Hollywood Conservatives in the Shadows Stumping for Trump
From actors to studio executives, being a Republican in the entertainment industry has never been in fashion. But there are some who openly back the real estate mogul as he marches closer to the GOP convention.
Despite the entertainment industry’s reputation for liberalism, not everyone in Hollywood sporting one of those “I Voted” stickers (written in half a dozen languages) cast their lot with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders during Tuesday’s California primary. Many more than will admit — probably the ones on film and TV sets who remain silent as others gleefully bash Republicans — voted for Donald Trump.
“It’s D-Day in California, and I voted for Trump,” says Dave Berg, who, as a co-producer on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno for several years, booked Trump as a guest more than a dozen times. Like many other Hollywood conservatives, Berg was uneasy about his vote.
“I was a vocal supporter of Marco Rubio, then of John Kasich,” he said. “Trump was my 17th choice, but Hillary is my 18th choice.”
While your typical Hollywood liberal doesn’t understand the attraction to Trump — or any Republican — Berg and dozens more conservatives in the entertainment industry who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday were happy to explain their equal disdain for the two Democrats running for president.
“Hillary is crooked,” Berg says, “and she is never challenged by the media. I saw a recent press conference and the questions were all along the lines of, “What’s it like being on the verge of being the first woman to be president?'”
Berg predicts some celebrities will "come out of the closet" as Trump gets closer to the general election in November, but for now, vocal supporters are few and far between — including Jon Voight, Scott Baio, some of the Duck Dynasty crew and Ted Nugent.
Baio, in particular, has been tweeting his support for Trump, as well as his disaffection for Clinton. "Remind me again how many people died horrible deaths on @HillaryClinton watch!" he tweeted Tuesday with a picture of four American men who died in Benghazi, Libya, while Clinton was secretary of state.
Lionel Chetwynd, the producer-writer-director who co-founded Friends of Abe, the private group of conservatives in the entertainment industry, says he was a registered independent but switched to Republican to make sure he could vote for Ted Cruz. Since the Texas senator bowed out, Chetwynd voted Trump, though he’d rather make the case against Clinton and Sanders than for the presumptive GOP nominee.
“Hillary Clinton — well, you can’t run the government effectively from Leavenworth,” he quips, alluding to the candidate’s allegedly illegal use of a private email server while secretary of state.
“Bernie is an interesting guy. A fossil,” says Chetwynd. “He’s a socialist stuck in hippie-dom. Most other radicals from the 1960s traded in their VW Bus for a Lexus, but Bernie didn’t get the memo. He's like one of those Japanese soldiers still fighting in Okinawa.”
Chetwynd also says Hollywood liberals don’t get Trump, and he uses as an example the candidate’s latest controversy over criticizing Judge Gonzalo Curiel because of his affiliation with La Raza Lawyers of California. Curiel is overseeing cases against Trump University, and many have called Trump’s recent criticism of him “racist.”
“The pundits don’t know what Trump is doing. Middle America hates the press, academia and, high on the list, corrupted courts,” says Chetwynd. “Trump isn’t talking about Trump University — he’s reminding people how courts are used to settle personal vendettas. They’ve seen it on The Good Wife for years.”
“They may never have heard of La Raza,” he continues, “but they know there’s a movement that questions America’s sovereignty in the Southwest. They see it at anti-Trump rallies, where they wave Mexican flags and burn American flags.”
While THR spoke to dozens of Trump voters, few wished to announce their support, citing their desire to avoid backlash from co-workers. One makeup artist, for example, says longtime clients stopped hiring her after learning she was a Republican.
One entertainment executive who is a registered independent says he will vote for Trump in the general election, but for California’s primary on Tuesday, he says: “I voted for Bernie in order to slow down Hillary’s momentum and increase the chances of a fractured Democratic convention.”
While they are tough to find nowadays, there are still a few never-Trumpers in Hollywood’s conservative ranks, one being Ben Shapiro, a Fox News pundit and co-host of KRLA AM870’s morning show in Los Angeles who voted for Ted Cruz, even though he’s no longer in the race.
“Of course I didn’t vote for Trump. He’s a total disgrace and is proving it on a daily basis,” says Shapiro. “I’d rather vote for a rotten turnip than Donald Trump.”