Patricia Nell Warren

Johnny Weir and the Ari Fleischer Effect

Filed By Patricia Nell Warren | March 26, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment, Fundie Watch, Gay Icons and History, Politics
Tags: Ari Fleischer, Christians United for Israel, Evan Lysacek, Freedom's Watch, IMG, IOC, Johnny Weir, Stars on Ice, USOC

After his debut on "Dancing With the Stars" the other night, Evan Lysacek was asked about Johnny Weir... and skated down the middle with his answer. He said, "We're just acquaintances really. I think I've only had two personal conversations with him in my life. But he's a great skater, an incredible skater obviously." That compliment was gracious of Lysacek, considering that he's about to make his debut with the now-famous Stars on Ice tour where Weir isn't wanted. The tour will be kicking off in Florida in a few days.

Lysacek will have to watch his step, politically, while on tour. Ari Fleischer himself will be keeping his eye on Evan.

The other day on Buzzflash, Bill Berkowitz was tracing the emergence of Fleischer as a neocon sports figure. Once upon a time Fleischer was White House press secretary, defending Bush's sticky positions on torture and war in Iraq. He helped put forth the Bush policy that "homosexual groups, gay groups, should not have special rights." Fleischer's political profile also included being implicated in the CIA Plame outing.

When he resigned his White House job in 2003, Fleischer was recruited by IMG, who saw a place in sports for the man's image-massaging-and-crisis-managing skills. Today his PR firm, Ari Fleischer Sports Communications, has a 50-percent partnership with IMG. And IMG produces Stars on Ice. So Fleischer's influence at IMG is probably yet another reason (in addition to the conservatism of Smucker's, the tour sponsor) why we won't be seeing Johnny Weir skate in Stars on Ice. Indeed, Fleischer is no doubt helping IMG to "manage" the controversy about their snub of Weir.

Along the way, in 2007, Fleischer started a neocon lobby group, Freedom's Watch, that has strong ties to Dick Cheney and the Christian right. He is also a board member of the Republican Jewish Coalition. In 2007, Fleischer was compelled to "manage" the RJC's crisis when it got caught doing an anti-Muslim mailing. The material was aimed at getting U.S. Jews to be tighter with the Christian Zionist movement. Part of the mailing was sent out on the Christians United for Israel postal permit. This puts the RJC, and Fleischer, in the lap of CUFI's founder and national chairman, Bible-thumping preacher John Hagee. And we all know how much Hagee likes "homosexual sinners."

In the sports world, Fleischer has helped a variety of individuals and organizations to try cleaning up their messy images. For example, Bud Selig of MLB hired him to manage the steroids scandal. He has advised NASCAR teams and the Green Bay Packers. But Fleischer's visibility as a PR figurehead can be problematical. In May 2009, the U.S. Olympic Committee took him on as an advisor. As Philip Hersh commented, "That choice of an advisor showed what a tin ear the USOC leadership had about relating to its constituencies and the OIympic world, which generally detested the Bush administration's policies." Within months the USOC had replaced Fleischer with the less problematical Patrick Sandusky.

More recently Tiger Woods hired Fleischer to stage-manage his comeback. But Fleischer has just quit -- or was fired, depending on whom you talk to. Reason: Ari's own messy image evidently wasn't doing Woods' image any good.

At the 2010 National Sports Forum in Baltimore last month, Fleischer was one of the keynote speakers. The Forum gets together to discuss everything from marketing to social issues -- and of course crisis management. It is heavily attended by organizations operating in pro baseball, football, basketball, soccer, hockey, men's golf and auto racing -- all of them sports noted for their conservatism and homophobia.

All in all, Ari Fleischer is yet another example of the growing grip that neocons have on sports -- and that apparently now includes a growing grip on U.S. figure skating.


Hat tip to Bill Berkowitz at

This article was also posted in Jock Talk at

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Many are still unaware of the eccentric, 180-year-old British theory underlying the politics of American evangelicals and Christian Zionists.
Journalist and historian Dave MacPherson has spent more than 40 years focusing on the origin and spread of what is known as the apocalyptic "pretribulation rapture" - the inspiration behind Hal Lindsey's bestsellers of the 1970s and Tim LaHaye's today.
Although promoters of this endtime evacuation from earth constantly repeat their slogan that "it's imminent and always has been" (which critics view more as a sales pitch than a scriptural statement), it was unknown in all official theology and organized religion before 1830.
And MacPherson's research also reveals how hostile the pretrib rapture view has been to other faiths:
It is anti-Islam. TV preacher John Hagee has been advocating "a pre-emptive military strike against Iran." (Google "Roots of Warlike Christian Zionism.")
It is anti-Jewish. MacPherson's book "The Rapture Plot" (see Armageddon Books etc.) exposes hypocritical anti-Jewishness in even the theory's foundation.
It is anti-Catholic. Lindsey and C. I. Scofield are two of many leaders who claim that the final Antichrist will be a Roman Catholic. (Google "Pretrib Hypocrisy.")
It is anti-Protestant. For this reason no major Protestant denomination has ever adopted this escapist view.
It even has some anti-evangelical aspects. The first publication promoting this novel endtime view spoke degradingly of "the name by which the mixed multitude of modern Moabites love to be distinguished, - the Evangelical World." (MacPherson's "Plot," p. 85)
Despite the above, MacPherson proves that the "glue" that holds constantly in-fighting evangelicals together long enough to be victorious voting blocs in elections is the same "fly away" view. He notes that Jerry Falwell, when giving political speeches just before an election, would unfailingly state: "We believe in the pretribulational rapture!"
In addition to "The Rapture Plot," MacPherson's many internet articles include "Famous Rapture Watchers," "Pretrib Rapture Diehards," "Edward Irving is Unnerving," "America's Pretrib Rapture Traffickers," "Thomas Ice (Bloopers)," "Pretrib Rapture Secrecy" and "Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty" (massive plagiarism, phony doctorates, changing of early "rapture" documents in order to falsely credit John Darby with this view, etc.!).
Because of his devastating discoveries, MacPherson is now No. 1 on the "hate" list of pretrib rapture leaders!
There's no question that the leading promoters of this bizarre 19th century end-of-the-world doctrine are solidly pro-Israel and necessarily anti-Palestinian. In light of recently uncovered facts about this fringe-British-invented belief which has always been riddled with dishonesty, many are wondering why it should ever have any influence on Middle East affairs.
This Johnny-come-lately view raises millions of dollars for political agendas. Only when scholars of all faiths begin to look deeply at it and widely air its "dirty linen" will it cease to be a power. It is the one theological view no one needs!
With apologies to Winston Churchill - never has so much deception been foisted on so many by so few!

[Also Google "David Letterman's Hate, Etc.," "Obama Supports Public Depravity" and "Obama Avoids Bible Verses."]

(Above web bit is shared by Ralph)

Dear Patricia
Are you sure Fleishcher has a grip on sports? I watched Johnny Weir on Jay Leno and the crowd was overwhelmingly in favor of Johnny. Who couldn't be? Here is a very talented guy who is totally himself, has the backing of his mother, coach, and fans and loves being a DIVA. He is the archetype of struggle and pain of being an artist. Lysaceck is a well trained athletic horse.

Notice that I said "a growing grip."

Johnny Weir definitely has his demographic of fans, and his own independent platform, where he will hopefully have his own productions. But he will have to find investors willing to support him.

Meanwhile the neocons now own Stars on Ice, which is now the only U.S. tour, hence a major source of income and employment for U.S. figure skaters when they're not competing. So it's clear that SOI is not going to hire "queer skaters." And any figure skater manages to get aboard SOI will have to keep his or her tail between the legs, politically.

I hear your concern, Patricia, but in some ways this craziness of Ari and other neocons is just alientating them more and more. (yes, I'm an optimist)...we cannot become complacent but I do think ultimately the good sense of the middle will prevail. The public LOVES queer figure skaters...always has and I think always will. The Ari types are crazy...the more they push, the more obvious it becomes to more people. yet, it's hard not to worry about the violence of the ultra-rights...thank you Karl Rove...for setting America back decades...

I so wish that these people's personal lives weren't important to the sport.

Kind of like how America loves "West Side Story", but pretends it wasn't the brilliant collaboration of a bunch of gay men. When-oh-when will we begin to celebrate (and admit) that some gay men have great talent in a few particular professions? In music schools this becomes more obvious:

French Horn, female = Lesbian.
Trumpet, male = Straight.
Flute, male = Gay.
Organist, male = closeted gay man.

Spare me the exceptions to the rule; of course they exist, but......I know what I saw at University.

Wow Patricia,

Not only another great article but the realization of how the 'growing grip' is not just into sports but really.. everything.

We need another militia type to be a superstar of intimidation and in your face tactics and call the fascists homophobes what they truly are...evil.