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DID MEETING RAISE LEVEL OF DEBATE OR WAS IT STUCK IN CLICHE?
Published April 15, 1998
President Clinton's participation in ESPN's Town Meeting last night was the second in his year-long national initiative on race, and in Houston, Bennett Roth writes that the "sometimes spirited exchanges between panelists came in a setting that [included] a diverse and well-behaved audience." Clinton and administration officials hoped that the ESPN broadcast "would reach a broader audience than had previously been engaged in the race debate," including more white males (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/15). In Boston, Brian McGrory also notes that White House officials were hoping last night's forum would attract more white men to its race crusade. McGrory added that during the almost two-hour discussion, Clinton "spent most of his time as a witness to a flowing conversation" (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/15). In DC, John Harris writes that Clinton "found himself more a spectator, or perhaps an accommodating referee, than a participant in the provocative exchanges" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/15). On the front-page of today's PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, Jodi Enda notes that Clinton "played almost a supporting role" in the meeting (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 4/15). In Houston, George Flynn writes under the header, "Viewers On Broadcast: Thumbs Up" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 4/15). But in Philadelphia, Rich Hoffman writes the night "featured a little bit of heat -- mostly involving Brown and Thompson -- but not a whole bunch of light" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 4/15). In addition, USA TODAY's Tom Weir writes that "even this illustrious panel that included [Clinton] essentially failed to get off the same old treadmill" (USA TODAY, 4/15). CRITICISM OF PANEL: On "World News Tonight," ABC's Jon Frankel reported on criticism by Hispanic leaders of ESPN's having only one Hispanic, Lopez, on the panel at the town meeting. The National Council of La Raza's Raul Yzaguirre: "Our concern is not just with the fact that there's only one Hispanic on the panel. Our concern is that as the process evolved, we were always the afterthought." ESPN said it invited "two dozen Hispanic sports figures to attend, but all declined for various reasons" (ABC, 4/14).