Honor among thieves

Watching two truly despicable people in a pissing match has a certain car-crash fascination to it. All the moreso when the people involved are, to a certain extent, TV stars. So watching the catfight between Vladimír Železný and Jana Bobošíková that has erupted in the last couple of days brings out a gleeful schadenfreude in me.

But first, a bit of background. Vladimír Železný founded the Czech Republic’s first private TV station, TV Nova. He did so with the financial backing of Estee Lauder’s son, Ronald Lauder. TV Nova was a runaway success from Day 1, and dominates the market, with something like a 70% market share.

The two had a falling-out, and Železný simply kicked his onetime partner out, leaving Lauder holding the bill. That kind of stuff happens all the time in business, but it was compounded by the fact that Železný was only able to do so because the laws governing TV are so badly written as to make the Czech Republic liable for hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

To add insult to injury, Železný was wanted on a number of criminal charges, both related to TV Nova and to art smuggling. But he was able to delay these charges by getting himself elected to the Czech Senate; all members of both houses of parliament are granted immunity from any crime for the duration of their terms.

When it started to look like the Senate was going to strip Železný of his immunity, he looked to Brussels, and was able to get elected to the European Parliament in June. He started a new political party, the Independent Party, which usually was referred to as “Vladimír Železný’s Independent Party” because a) he was the main man, and b) there was only one other candidate running on behalf of the party, a TV anchorwoman by the name of Jana Bobošíková.

Jana Bobošíková used to be an anchorwoman on the state-run Czech TV. Then she went to work for the Civic Democratic Party. Then she made her way back into Czech TV when its newly-appointed director Jiří Hodač, largely assumed to be a political appointee loyal to now-President Václav Klaus’s Civic Democrats (ODS), made her News Director.

The staff of Czech TV staged a walkout in protest, and 100,000 people signed a petition supporting the walkout, and demanding that Bobošíková and Hodač resign. But Bobošíková would not back down. She slapped together what technicians she could find, and put on a slipshod news broadcast favorable to Klaus and ODS. Bobovíze was truly awful television, and not just because of its rock-bottom production values. It really reminded people of the old Communist news broadcasts.

The protests against “Bobovíze” were huge. I know because I was there, along with hundreds of thousands of others. It was the only time since the Velvet Revolution that Václavské náměsti was full.

But it’s a tribute to the evil genius of Vladimír Železný that he was able to take the single most-hated woman in the country, rehabilitate her and turn her into a TV star again, this time as the host of the political talkshow “7,” playing to her take-no-prisoners, ball-buster persona.

Then, when Železný decided to run for European Parliament, Bobošíková was a perfect choice to run with him on his ticket. They both won their races.

But now, the two have fallen out in the most public way, with Bobošíková first announcing that she was leaving the Independents, claiming that she disagreed with the direction the Independent Party was taking. Then it started to get more personal, with Železný criticizing her for being disloyal.

Then it escalated further, and the spouses started getting involved. Železný pointedly criticized Bobošíková’s choice to hire her husband as her assistant in Brussels, saying not only have there been only three such cases in the history of the European Parliament, but also that Bobošík is stupid. Snap!

Bobošíková countered, saying Železný’s trophy wife Kony is the real brains behind the Independent Party, and that she tried to remove her from the Independents’ candidate list before the European Parliament elections. Rawr!

Who knows where this is going to end up? One thing is for sure, however. The European Parliament has received a request from the Prague City Court to strip Železný of his immunity, and the Parliament should take up the matter in the next few months.

Maybe it’s a good thing that there are 626 MEPs in Brussels. There’s less of a chance of these two meeting up on the Parliament floor.

Oh, and that soft grinding sound you hear in the background? That’s God’s mill.

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