Governments' Lighter Side

In this court, puppets rule

An Ohio television station uses puppets for satirical coverage of steamy charges of hookers and gambling against a former county official.

A Cleveland television station is using some unusual stand-ins to cover the corruption trial of a former Cuyahoga County, Ohio, commissioner: puppets. That’s right, puppets.

With cameras barred from the courtroom, CBS affiliate station WOIO has “puppets acting out the sometimes-steamy testimony about hookers, gambling and sexually transmitted diseases,” according to AP. “In one scene, a furry hand stuffs cash down the shirt of a puppet prostitute.”

Executives at the television station defend using puppets as part of the station’s coverage of the federal trial of Jimmy Dimora, who has pleaded not guilty to bribery and racketeering. “It’s a satirical look at the trial,” WOIO news director Dan Salamone told AP. “It’s not intended in any way to replace any of the serious coverage.”

The puppets have been shown on late newscasts of WOIO and its sister station, WUAB. The segments are used only at the end of the newscast after the station’s regular coverage of the trial. Viewers are cautioned not to take the puppets seriously.

The station brought in a local puppet company to put on what it calls “The Puppet’s Court.” Play-by-play of the testimony is provided by a buck-toothed squirrel reporter. There’s a black-robed puppet judge and a yawning puppet jury. One puppet witness testified that he paid for a prostitute for Dimora during a Las Vegas gambling trip. The puppet reenactments are based on actual trial testimony.

The television station has been criticized for trivializing an important story, which is being closely followed in Cuyahoga County. But some viewers approve of the puppets. “Seeing as how both our politicians and justice system seem like clowns or puppets most of the time, this is wholly appropriate!” Mari Upthegrove of Tavernier, Fla., wrote on the station’s Facebook page after seeing a puppet segment online, according to AP.

Watch the first day of “The Puppet’s Court” below.

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Derek Prall

Derek Prall is a professional journalist who has held numerous positions with a variety of print and online publications including The Public Manager magazine and the New Jersey Herald. He is a 2008...
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