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Kelsey Grammer

Kelsey Grammer at La Cage Aux Folles Broadway Show Opening Night

HE may be the only Republican celebrity in America who is in love with a drag queen. Kelsey Grammer, former star of Frasier, the hit television comedy, has startled his conservative fans by helping to launch a right-wing broadcasting network days after receiving rave reviews for his performance as a gay nightclub owner in a Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles.

By night, Grammer dresses up as a seedy entrepreneur besotted with the transvestite star of his Riviera revue. By day he appears in an internet video promoting the RightNetwork, a controversial television venture aimed at followers of Sarah Palin and the right-wing rebels of the Tea Party movement.

Grammer’s unusual double act has thrust him to the heart of a long-running debate over political bias on American television and whether or not the success of Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News has opened the door to other forms of conservative-influenced entertainment.

It has also exposed one of America’s most popular actors to unpleasant personal attacks as critics from both left and right question his political beliefs and intentions.

“He is opening in a Broadway show that depicts a part of the culture that the Tea Party wants to hold back,” noted Lance Smith on the Mediaite website. “Mr Grammer is a hypocrite.”

As one of the few Hollywood actors to be open about his Republican sympathies, Grammer was a lonely supporter of President George W Bush and has flirted with running for the US Senate, but has also acknowledged that he is liberal on many social issues.

On the network’s new website, Grammer appears in a series of videos promoting programmes that will be broadcast on television and the internet this summer. These include a reality show about novice political candidates, expected to be members of the Tea Party; a comedy show called Right 2 Laugh; and a series on politicians and pundits who play poker.

“We’re creating a welcome place for millions and millions of Americans who’ve been looking for an entertainment network and media channel that reflects their point of view,” said Ed Snider, a cable television magnate and one of RightNetwork’s top investors.

Grammer has invested heavily in the television venture but Elizabeth Snead, of the Dish Rag media blog, questioned how enthusiastically he would be received by Tea Party supporters concerned that the Republican party is not conservative enough.

“We have to wonder if Grammer is the right choice for a Tea Party network that is ... clearly meant to appeal to audiences in — how shall we put this — middle America,” said Snead.

(From Melanie: Ms. Snead clearly doesn't "get" the Tea Party movement which is linked together primarly by people who share deep concern about economic issues, rather than social issues. In case Ms. Snead hails from Rio Linda, that's jobs, debt, and healthcare. Got it? Now don't make me explain this again.)