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Published: 8/14/2009

Konop apologizes for spoof video in which U.S. flag touches ground

BY ROD LOCKWOOD
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Konop Konop
JETTA FRASER Enlarge

A contrite Ben Konop apologized repeatedly yesterday for his role in a local television parody that resulted in an American flag being thrown to the ground and kicked around during a staged fight.

During a news conference in his Lucas County commissioner's office, the Toledo Democratic mayoral candidate said his desire to participate in a comedy skit by local filmmakers MSB Productions backfired when the scene in which he is wrestling another man leads to a flag falling to the ground.

"I saw it and felt sick to my stomach that I was involved in something like that," he said.

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He said he immediately called the producers of the show, MonkeY DomE, and asked them to take the "highly offensive" clip off of Youtube.com yesterday.

The video is no longer available for public viewing and The Blade was not able to obtain it to publish it on toledoblade.com.

The Blade was able to obtain a frame from the video, however, before it was removed.

Mr. Konop described the show as a "Saturday Night Live/Wayne's World" type program that airs on public access channel 69 on Saturdays at midnight.

He said he has participated in MonkeY DomE skits before and saw the most recent one as an attempt to poke fun at himself.

He said he was trying to have fun with his run-in with a heckler about a month ago in which an Old West End man repeatedly booed him during a news conference. Video of the incident has drawn more than 100,000 hits on Youtube.

"There is a tradition in politics where a politician or elected official plays along with the joke," Mr. Konop said, noting that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were guests on Saturday Night Live during last year's presidential campaign when both were candidates.

The information with the Konop video, which was posted Wednesday at 4:08 p.m., and titled "Ben Konop Kicks the Nachos Out of Hecklers" said, "Ben Konop, Toledo mayoral candidate and Kung Fu superstar, has had enough of copycat press conference hecklers. See the full story exclusively on MonkeY DomE, Saturday @ Midnite on Channel 69."

In the video, Mr. Konop, wearing a white dress shirt and tie, looks into the camera and strikes a martial arts-type pose before kicking over a lawn chair with a doll on it.

He wrestles with a person who appears to resemble Maxwell Austin, the man who heckled him, as about a dozen people cheer him on.

A woman comes into the frame and pretends to smash a painting over the man's head and he's wrestled to the ground, falling on an American flag and kicking it up in the air.

Mr. Konop also smashes a picture over the man's head and laughs as they pretend to wrestle.

Mr. Konop said he did not see the American flag when the skit was taking place and had no idea it was there until he saw the video yesterday morning.

"It was a mistake and I apologize. I wouldn't be in public service if I wasn't deeply patriotic and didn't care about our country and community," he said.

"I know the flag should never touch the ground and that's why I'm so disappointed in myself to let that happen and not catch it any sooner," he said.

He said he was only on the video shoot for 10 or 15 minutes and he filmed it while he was on his lunch break. Neither he nor Dave Jaffe of MSB Productions remembered what date the skit was filmed.

Whether his mayoral opponents use this against him as an example of his relative lack of experience is irrelevant, the 33-year-old attorney said.

"I'm not looking at this as a campaign issue. This is an issue about being respectful to our flag, respectful to our veterans, respectful to our country, and I made a mistake in judgment by not catching this sooner, by allowing the scene to take place, and I'm trying the best I can to rectify a bad situation," he said.

Mr. Jaffe, one of the producers of MonkeY DomE, was at the news conference at Mr. Konop's request, and said the flag was never intended to be in the scene.

He said two members of the production team are Persian Gulf War veterans and when they saw the flag was knocked to the ground, they picked it up and handled it appropriately.

"It's not a joking matter," he said of the incident, adding that the version of the skit that ended up online was a promo and not a final edit and that no version will be broadcast on the show.

He said MonkeY DomE is a "psychedelic rock and roll horror show" with an elaborate back story involving characters who represent good and evil. Because Mr. Konop has helped MonkeY DomE before, he's considered one of the good guys, Mr. Jaffe said.

Mr. Konop said he's not concerned about how his opponents might use the incident against him because he's so disappointed in himself. "Whether my opponents make this an issue, that's up to them," he said.

Contact Rod Lockwood at:

rlockwood@theblade.com

or 419-724-6159.



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