Norman Lear Calls on Hollywood Democrats to Unite Behind Hillary Clinton

THR Norman Lear_nl_01-office_0017 - H 2016
Art Streiber

THR Norman Lear_nl_01-office_0017 - H 2016

"Post-Indiana, it's time and it's sensible, sooner rather than later, to unite behind Hillary lest we and our values be trumped," says the iconic television creator and liberal activist.

Bernie Sanders may have won the Indiana primary, but Hollywood's Democratic patriarch Norman Lear is calling for industry liberals to be "sensible" and collectively unite behind Hillary Clinton now that Donald Trump has become the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.

"If our liberal heads are on straight, we will be forever grateful to Bernie Sanders for teaching us to take pride in who we are — liberals, progressives, lefties — personally, I view us as Bleeding Heart Conservatives. There are no more conservative values than hewing religiously to delivering on our Founding Fathers' promise of equal opportunity and equal justice under the law," Lear, 93, says in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. But, he continues, "now, post-Indiana, it's time and it's sensible, sooner rather than later, to unite behind Hillary lest we and our values be trumped."

The man behind classic sitcoms like All in the Family, One Day at a Time and others is part of a sizable contingent of Clinton backers in Hollywood, a list that includes Democrat stalwarts Jeffrey Katzenberg, Steven Spielberg and George Clooney, who hosted an April fundraiser for the former secretary of state at his Los Angeles home. But enthusiasm for Clinton has not been as strong in Hollywood as it was for her rival Barack Obama in 2008.

By contrast, many industry liberals have fallen hard for Sanders, becoming vocal supporters and even joining him to "feel the Bern" on the campaign trail. Susan Sarandon has been a regular fixture in the Sanders camp. Mark Ruffalo and Sarah Silverman have appeared in campaign videos and regularly tweet their support. And Spike Lee even appeared on the cover of THR magazine with Sanders before the New York primary and directed a promotional clip for him.

But despite the enthusiasm and recent primary momentum, Sanders' path to the Democratic nomination is steep. Now that Trump rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich have suspended their campaigns, several commentators have called on Sanders to concede the race to Clinton — whose lead among delegates and especially superdelegates is likely insurmountable — and allow the party to unite around her.

At least so far, none of Sanders' vocal Hollywood backers publicly has switched allegiances. One industry fundraiser says he doesn't expect Sanders or his supporters to get behind Hillary until after the big California primary June 6.

That's fine with ICM Partners chief Chris Silbermann, who hosted a March fundraiser for Clinton. Despite the Trump threat, he sees no urgency for Sanders to drop out of the race before the California primary. "The important thing is to show an adult, mature, professional process to underscore the difference between the two parties," he says.

Even as Republicans attempt to motivate voters for the polarizing Trump, other Hollywood Democrats say Sanders should feel free to continue in the race — up to a point.

"He certainly has the right to stay in through California," agrees Andy Spahn, a veteran Democratic fundraiser and consultant. "He should then endorse Hillary," he adds.