Still Obsessed: ABC Scolds Eastwood's 'Controversial' 'Chair Stunt'

Clint Eastwood appeared on Monday's Good Morning America to promote his new movie, but still had to deal with media fallout from his "controversial" "chair stunt" at the Republican National Convention.

Fill-in co-host Josh Elliott teased the segment by lecturing, "We'll have much more about that controversial speech." After talking to Eastwood about his soon-to-be released baseball film, Trouble With the Curve, reporter Nick Watt segued, "Eastwood's last role was, of course, guest star at the Republican National Convention. He controversially addressed an empty chair as if it were President Obama." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

GMA contributor Laura Spencer described Eastwood's speech as a "solo chair stunt."

Watt pushed the 83-year-old actor about his mockery of Barack Obama, wondering, "Do you think you went too far at all?"

On August 31, the day after Eastwood's speech, all three networks lashed out, knocking it as "bizarre" and a "rambling" endorsement of Mitt Romney.

GMA's Amy Robach derided, "Did Clint Eastwood derail Romney's big night with a bizarre warm up speech?"

The networks weren't always so quick to condemn an actor for unusual or unpopular political speech.

On April 16, 2003, ABC's Peter Jennings lamented the effort to make anti-war entertainers "pay" for their beliefs:

Peter Jennings: "Finally this evening, what it sometimes costs to be in the minority and say what you think publicly. There is nothing like a war to create tension between some of those who most fervently support it and those who do not. And as we've seen in the case of this war, when those who are opposed happen to be in show business, well, some other people want to make them pay...."

Actor Tim Robbins: "A chill wind is blowing in this nation."

Jim Wooten: "In Washington this week, Robbins criticized the political climate in which his right to express his views has come under attack....All this has reminded some of the McCarthy era's blacklists that barred those even accused of communist sympathies from working in films or on television."

- ABC's World News Tonight, April 16, 2003.

A transcript of the September 17 segment, which aired at 8:24am EDT, follows:


7:12

JOSH ELLIOTT: And we're going to have much more on Hollywood and politics later. Clint Eastwood, of course, gave a memorial speech at the Republican National Convention. We'll have much more about that controversial speech.

8:10

JOSH ELLIOTT: And Clint Eastwood is speaking out about that solo chair stunt at the Republican Convention.

8:24           

[After discussing his new movie]

NICK WATT: Eastwood's last role was, of course, guest star at the Republican National Convention. He controversially addressed an empty chair as if it were President Obama.

CLINT EASTWOOD: I've got Mr. Obama here. What do you mean shut up?

WATT: The polls suggest that it was your speech and not Mitt Romney. You didn't know what you were going to say?

EASTWOOD: I didn't. No, no.

WATT: When did you decide on what you were going to do, how you were going to do it?

EASTWOOD: They're talking and you hear someone up there and  they were all looking at teleprompters and stuff. I said I'm not going to do that. First place, I'm not very good at that. I didn't have to have my glasses with me so I probably wouldn't have been able to read it anyway. And so, you know, you're sitting there and the guy said, you want to sit down. I said, "no. But put that out next the podium, will you?"

WATT: It was really like that? It was kind of--

EASTWOOD: Yeah, it was kind of like that. I thought I'd do this as sort of an odd ball thing. Anyway, everybody seemed to have a good time with it and that's all that matters.

[Clip from speech]

EASTWOOD: What do you want me to tell Romney? I can't tell him that, can't do that to himself.

WATT: Do you think you went too far at all?

EASTWOOD: No. Not really.

WATT: President Obama said he's still a big fan of yours. So–

EASTWOOD: That's his bad judgment. No, actually, he seems very charming to me.

WATT: Some people loved it. Some people hated it. Some people, you know lampooned it.

EASTWOOD: That's good. You're supposed to love it or hate it. I'm just expressing my feeling.

WATT: And like his character, Gus, at 83-years-old, Eastwood doesn't much care what people think.

EASTWOOD: There's something about the aging process that makes you give a crap less, it seemed like.

WATT: Is that true for you?

EASTWOOD: Maybe, I don't know.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org