Stars Speak Out on Trump, but Hollywood Executives Have Reasons to Stay Quiet

Donald Trump Sheryl Sandberg Jeff Bezos
Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech was a rallying cry for other Hollywood figures to speak out in the era of Donald Trump — and there’s little doubt that many will follow.

But as the creative class looks for new ways to resist, showbiz’s executive suites are searching for crafty means to steer clear of criticism.

Studio chiefs and media moguls largely backed Hillary Clinton, but now they are finding value in keeping their words measured and mouths shut.

The tone is definitely different.

During the primary, the Walt Disney Co. found itself a target during a presidential debate, fueled by Trump’s attacks on the company for replacing Disney World workers with those who held H1-B guest worker visas. Now CEO Bob Iger has taken a spot on Trump’s “strategic and policy forum” — a bipartisan body that includes a few others who also backed Trump’s opponent.

Last summer, AT&T’s Republican chief lobbyist, Jim Cicconi, endorsed Clinton and warned that Trump would send the nation down a “very dark path.” He retired the month before AT&T and Time Warner reached a massive merger agreement — and very quickly Trump promised at a campaign stop that he’d block the deal — saying it would be “too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.” It didn’t help that Time Warner owned CNN, his frequent punching bag.


Donald Trump

Donald Trump Takes a Beating From Hollywood at Golden Globes

Since the election, though, there’s been a renewed mood on Wall Street that, Trump’s statements not withstanding, Republican control could actually mean a much more favorable climate for mega mergers. Asked at a December conference about Trump’s threats to “open up” libel laws, Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes said that what was “worrying me more” were the Democrats and their platform plank to overturn Citizens United — something that would alter the First Amendment in the “guise of campaign finance reform.”

Unmentioned were some of Trump’s not-so-veiled threats to go after companies like Amazon, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, who  also owns the Washington Post, which had delivered some unflattering coverage. Bewkes has since argued that his remarks were taken out of context, but his target of the Democrats was fortuitous timing: The next day he and AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson were appearing before a Republican-controlled Senate hearing on the merger. It couldn’t hurt.

The entertainment industry is certainly not alone in hoping against hope to get in Trump’s good graces. Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Technology Association, once vowed to boycott Trump properties and TV shows unless he apologized for his incendiary comments and dropped out of the presidential race. After he became president-elect, Shapiro has changed his tone, and has written about the “silver lining” of a Trump presidency. He cites the notion that the new administration will be good for business — rolling back regulation and lowering the corporate tax rate.

Studios, too, could reap benefits. As MPAA chairman Chris Dodd, himself a Clinton supporter, recently told Variety, a lowering of the corporate rate actually could convince Hollywood to shoot more movies in the United States.

The trouble is that as much as Trump may hold business-friendly policy promise, there’s also the Trump on Twitter. CEOs and their desire not to cross the president-elect are motivated by bottom-line possibilities but also fear. Trump may respond to say, an unflattering “Saturday Night Live” skit, and connect the dots into an attack on NBC’s corporate parent Comcast. “I think everyone has the same feeling…you don’t want to be on the end of one of those tweets,” says one studio executive.

Another lays out a scenario in which studios start to shy away from projects that take on Trump, for fear that they may become the target of his 140-character missives. “I suspect people will be more cautious, more aware of what they say,” says the exec.

The last time a Republican was in the White House, there were plenty of movies that gave an unflattering portrait of George W. Bush. He never really paid much attention to showbiz. Trump obviously does. And given that he’s already shown an affinity for slamming Boeing, General Motors and Toyota in his 140-character missives, how long until some of Hollywood’s corporate names end up in his crosshairs?

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  1. S. D. LAWRENCE says:

    I’m a 64 year old woman, life-long democrat, AND WORKED IN THE STUDIOS AS AN EXECUTIVE FOR 12 YEARS, and a driver for 20 years.
    Please – hear my FIRST HAND EXPERIENCES with these spoiled rotten ACTORS/children.
    Of all the people I’ve known in the studios, the ACTORS are the MOST NEUROTIC PEOPLE I’VE EVER KNOWN.
    They’re NOT privy to ANY knowledge our Representatives are.
    Actors run STRICTLY on emotion – PLEASE THINK ABOUT IT.
    A person who can go from laughing one second to crying the next. You and I would be called UNSTABLE, at the very least, if not bi-polar!
    They may know how to make speeches, but a good percentage of them can’t think for themselves.
    They have OVER-INFLATED EGOS, and expect people to bow to them.
    Along with that, the majority of them won’t even associate with the “crew” – the drivers, electricians, etc.
    I know this because when I was an executive, they treated me SO nicely. When I became a driver, the majority wouldn’t even talk to me.
    I truly hope this is printed in its entirety, and that VARIETY REPORTS my entire letter – as ANY reputable news organization would – instead of playing the POLITICALLY CORRECT CARD.
    Actors put their pants on the same way you and I do – one leg at a time.
    The majority are mentally unstable.
    I swear this on EVERYTHING sacred to me.

    • Mary Jo says:

      AMEN! My husband was a stagehand for 30 years and worked over 30 movies and what you stated above is the TRUTH! Thank you for sharing!

  2. jimmysee says:

    Reminds me of Hollywood during the McCarthy era. Talent vocally opposed; studio heads, notably Louis B Mayer, silent or supportive of the blacklists.

  3. Joseph says:

    I wonder if automation will be brought to Hollywood. Engineers can invent self operating cameras. Artists can create animated figures and make them appear like real actors. They’ll be no need for high priced directors and movie stars. Everything will be automated.
    Congress should look into this. It’s like big corporations not paying their workers. That’s why Congress established the minimum wage. However, the minimum wage is for citizens. Corporations found a way around this by bringing in non-citizens. They don’t have to pay them minimum wage.
    Automation is the same thing. It’s a way for big companies to lower costs and increase profits. However, multitudes will be out of work and without hope.
    Let’s keep hope alive, say no to automation.

  4. ricknash2015 says:

    Many radical Muslims celebrated 9/11 attack everywhere its the truth (Check google or in you tube) so if a reporter from the New York times says not true of course everyones is angry for insulting those who died.disabled or not.Stupid Meryil wanted attention.Cried cause she is a Hillary supporter but its sad she didn’t mention about disabled boy gaged and bullied ?So its time all in the movie and music industry accept trump is the president of the united states and move on

  5. Miss K says:

    @EVAN VUCCI/AP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK Please stop promoting Trump water. We are tired of seeing these ads. Please crop the water out of photo. Trump is saving millions on letting you do his advertising for him!

  6. Steve Barr says:

    First Trump came fo the actors , but I was not an actor so I didn’t speank up , then he came for the directors , I was not a director so I did not speak up , then he came for the screen writers and I was not a screen writer so I did not speak up then Trump came for me and there was no one left to speak for me .

  7. Jacques Strappe says:

    That’s a real healthy free speech environment when people are fearful to criticize the p_$$y grabber-in-chief under the threat retaliation from the illegitimate despot=elect. Say goodbye to American democracy and the US Constitution and say hello to our new Russian-inspired government where dissenters just disappear.

  8. 2020 says:

    Ostriches like Ms. Streep still don’t understand (or want to accept) the fact that the people who made the difference in this election were people who voted for anyone who could defeat HRC. Not necessarily stormtroopers in waiting for DJT.

    Voters tried like hell to stop HRC in the Dem primary with their support of Bernie to beat HRC, but the DNC and HRC proved to voters that she & they were just as bad as the RNC & their preferred candidates with massive insider fixes for Superdelegates & SuperPac money.

    Once it was clear to voters that the fix was in for HRC by the DNC and the media began telling the public with their endless polling that DJT was going to lose badly, enough people decided that it was finally time to remind the media & the elite class of American royalty known as Hollywood entertainers who was really in charge by the only means they knew how. Voting.

    American voters don’t love DJT, but they are tired of the status quo & the DNC and the RNC don’t see that soon, you better get ready for President Michael Bloomberg or Bernie Sanders 2.0 or both in 2020.

  9. nimportequoi says:

    Conservatives are a bunch of idiot non-savants or in other words blind ignoramuses and brown nosers…GODS rath is coming 4 U!

    • Inspector clouseau says:

      You’ve got to be one of phoniest hypocrites around so quit TRYING to come across as some kind of word guru. FOOL.

    • Jenna says:

      Well. Aren’t we the kind one, the thoughtful one, from the “party” of diversity and kindness.

      You’re the reason people like me stopped being Democrats. You are a rude, small person. “idiot non-savants.” Stop using big words you know nothing about.

      Trump is president. Time to get off your keister and get a job.


  10. lindsey says:

    It’s so laughable that you think the opinions of millionaire actors matter to most Americans – see Tina Fey’s joke on why Hil lost. Neoliberals are hopelessly out of touch.

    • Bill says:

      But a billionaire reality star, born into a wealthy family, narcissist misogynist who tweets more than my 13 year old, he’s in touch with the regular people – right. Hopefully that will work out nicely for you.

      • Bill, Trump is the one who was a Billionaire. His family in Queens, NY were not. His father was a builder and eventually got into Real Estate. Donald got a Million Dollar loan from his father and approached the Real Estate market differently. As far as some his bankruptcies are concerned a massive one was caused when the states started opening up casinos all over the place and all the casinos in Atlantic City bleeding money. He is also the first non-politician the United States to become President and it’s about time!

  11. krumhorn says:

    It’s about time! Finally, the conservatives are learning how to fight like the lefties do…..kick ’em hard in the nutz.

    W was such a gentleman, he never responded to the leftie turd tosses, and they ate his lunch. I suspect that a great number of folks voted for Trump after he dispatched the meddling Pope (from whom we’ve heard nary a peep since) hoping beyond hope that he wouldn’t hesitate to return fire. Streep went to bed full to the snout with virtue only to awaken to learn that she has been reduced to a “Hillary flunky”.

    – Krumhorn

  12. hypocrites says:

    lots o p***y grabbing going on in hollyweed

  13. greg marotta says:

    Where are the “N-word” tapes and what else does Mark Burnett know about the p***y grabber?

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