×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Republicans Embrace a Celebrity Diplomat: Steven Seagal

It didn’t seem like too long ago that conservatives mocked the activism of liberal-minded Hollywood activists and the futility of their pursuits in far-off countries. But now the members of a congressional delegation to Russia over the weekend are praising one of their unexpected guests, Steven Seagal.

“Because of his black belt in karate and things, he has gotten to know many of the leaders of Russia, including Putin, and was able to use that influence to make sure that we got to talk to the very top people so that we could try to find ways of expanding our areas of cooperation,” Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), who led the delegation, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday. Rohrabacher described Seagal as a “personal friend” and “a very well-respected actor.”

“You know, sometimes actors can actually go out and rather than just act, they can actually go and do good things,” said Rohrabacher. “I worked for one. His name was Ronald Reagan.”

He said that Seagal helped the delegation get to Beslan, the school where hundreds of young children were murdered by Chechen Islamic terrorists.

But the appearance of Seagal on the trip was one of those, “who knew?” moments when he appeared with the delegation in a press conference on Sunday. His career in the U.S. is far from what it was in the 90s, when he was a major action star with a studio contract. Not so in Russia, where his movies still have a large following. His efforts at “opening the doors” to the delegation, introducing them to Russian officials, drew comparisons to Dennis Rodman’s effort at soft-diplomacy earlier this year when he trekked to North Korea and met Kim Jong-un.

Such celebrities as Sean Penn and Danny Glover have in the past drawn criticism on the right for their visits with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, who died earlier this year, and likewise there is some push back on Seagal for getting too cozy to Putin and Ramzan Kadyrov, who rules Chechnya, the latter of whom has a particularly questionable human rights record.

“All these accusations are thrown around,” Seagal said on Sunday, according to the AP. “Is there any evidence? Has he been indicted?”

Rohrabacher, too, warned against snap judgments. “We shouldn’t be describing people who are under this type of [terrorist] threat, we shouldn’t be describing them as if they are Adolf Hitler or they’re back to the old Communism days.”

Russian News Agencies even reported on Tuesday that Seagal is bring tapped to lead an international marketing campaign to promote an arms plant, which would certainly elevate the art of the celebrity endorsement to a new level.

Seagal is only in the long line of celebrity diplomats — some savvy, some actually successful, almost all faced with hefty doses of skepticism. The jaded public sees it as a way to drum up publicity, to improve a public image or bolster a faded career. That may be true, but would Rohrabacher’s trip have gotten nearly this amount of attention without him?

Popular on Variety

More Voices

  • Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, Charlize Theron.

    Charlize Theron Could Win Second Oscar for Playing Megyn Kelly in 'Bombshell'

    Charlize Theron walked on stage before a screening of “Bombshell” at West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center on Sunday night and announced to the crowd, “I’m about to s— myself.” The Oscar winner had good reason to be nervous. The screening of the Jay Roach-directed drama about the fall of Fox News boss Roger Ailes was [...]

  • Tom Hanks Mr Rogers A BEAUTIFUL

    Tom Hanks' Portrayal of Mister Rogers May Put Him Back in Oscar's 'Neighborhood'

    Sony recently hosted a SAG-AFTRA screening of “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” the Marielle Heller-directed drama starring Matthew Rhys as a magazine writer who befriends Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks. While the screening didn’t include a guild Q&A with cast or the film’s creative team, the audience was greeted with a video message from [...]

  • Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese,

    Martin Scorsese and 'The Irishman' Enter Oscar Race With World Premiere at NYFF

    Even with its three-hour run time and a short 28 days in theaters before it’s available on Netflix, Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is likely to be a major contender at the Oscars. The 57th New York Film Festival opened on Friday night with the world premiere of the epic real-life mob drama. Scorsese and his [...]

  • Brad Pitt Once Upon a Time

    How Much Does Hitting the Awards Season Circuit Really Matter to Stars Like Brad Pitt?

    “Do you want an Oscar?” That’s the first question one top awards consultant asks any potential contender when they first start talking. Everyone is wondering how Brad Pitt would answer that question these days. He recently raised eyebrows and made headlines when he proclaimed that he would not be campaigning this awards season. “Oh, man. I’m [...]

  • Renee Zellweger'Judy' film premiere, Arrivals, Samuel

    'Judy's' L.A. Premiere: Renée Zellweger Takes Another Ruby Step Toward the Oscars

    Renée Zellweger continues to follow the yellow brick road to the Oscars. The Los Angeles premiere of Judy on Thursday night in Beverly Hills kept the Academy Award winner on track for a possible second win come February. “We’re just so happy we’re able to share it with you tonight,” Zellweger said to the crowd [...]

  • Barry Bill Hader

    Emmys 2019: Clear Favorites and Top Challengers for This Year's Winners (Column)

    If this felt like the longest, most expensive Emmy campaign in history, you might be right. For one thing, the 2019 Primetime Emmys will be held Sept. 22, which is the latest the ceremony has taken place since 2013. That also happened to be the last year of TV’s quaint, pre-streaming era, before outlets like [...]

  • Fleabag Succession Emmys

    Could 'Fleabag' and 'Succession' Be Spoilers on Emmy Night? (Column)

    At the onset, this year’s Emmy Awards felt a bit anticlimactic, as the final seasons of “Game of Thrones” and “Veep” appeared to have this year’s drama and comedy categories locked up before campaigning even began. But that’s how upsets happen: Just when we’re pretty confident about how things might go, a couple of wild [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content