the meeting.
According to Mallett, for many of his passengers it's also a way to spend the eve of Hallowe'en dressed up in costumes in a really big crowd."
Mallett, who sells Pre Paid Legal plans for a living, said he picked up six people at a rally in Tampa where President Bill Clinton spoke up for U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Kendrick Meek, got a few more from the Daily Show blog where he posted his offer, and still others from a twice-weekly WWPR radio show. He's leaving nearby Ellenton at 4PM on Friday for a 41-hr. round trip that he says will leave time for sightseeing and other fun.
Asked how his wife and kids feel about him taking off for 48 hours with vans full of liberal Democratic women (and men), the aspiring comedian says, "She's, like, celebrating. She's okay with it." Mallett said he offered to cover the cost of tickets for his teenage son and some of his friends, but they had no interest. His wife is working, and even his teenage daughter was not enthusiastic.
The reaction is a paradox to Mallett. As a kid, he says, he had to beg his parents to get permission to go to rallies. "'You'll get hurt!'" his mother would warn, but usually let him go. Now he tries to rally his own kids to go, and they won't leave Bradenton.
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