Stewart, Clooney: What Liberal Hollywood?

When asked if Hollywood is liberal (culturally or politically), whether it's outside the American mainstream, or attempting to drag it to the left, two big stars told CNN's Larry King no. On Monday night, MRC's Megan McCormack noticed that Jon Stewart, preparing to emcee the Oscars, said the idea that Hollywood is liberal and getting in the face of conservatives is not a real issue:

Male caller: "Hello. I was wondering, regarding the, the cultural war we have between Republicans and Hollywood, how Jon feels this year’s crop of nominees and the films that Hollywood chooses to celebrate, is that Hollywood thumbing it’s nose at Republicans, or does it give a kind of vindication to the Republican party, and possibly allow some backlash? Could Hollywood find, in a time when censorship’s becoming a real issue again, could it hurt ‘em?"

Jon Stewart: “I think that’s a good question and it’s a nice thing for the media to dissect, but I’m not so sure how real it is. You know, there’s this idea that there are Republicans and Hollywood and there’s such a thing as Hollywood and such a thing as Republicans and they’re locked in a culture war. You know, I just don’t know what that is. That strikes me as much more of a method for pundits and politicians to whip up excitement and votes and fear than it is a real thing. Hollywood is not–there’s this idea that there exists some sort of underground political Hollywood mock-a-nation machine. Hollywood wants–they’re not red, they’re not blue, they’re green. They want money.”

Larry King: “They want to make money.”

Stewart: “It’s, it’s a business like any other business. You know, you get a–you know, Passion of the Christ went well. Great, replace Jesus with a talking lion. Narnia. Done. You know what I mean? They don’t-it, it’s–and this idea somehow that they’re thumbing their nose at the country, they’re, they want–what do you think, they’re just putting movies out cause they don’t want people to go? I’m going to put this one out because, you know what, this is really going to make Iowa mad and I don’t want ‘em going anywhere near this thing.”

Stewart the Oscar Host is missing one very obvious point: "The Passion of the Christ" was not an Oscar sensation. Neither was "Narnia." They were passed over like stale bread. Oscar instead is honoring movies like "TransAmerica" that never found an audience, but is a "transgressive" cultural bombshell. Eleven days before Stewart's appearance, on February 16, Larry King put the question to George Clooney, who also dismissed the idea that Hollywood was out of touch, although his comments were more political (transcript corrected from tape):

KING: I'm going to move back to politics and other things in a little while. I want to get to other areas. By the way, do you think when people say Hollywood's out of touch with ordinary Americans they have a point?

CLOONEY: I seriously doubt it. I mean you know people were talking about this year and how there's so many politically motivated films and isn't that sort of out of touch with the mainstream?
And I think that it's exactly the opposite. I think that when we had politically motivated films the last time, the mid-'60s through the mid-'70s, from "Network" to "All the President's Men," "Dr. Strangelove" and all of those things, there was a million things going on in society that we were paying attention to. we cared about: cared about the civil rights movement, the women's rights movement and the drug counterculture, sexual revolution, the Vietnam War and we were talking about those things.

Then after Watergate we seemed to not talk about them for quite some time at home or at dinner and films reflected that. I think now films are reflecting the exact same thing that goes on in society today which is for the first time since then people are sitting at restaurants and having conversations about their concerns or their beliefs in the political system and I think that films reflect that.

We're not good first responders, films. We have to write a script after things happen. We have to direct it. We have to shoot it. We have to edit it and release it. So, in general we tend to be, you know, is there a liberal bent, sure. I don't make any apologies about that. I'm a liberal, you know. I believe in it.

KING: Is that what you are?

CLOONEY: Exactly. Well, listen people whisper that. They whisper it like you'd whisper Nazi now, you know. You'll go, yes you know (whsipers) I'm a liberal. I'm confused when that became a bad word, you know. Liberals thought maybe blacks...

KING, interrupting: Well why is it a bad word. Liberals basically there's Social Security, Medicare, most Americans kind of favor those things.

CLOONEY: No, I know. It's interesting. I think what happened over a period of time probably in the late '80s when it became sort of a political tool to say, I mean liberals say they're not liberals, you know. Liberal Democrats say they're not liberals. I am not a liberal. Of course you're a liberal meaning that a great many of these people, the liberal movement morally, you know, has stood on the right side of an awful lot of issues.

We thought that blacks should be allowed to sit at the front of the bus and women should be able to vote, McCarthy was wrong, Vietnam was a mistake. You know we haven't been always wrong.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis