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Anti-Trump celebrities now targeting Trump supporters

Backlash often depends on contextual details of artist's audience and current projects.

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Alec Baldwin, anti-Trump rally
Alec Baldwin speaks at anti-Trump rally outside New York's Trump Tower in 2017.
(D Dipasupil/Getty)
Updated: April 19, 2020 - 6:54am

Celebrities use the media to hawk their projects, from warbling with James Corden on Carpool Karaoke to over sharing in magazine interviews. Call it Promotion 101.

That time-tested technique took a curious turn during the Trump presidency. Some stars not only trashed President Donald Trump in various media outlets, they took their anger out on his voting block, also known as roughly half the country.

That tone intensified during the current pandemic, showing some stars don’t mind chasing away fans for voting a certain way.

The celebrity targeting of Trump voters started early, with Eminem, Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel all alienating audiences who might vote Republican.

The host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” took a hard-left turn after Trump’s election, and he said losing a large swath of his audience was a worthy sacrifice.

"But if they're so turned off by my opinion on healthcare and gun violence then, I don't know, I probably wouldn't want to have a conversation with them anyway," he said of Republican viewers. "Not good riddance, but riddance."

In 2017, Eminem literally gave Trump supporters a one-finger salute to say he didn’t want them as fans or customers. Seth Meyers doubled down on the rapper’s message from his NBC show’s perch.

“And I was inspired by that, so tonight, I say to any fans of this show who are also big fans of Donald Trump, it’s time to make a decision,” Meyers said. “Get off the fence. Do you support him or do you support this show, that constantly mocks and denigrates everything about him? I know it’s a tough call, but the time has come to make a decision. Now, I’m not much of a rapper, but here it goes. My name is Seth and I’m here to say, if you like Trump, then go away.”

The star of TBS’s “Conan” used a news headline to suggest a Nazi would feel right at home at a Trump event. 

“A Nazi prison guard has been sent back to Germany after years of living in the United States,” Conan O’Brien said. “After a long manhunt, authorities found him hiding at a Trump rally.”

“Saturday Night Live” took that a step further, crafting a fake Trump campaign commercial in which supporters donned swastikas and KKK hoods.

More recently, stars began bludgeoning Trump fans with pandemic-related taunts. 

Last month, “Guardians of the Galaxy” star Dave Bautista, a frequent Trump critic, lashed out at the president’s voters. The former WWE standout called them “brain dead morons who continue to support him without a logical thought in their minds of why they actually support him.” 

Alec Baldwin proffered some “voting advice” to Trump’s voters on social media, indirectly referencing the current pandemic. “Just stay home. You know, in your heart, that he is an incompetent idiot and self-seeking punk. Say you were sick. Say you were scared. Don’t bother voting. Stay home.”

Barbra Streisand blamed the president for more than 20,000 deaths due to the pandemic via her Twitter account. She later softened her divisive tone, asking Americans to rally together to fight the crisis. 

Stephen Colbert, hosting CBS’s “The Late Show” from his home, mocked pro-Trump Americans in Michigan and Ohio for demanding their governors re-open local businesses.

Singer/actress Cher, who routinely rants against President Trump on Twitter, expanded that attack to his followers this week:

Veteran PR expert Doyle Albee, president and CEO of MAPRagency in Boulder, Colo., says such politically charged rhetoric can be counterproductive for stars’ careers.

The Dixie Chicks attacked President George W. Bush from a London concert stage in 2003, sharing that they were “ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” Fans of the country trio burned their CDs in protest.

“The average country music fan is probably not a liberal,” says Albee, noting stars should have a keen awareness of their fan base before speaking out. “Had that been Taylor Swift, it might have been a completely different story.”

The old saw “All news is good news” may apply in some circles, Albee adds, but it can backfire in our digital age. Having a movie star say something politically divisive can “get a film on your radar, but It can also really have a huge backlash,” he says. “People get turned off to it and don’t wanna go.”

For example, had actor Bradley Cooper came out with an anti-GOP rant while promoting his 2014 film “American Sniper,” which had massive heartland appeal, “it could have really hurt a movie like that,” he reasons.

Artists should “take a step back” when getting political and ask themselves if their "opinions fit" where a project is going, he adds.

Such counsel notwithstanding, progressive Hollywood icons seem to exhibit little fear of offending more conservative segments of their audiences. Take, for example, the attitude comic actor Jack Black expressed some years back when this reporter asked if he feared career repercussions from his political comments. He had just promoted President Barack Obama’s “Iran Deal” via a humorous video clip prior to the conversation.

“You do the things you think are right and let the chips fall where they may,” Black said. “My agent doesn’t care … they’re not worried about it. Sometimes controversy actually helps. Just ask, I don’t know, Kanye [West].”

Far more rarely, an intrepid entertainment celebrity may risk backlash from his own colleagues by deviating from the liberal orthodoxy that pervades the industry. 

Both Tracy Morgan of “30 Rock” fame and actor Dennis Quaid risked woke wrath in recent days, venturing politically unifying messages in the face of global pandemic. Morgan said any blame game tied to the pandemic should wait for now, while Quaid praised President Trump’s leadership in a crisis.