NORFOLK, Va. — At People for the Ethical of Treatment of Animals, Bruce Friedrich directs campaigns in the name of animal rights. Now he’s going to be at the center of his own campaign — for president.
Friedrich has been selected to appear this summer on “American Candidate,” a Showtime reality series in which competitors will tackle a series of challenges to demonstrate what goes into the making of a presidential candidate.
“I do appreciate the opportunity to be a face for animal rights, a face for PETA and a face for compassion for all animals,” said Friedrich, the man behind such PETA stunts as passing out “Unhappy Meals” to children to try to get McDonald’s to improve living conditions for its chickens.
Friedrich’s first assignment was to quickly pull together a campaign rally, with only $100 to spend. PETA donated the use of its headquarters in Norfolk.
“It’s going well so far,” Friedrich said. “I like our chances.”
Filmmaker R.J. Cutler, the creator and executive producer of “American Candidate,” said Friedrich is one of about a dozen candidates chosen from among about 1,500 applicants.
Cutler declined to discuss many details about the program, which is to debut Aug. 1 and run 10 weeks.
“We found a group of people who are distinguished by their passion, their vision and their talent, and we’re providing them with a platform so their voices can be heard,” said Cutler, who produced “The War Room,” a documentary about Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign.
The candidates will cross-cross the country as they engage in a simulated presidential campaign, Cutler said.
Voters will help narrow the field. The last remaining candidate will win $200,000 and national media exposure.
If he wins, Friedrich, who gives 20 percent of his income to charity, plans to donate the cash prize to animal- and human-rights charities.
“I don’t need it,” said Friedrich, 34, who’s taking an extended vacation from his job as PETA’s director of vegan campaigns to be on the show.
Friedrich has never watched reality television except for bits of “Survivor,” and that was only so he could speak out against alleged animal abuse by contestants.
But he said he was intrigued by “American Candidate” because “this is going to be a whole different sort of reality TV program” that will raise important issues.
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