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Ed Asner Refutes Claims of Giving Republicans the Silent Treatment

Left-wing activist Ed Asner said that -- despite rumors to the contrary -- he is not so intolerant of colleagues who lean right that he would disassociate himself from them. He'd simply refrain from discussing politics with them.

Asner was responding to a story revealed a week ago by actor Morgan Brittany, who said at a Republican convention that when Asner found out she wasn't a typical Hollywood liberal, he stopped speaking to her.

Brittany was recounting a play that the two starred in during the time of the Florida recount a decade ago that made George W. Bush president over challenger Al Gore.

"I can't even look at you. I can't even talk to you," the Dallas actor recalled Asner telling her after she revealed she was a Republican. "From that moment on, he never spoke to me again, except on stage."

But Asner told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday that he doesn't recall the episode.

"My memory is not good, but I sure as hell don't remember doing a play with Morgan Brittany. I don't even know what she looks like."

(For the record, playwright Jerry Mayer confirmed that Asner and Brittany starred about a decade ago in an "Audioplay" of his work Almost Perfect, which is not technically a stage play but a CD version of a play that Brittany and Asner recorded together at the Santa Monica Playhouse.)

Asner acknowledged, though, that his reaction to Hollywood conservatives isn't always warm and fuzzy, but that just manifests in his avoiding the subject once he learns that a colleague is his political opposite. He used his relationship with Jon Voight as an example.

"If I can talk to him, I can talk to anybody. He's about as right wing as you can get," Asner said. But if he ever did talk about politics with Voight? "I'd have a hard time with my anger," Asner said.

If an episode similar to the one Brittany described were to happen today, "I'd probably make a joke of it -- as we do -- and say, 'Well, I certainly can't hang around with you.' But I'd never be as open as she suggests. I'm more duplicitous than that," he joked.

"But she implied I dissed her totally, and I think that's a lie," he said.

Asner, who is touring as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the one-man show "FDR," has been one of the most politically active celebrities in Hollywood for several decades, so THR got his take on a few of today's issues.

NEXT PAGE: ASNER ON THE UPRISINGS IN EGYPT, THE TEA PARTY AND OBAMA

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THR: What do you think of the uprisings in Egypt?

Asner: It's wonderful that people can become aroused and strike out for more Democratic pluses in their lives.

THR: You think the 2 percent who are uprising there speak for the other 98 percent who are not?

Asner: I haven't seen those figures. I'd want further confirmation. I gather you're not fond of what's happening in Egypt?

THR: I think a lot of people are jumping to the conclusion that it's a Democratic uprising when maybe it is not.

ASNER: Well, how would we know when our intelligence always seems to be six feet behind the moment? What is known is that (Mubarak) has generally been regarded as a dictator for a lot of years. The whole American policy of fostering and furthering dictators has to be questioned.

THR: What do you think of the Tea Parties?

Asner: Not much. I haven't the foggiest idea what they stand for, and the more you watch President Obama, I don't see what they have to complain about.

THR: At the event Morgan Brittany spoke at, many were complaining of high taxes, government overspending and over-regulation, that sort of thing.

Asner: We're less taxed than almost any other western country. Is Morgan Brittany aware of that?

THR: You seem in favor of the Egypt uprising but not sympathetic to an uprising here of Tea Partiers.

Asner: Oh, is that what you call it, an uprising? That's very clever.

THR: Thanks. I try.

ASNER: And I'll try to humor you. I repeat. The Tea Party uprisings are based on ghost images such as taxation, and I would recommend that Morgan Brittany or whatever Tea Partier you want to talk to check out our taxation under Dwight Eisenhower.

THR: Do you agree with the policy of tax breaks for the film and TV industries?

Asner: If it means more jobs, yes.

THR: Then why not tax breaks for other industries?

Asner: If it means more jobs, fine.

THR: You don't see the big Hollywood anti-war rallies anymore. Seems like activists had a problem with George Bush fighting the war but not with Barack Obama fighting it.

Asner: Well, this fellow from Hollywood has a problem with it.

THR: What's the one thing politically that you'd most like to see happen?

Asner: That I could get a president I'm thrilled with.

THR: The one we have isn't him?

Asner: That's right. We keep coming up with wonderful candidates who become deflated by the middle of the campaign. The U.S. more and more has become a corporatist state and any candidate who runs, and especially wins, is
primarily a corportaist promulgater, defender, advocate.

THR: Does it worry you that speaking freely about politics might turn off a segment of your audience and that they'd then tune out your TV shows and movies?

Asner: Well, they've done it before. I'm not a stranger to the waters. This would all go away for me if the people in this country were regarded first in terms of jobs, education and health care and the banks and corporations had to take a backseat.

THR: What do you think of actors who run for office?

Asner: I have no objection. They certainly are a weird breed, though. People are still trying to figure out Ronald Reagan.

THR: What was your opinion of him?

Asner: I certainly was charmed by him. Taking the final figures and results, I can only feel his two terms were not a success. Now, I'm trying to figure out where you stand.

THR: To the right of you. How do you describe yourself?

Asner: Call me a socialist.