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Maryland Pastor Protests BET Event

Black Entertainment Television is coming under under fire from a Maryland minsiter and his supporters.

On Saturday night, the Rev. Delman Coates, pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, bused several hundred people into the District to protest the "BET Honors Awards Show," at the Warner Theater. Those honored at the event included educator Cornel West and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters.

"The BET honors award show is a red herring to distract people from the main issue," Coates said. "The thing that African Americans across the country have been complaining about is misogynistic violence and stereotypical images and messages that BET sends out in their video programs that marketed to youth."

Coates has been leading a protest outside the District home of BET CEO Debra Lee for several months as part of the "Enough is Enough," campaign.

In response, Lee said in a statement, "BET Networks has long been concerned about the portrayals of African Americans in the media overall and in music videos specifically. That's why BET, years ago, voluntarily established a standards process that reviews all the programming we air. That's why we continue to work closely with record labels and make adjustments in videos that artists create. And that's why BET Networks routinely rejects videos that do not meet our programming guidelines."

"BET Networks firmly supports the First Amendment and the right of artists, including musicians, to express their creativity and individual viewpoints through their videos. Entertainers, particularly musical artists, often shine a bright light on the world around us. That light can elevate and inform, but it can also be unflattering and make some people uncomfortable. That is why we have an ongoing dialogue with the labels and the artists to find a balance between free and responsible expression. We encourage the Enough is Enough Campaign to do the same."

The protest Saturday came on the eve of comments made by BET founder Bob Johnson during a campaign stop in South Carolina where he introduced candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Johnson, in an effort to deflect criticism of Clinton following her suggestion that Martin Luther King's Civil Rights gains wouldn't have been possible without help from President Lyndon Johnson, said both she and former President Bill Clinton "have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barak Obama was doing something in the neighborhood -- and I won't say what he was doing, but he said it in his book."

Obama wrote in his book, "Dreams From My Father," that he used marijuana and cocaine as a young man.

Though Johnson later tried to clarify his remarks, WOL-AM radio personality Joe Madison of Lanham-based WOL-AM, who was with Coates Saturday night, called Johnson a hypocrite.

-- Hamil R. Harris

By Anne Bartlett  |  January 14, 2008; 1:41 PM ET
 
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