Soundbite: Dammit Janet


Before his meeting with Attorney General Janet Reno on November 18, 1993, actor Michael Moriarty says he was "plugged into the liberal establishment [and] filled with liberal good intentions." He was transformed after Reno began to threaten legislation against the television industry.

Believing her proposals unconstitutional and her treatment of him and several TV executives arrogant, Moriarty protested vehemently to his employers, the president, the press, and Reno herself. The publicity, he maintains, got him fired from his four-year starring role on the police drama Law and Order. Now living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he continues to be an outspoken, sometimes bitter critic of U.S. government excesses, from TV censorship to Waco and the so-called war on drugs.

While touring in the lead role with the Broadway production of My Fair Lady, Moriarty gave an interview to Adrienne Redd, a Philadelphia-area writer.

Q: It was the confrontation with Attorney General Reno that changed you?

A: The amazing thing is that I wasn't an activist. Then I felt like a child in a building on fire, screaming "Fire! Fire!" and nobody listens. The people who did listen didn't leave the building–they went to the right side of the building and voted for Newt Gingrich. And they're still in the building and the building is still burning.

In three years I've become a different man. I consider myself a kind of a one-man government-in-exile. I don't want to call it a government–let's call it one man's idea of American freedom in exile.

Q: What are some of the things our government does that disturb you?

A: Laws against things like drugs are inhumane, and create an inhumane society and inhumane law enforcement. I know what's causing violence in America–the damn drug laws. I used to think, "I'm earning a million dollars a year or close to it with Law and Order. I don't have to worry about drug laws." Little did I know that it would come back to me, because if the drug laws aren't the cause of violence, what is? It's television's fault. That's the scapegoat. That's why I was bounced from Law and Order.

Q: Why is it that other members of the entertainment industry support Clinton and Reno?

A: Because they won't get invited to the White House if they don't.

Q: If Clinton is indebted to the entertainment industry, why does he want to censor it?

A: The biggest threat to any politician is an artist. Comedians unleashed can do a great deal of damage. David Letterman can do more damage than any Republican assault by Newt Gingrich.