NEW YORK – After celebrities raised $7.5 million with a concert for Democratic candidates John Kerry (search) and John Edwards (search), the Bush campaign challenged their opponents on Friday to release a videotape showing performers calling the president a "liar" and a "cheap thug" during the show.
Actor Chevy Chase drew laughs and cheers from the Radio City Music Hall (search) audience when he described politicians and their hobbies: "Clinton plays the sax, John plays the guitar, and the president's a liar." John Mellencamp sang "Let me tell you a story about the Texas Bandito," a tune that referred to Bush as a "cheap thug."
"If John Kerry is going to praise last night's star-studded hate fest and characterize it as the 'heart and soul' of America, he should share these values with voters everywhere," Bush-Cheney campaign manager Ken Mehlman said Friday in a statement. "We call on Kerry to release the video of this event so that all Americans can see what John Kerry has called America's 'heart and soul.'"
Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill told reporters in a conference call that Kerry and Edwards did not agree with everything the performers said during the concert. She did not respond directly when asked why the candidates did not repudiate from the stage the harshest language directed at President Bush (search) and noted that the Bush-Cheney campaign didn't release recordings of its fund raisers and neither did they.
"The views expressed last night by the performers are their own views," Cahill said. "The performers have a perfect right to say what they said, but it is not what Senator Kerry and Senator Edwards would say, and they do not approve of some of the remarks made."
Musician Jon Bon Jovi opened Thursday night's event, saying, "The beginning of the future starts right here tonight." Then he launched into the Beatles' 1969 optimistic melody "Here Comes The Sun." Actress Meryl Streep welcomed the new team: "President Kerry. Vice President Edwards ... Oops! I got ahead of myself."
The celebrities didn't hold back, bashing Bush at every opportunity. "This guy's as bright as an egg timer," said Chase, who ridiculed the president for his tendency to flub the English language. John Leguizamo, a comedian and actor who is Puerto Rican, quipped: "Latins for Republicans. It's like roaches for Raid."
Actor Paul Newman assailed Bush's tax cuts as "borderline criminal," saying, "There is serious and dangerous stuff out there and something's gotta change."
Actress Jessica Lange asked the crowd, "Are we going to continue to follow a self-serving regime of deceit, hypocrisy and belligerence?"
Topping it off, comedian Whoopi Goldberg used Bush's surname as a sexual reference.
Goldberg was more playful when she greeted Kerry and his wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, and then peered into the crowd looking for Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth. "And where's the kid? Where's young Mr. Edwards? And, where's my girl, where's my girl? Stand up, miss girl."
Teasing Kerry, Goldberg said: "Not that you're not youthful. You're very youthful, John. But he's youthful. He looks like he's 18!"
Taking the stage at the end of the evening, Edwards said: "Whoopi Goldberg said earlier tonight that she was afraid she wasn't going to get a phone call to be here. I can relate to that."
Kerry joined in: "John Edwards thinks he was worried he wasn't going to get a phone call. I was worried I wasn't going to get anybody at home!"
Ticket prices for the evening started at $250 for the concert alone to $25,000 for the concert and a reception. The show was sold out with 5,500, though not every donor attended.
The money raised from Thursday's concert will be divided between Kerry's campaign and the Democratic National Committee (search). Last month, a similar concert in Los Angeles raised $5 million.