GOP Chair on This Year's Republican Convention: "I Don’t Think We're Going to Redo the Clint Eastwood Episode"
"I don't really hide our celebrities," says Reince Priebus. "We got a lot of good ones."
On May 25, Donald Trump got serious about fundraising at the Los Angeles home of Tom Barrack, the head of Colony Capital, the investment firm that recently sold the Miramax film studio to Qatar-based beIN Media Group for $1 billion. The event — which cost attendees from $2,700 apiece to as much as $100,000 per couple — was co-hosted by Steve Mnuchin, the Trump campaign’s finance chair and chairman of Dune Entertainment Partners, as well as Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee. The Hollywood Reporter spoke to Priebus shortly after the dinner.
How much did you guys raise?
Definitely millions. I don’t know how many millions, but it was a really good start.
How many people? Anybody famous?
About 300. And yes, there were a couple of famous people.
Can you name them?
Well, Donald Trump was there! But I don’t know who else wants to be known and who doesn't.
Why is it that when Democrats hold fundraisers they speak openly about the celebrities who attend while the Republicans hide the guest list?
I don’t really hide our celebrities. We got a lot of good ones — Dwayne Johnson, Chuck Norris, Scott Baio, Clint Eastwood, Ben Stein, Jon Voight, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Sylvester Stallone helped us out with John McCain. I just don’t comment on fundraisers. Maybe we’re not as braggadocious as Democrats are regarding our celebrities.
Have you heard any complaints that it’s difficult to be a Republican in liberal Hollywood?
I only heard praise and thank-yous last night. I don’t find it tough raising money in Hollywood. I do it every month.
Any theories as to why the industry is far more liberal than conservative?
It’s like anything. In some work and environments there are more Republicans and in others there are more Democrats. But it doesn’t mean we can’t penetrate certain markets and find people willing to help. Inclusion is important, so identifying people in our party from Hollywood or music or Nashville is important. A presidential election is a cultural vote, so having icons of culture who happen to be Republicans is an important thing.
Is it important that people who make TV shows and movies lean heavily left?
It’s important that we make the case to everyone in this country that Republicans are the party of the open door. A party of opportunity, equality and freedom is a party for everybody. But, if we don’t go to those corners of the country to make the case, you can’t really complain when people don’t come your direction. So, we do need to go to Southern California and make the case.
What do you tell the never-Trumpers, like Glenn Beck?
A generation or two of the Supreme Court is at stake. Whether there are wounds from a tough primary or not, it’s time to come around and face the fact that the future of our country, getting our debt under control, working with people like Speaker Paul Ryan to get a budget, is far more important than nursing wounds.
So the RNC is 100 percent behind Donald Trump?
Look, he’s the presumptive nominee and the party is here to help Republicans up and down the ballot be victorious, whether you’re running for Congress, Senate or president. So, absolutely. We want to get every candidate elected.
Is there something that could happen at the convention whereby Trump would no longer be the nominee?
I highly, highly, highly, highly doubt that.
How’s the planning for the convention going?
It will be a great program. The planning has been going on for a year and half, and most of the work is done.
Can you tell me the entertainment lineup?
There will be a lot. It will be a great show for our country and our party.
What are Mr. Trump’s chances of victory?
We have a nominee who has received more votes than any other nominee in the history of our party and we still have about nine states to go. Our voter registration is higher than it’s been in 20 years. Fundraising is going well. I feel good about it. Look at Hillary Clinton. People’s views of her honesty and trustworthiness are in the ditch. She’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole year round.
Do you expect a lot of drama at the Democratic convention?
Look what’s going on over there. I predicted a month ago that we would have more clarity on our side before the Democrats would, and that’s exactly what’s happening. I don’t see Bernie Sanders going anywhere, nor should he. He’s been treated like garbage by their party. He’s received the short end of the stick for a year, and he’s still done pretty well. I think he’ll go to the convention because he has something to prove.
Clint Eastwood made a splash at the convention four years ago. Any plans for a reprisal?
I don’t think we’re going to redo the Clint Eastwood episode.
Will Donald Trump really build a wall on the Mexican border?
You’ll have to ask Donald Trump.