Sunday, June 24, 2018

In Ohio bribery trial, puppets step in after camera ban

CLEVELAND — It's Sesame Street meets the unseemly side of politics.

With cameras barred from a high-profile corruption trial, a television station has puppets acting out the sometimes-steamy testimony about hookers, gambling and sexually transmitted diseases. In one scene, a furry hand stuffs cash down the shirt of a puppet prostitute.

"I'm horrified," a laughing anchorwoman said after a segment shown this week on WOIO, a CBS affiliate in Cleveland, where the trial of longtime Democratic power broker Jimmy Dimora is the talk of the town.

The station's news director brought up the idea of using the puppets to lampoon the trial and give a glimpse of what's happening in the federal courtroom. Cameras aren't allowed.

"It's a satirical look at the trial and, again, I think we have it appropriately placed at the end of the newscast," news director Dan Salamone said Thursday.

The puppets are in addition to the station's regular coverage of the trial of Dimora, a former Cuyahoga County commissioner and county Democratic chairman who has pleaded not guilty to bribery and racketeering.

"It's not intended in any way to replace any of the serious coverage," Salamone said.

The station has enlisted a local puppet company to put on the skit. It calls the tongue-in-cheek segment "The Puppet's Court."

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