Margaret Cho muzzled at Democrat fundraiser -- Organizers yanked her from the lineup, fearing that the outspoken comic would create a Whoopi-like distraction

By Gary Susman
Updated July 22, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT

After the uproars caused in recent weeks by Whoopi Goldberg and Linda Ronstadt making partisan political remarks onstage, Democrats and their supporters are loath to risk booking entertainers whose words Republicans can use against them. That’s what comedian Margaret Cho found out on Wednesday, five days before she was to headline a fundraiser for various gay and lesbian organizations taking place in Boston during next week’s Democratic National Convention there. Variety reports that the Human Rights Campaign, one of the groups behind the benefit, disinvited Cho, citing the firestorm that erupted a few weeks ago at a fundraiser for Democratic nominee John Kerry when Goldberg did a routine riffing on the risqué double meaning of President Bush’s last name.

”We had invited Cho,” an HRC spokesman told Variety. ”When we asked about her material, we were told it would be a ‘brutal performance,’ which we didn’t think was in the spirit of what we were doing. We didn’t want to censor Margaret.”

Cho’s manager, Karen Taussig, issued a statement, noting that not all the rally groups had agreed with the HRC decision, and decrying the double standard that seems to shield from criticism the vitriolic jokes aimed at Democrats like Kerry and running mate John Edwards. ”I am not surprised at the reversal in light of how the Kerry campaign distanced itself from Whoopi’s routine in response to the unrelenting media hype and Republican criticism,” Taussig wrote. ”It’s Whoopi’s job as a comedian to say things that are sometimes shocking. I wish they could have backed her up. Dennis Miller can make gay jokes about Kerry and Edwards at a recent Bush rally in Wisconsin to a complete absence of media scrutiny. No one demanded a tape of that event or alleged that his comments as a comedian might reflect poorly on Bush.”

Cho became a target of conservative wrath in January when she performed at a rally sponsored by liberal activist group MoveOn. Her 20-minute set included a few minutes of jokes critical of the president and his party (sample line: ”George Bush is not Hitler. He would be if he f—ing applied himself.”), earning herself some scolding media coverage and scads of racist and sexist emails, which she posted at her website.