Reality Television and Electoral Politics
Lisa Witter is the chief operating officer of Fenton Communications, the largest public interest communications firm in the country. She heads the firm's practice in women's issues and global affairs for clients including Women for Women International, MoveOn.org, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the American Medical Association, the American Lung Association and many others. She is a co-founder of the award-winning website SheSource.org, an online brain trust of women experts to help close the gender gap among commentators in the news media. She was honored as an outstanding activist and expert on women's issues by Oxygen.com for her work on a national campaign against privatizing Social Security during the 2000 presidential election. Lisa is a blogger and political commentator with her work appearing on MSNBC, Fox News, The Huffington Post, AlterNet and Anderson Cooper 360. In 2004, she was a contestant on the Showtime reality show American Candidate. Witter is co-author of The She Spot: Why Women Are the Market for Changing the World and How to Reach Them.
She is on the advisory board for Indianapolis University's Women and Philanthropy Institute, Pop!Tech, Momsrising.org, Women for Women International and Climate Counts.
Question: How did you come up with the idea for a reality show?
Lisa Witter: Sure, I’ve always been interested in politics, my entire life I’ve wanted to help people and I wanted to combine two things that I really cared about, one was helping people and two was sports, I was like an extreme competitive athlete and so how do you help people and be competitive and that’s politics, that’s the game of politics, so I’ve been involved in campaigns and especially promoting women and an opportunity came up to try out for the show during the 2004 Presidential election when Kerry was running against Bush and pop culture is so powerful, so I thought why don’t I use the medium of the time and go out and tour the country and be on national television on a weekly basis, talking about important issues like the war on Iraq, health care, a woman’s right to choose and I did and I was actually the first woman to ever win the New Hampshire Primary. I went up and stumped and kissed babies and knocked on doors and had a really good time and learned a lot about the country.
Question: What did you learn in the process?
Lisa Witter: Now is probably not a really good time to ask me what the most surprising thing to learn about politics because I’m actually pretty jaded with politics right now, I think that’s where I’m at with my life. But what makes me so excited about Barack Obama candidacy is while I’m skeptical of his really positive <inaudible> I’m not skeptical about him, I’m skeptical that change can really be made in a system where capitalism is out of control and there aren’t enough restrictions on it to help it flourish, I think to help this country flourish in the way that it should. I’m not against capitalism, I actually think that’s our only way and I think growth needs to happen but I think the way that businesses have a lockdown on Washington is really, really dangerous. So I’m really hopeful that Barack Obama can go in, he can really change the way Washington is working.
Lisa Witter has learned valuable lessons, on and off the air.
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