NEW YORK – Getting prosecuted by the Obama Justice Department is likely to increase the box office for Dinesh D’Souza’s new documentary, “America,” scheduled to open in theaters July 4, according to some Hollywood observers.
If the Obama administration had calculated that a criminal prosecution would silence him, as some critics charge, D’Souza appears to have turned the tables. The early consensus is that D’Souza has affirmed the Hollywood truism about publicity.
Moreover, even if D’Souza is sentenced to prison, he remains out on bail until the fall, free to promote his upcoming documentary without restrictions.
Even better from a marketing point of view, D’Souza, by advancing the theme of “selective prosecution,” has succeeded in positioning himself as yet another member of an Obama “enemies list” that extends far beyond the tea party.
“In Hollywood, any publicity, good or bad, is better than no publicity at all,” said Bettina Viviano, a successful Hollywood producer who includes among her credits having worked as vice president of production for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment.
She told WND that with “the IRS scandal targeting tea-party conservatives, a lot of people are on to the theme that the Obama administration targets its enemies.”
“People are smart enough to know that Dinesh D’Souza was targeted by the Obama administration,” she said.
Charging that the Obama Justice Department employs a double standard, Viviano compared D’Souza’s violation of Federal Election Commission laws with allegations made recently against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat.
“D’Souza didn’t do anything that Harry Reid doesn’t do all day long,” she asserted. “Why wasn’t Harry Reid prosecuted for gifting his daughter $30,000 in jewelry out of campaign funds? How is it fair that D’Souza is prosecuted and Harry Reid wasn’t?”
On March 26, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported FEC documents disclosed Reid had paid $31,249 in 2012 and 2013 to a jewelry and gift line run by his granddaughter using campaign funds. Reid claimed at the time the payment complied with FEC rulings that allow the purchase of goods from relatives if the goods meet a fair market value test.
As WND reported, Viviano was a supporter of Hillary Clinton who turned against the Democratic Party in 2012 alleging the Obama campaign had used unfair election tactics to deny Clinton the party’s presidential nomination.
Ted Baehr, chairman and CEO of Movieguide magazine and the annual Hollywood Movieguide awards ceremony, agreed with Viviano that the publicity surrounding D’Souza’s guilty plea will only improve commercial prospects.
“If D’Souza becomes a martyr to Obama’s nefarious and mendacious activities, that would be absolutely great for his anticipated commercial success,” he told WND. “If it can be spun in the right way, D’Souza will make hay with it.”
Baehr explained America has always been seen as committed to the rule of law.
“But when the government begins to prosecute critics, like Dinesh D’Souza,” he continued, “then the Obama administration begins to pick its favorites and justice becomes the rule of men.”
D’Souza comes out swinging
Through plea bargaining, the government dropped the more serious charge that D’Souza had caused false statements to be filed with the FEC, a crime with a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
Instead, D’Souza pleaded guilty only to reimbursing two friends for contributing to a senatorial political campaign, a crime that Justice Berman said carries a maximum penalty of 10 to 16 months in federal prison.
On the heels of his guilty plea, D’Souza jumped immediately back into the fray, attacking the Obama administration with themes featured in his upcoming documentary, a sequel to “2016: Obama’s America,” the second highest-grossing U.S. political documentary film of all time, with U.S. revenues exceeding $33.45 million.
Appearing on the Fox News Channel’s “The Kelly File” on Monday night, only hours after pleading guilty to what his attorneys characterized as “technical violations” of federal election laws, D’Souza came out attacking Obama in the process of promoting his upcoming documentary.
When asked about the possibility of selective prosecution, D’Souza answered directly.
“You don’t want to have a country in which Lady Justice has one eye open and she winks at her friends and then gives the evil eye to her enemies,” he told Megyn Kelly.
By scheduling D’Souza’s sentencing hearing for Sept. 23, federal Judge Richard Berman ensured that even should he impose a prison term, D’Souza will remain free to promote his much-anticipated documentary critical of President Obama.
“I feel I have a powerful message,” D’Souza said. “The message of our film ‘America’ that comes out in a month is the issue of justice.”
Clearly implied was the question of whether or not the film establishes grounds for concluding his prosecution was political.
“Very often as conservatives we tout ‘liberty,’ but when you go back and read the Declaration of Independence, it’s an indictment of the justice of the Crown,” D’Souza explained in his Fox News appearance.
“So, justice is at the center of our film.”
Lionsgate, the film distributor responsible for placing in theaters the largest grossing documentary ever, Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” remains committed to distributing D’Souza’s “America.” Deadline obtained and released a new “hot clip” from the film on the day D’Souza pleaded guilty in federal court in New York City.
“Lionsgate senses a great opportunity here to make money,” Viviano explained. “Do you really think anyone in Hollywood is going to suddenly get morals because someone associated with a film pleads guilty to a federal crime? Lionsgate has a hot film on their hands with D’Souza’s ‘America’ and they know it.”
Peter Wilkes, Lionsgate senior vice president for investor relations and executive communications, confirmed to WND that “America” will be released as originally scheduled.
However, he had no comment regarding the belief by some in Hollywood that D’Souza’s guilty plea will increase box office revenue.