Just in time for another presidential election, Dinesh D’Souza — the Michael Moore of the right — is back with his latest incendiary documentary.
“Hillary’s America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party” tries to tarnish the left’s legacy as a supporter of civil rights while taking down the party’s standard bearer. The film doesn’t just play like a greatest hits of Hillary Clinton’s scandals — from email-gate to Benghazi — it makes the argument that the Democratic Party has a history of supporting slavery and racism.
Though “Hillary’s America” probably won’t be selling out theaters in the West Village any time soon, it is resonating with conservative audiences. It opened to a robust $77,500 in just three theaters, and expands to 1,200 theaters this weekend.
The movie’s success is vindication for D’Souza. After scoring a big hit with “2016: Obama’s America,” his career was derailed in 2014 when he pled guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to a U.S. Senate candidate and was sentenced to eight months in a halfway house. D’Souza spoke with Variety about his legal challenges, Donald Trump’s campaign, and why movie critics hate his work.
Has Donald Trump seen the film?
I’m hoping he will see the film, because it applies to him. The main attack on Trump is that he’s a racist. He hates immigrants. He’s a fascist. Our movie turns the tables on all of that, and we actually show that the Democratic Party has been implicated in slavery, in segregation, in lynching, and in the support of Fascism in the 1930s. We’ve got the goods on Hillary and the Democrats. All of this could be really helpful to Trump. He doesn’t even have to get into it. He can just say, “Hey, go see the movie.”
Would you call Trump racist or sexist given the derogatory comments he’s made about women and immigrants?
Trump can be loose-lipped and he’s a bit of a wild man. He says things that are sometimes ill-considered and insensitive, but insensitive is not racist.
Your film claims that you were convicted for breaking campaign finance laws because President Obama wanted revenge for your previous films. Do you have any evidence to suggest that you were targeted out of retaliation by the Obama administration?
The FBI claimed that they had uncovered my case as a result of a routine review, but apparently this routine review yielded only a single offender. This notion of straw donations is very, very common in American politics. This apparent nationwide search only found one Dinesh D’Souza. I had given $20,000 over the campaign finance limit. No American has gone to prison or been locked up for doing what I did absent corruption, and in my case they didn’t even allege corruption. That’s why I think that this was a raw deal. Justice isn’t just a matter of whether or not you did it. It’s also a matter of does the penalty fit the crime and do other guys who did the same thing get roughly the same penalty.
Given that you believe that your conviction was a politically motivated attack, are you concerned about making another film? What will happen to you if Hillary Clinton wins?
I am somewhat concerned about that. I’m being very careful. I was a little careless with the campaign finance donations. I should have known that there was a big circle on my back. If you tick off the thin-skinned narcissist in the White House you should expect that there’s going to be some retribution. I’m being extra careful, but I’m not being paranoid either. We do live in a free country, you can say whatever you want, and certainly if something were to happen to me, if the creator, producer, and narrator of “Hillary’s America” were to disappear, who would be the main suspect?
Your film links the Democratic Party’s history of supporting slavery over 100 years ago with Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. Aren’t those separate topics?
If you really think about the Democratic Party’s arguments for Hillary this year, it would go something like this: “Yes, Hillary Clinton has made mistakes. But nevertheless she is the leader of a good party. A party that has stood up for blacks and for immigrants and outsiders. A party that has helped to secure civil rights and women’s rights.” My point is that this underlying morality tale is in fact false. The Democratic Party has been the party of slavery, segregation, lynchings, forced sterilization, and I could go on. People don’t know this. The point isn’t just history for its own sake. It’s to disrupt the illegitimate claim of the Democrats, who claim to have been always fighting for the right side of history.
If that is the case, why do African-Americans vote overwhelmingly for Democrats?
The core ideals of the Republican Party, I think, are very appealing and could easily win a majority of support. The main problem with the Republican Party is Republicans. And by Republicans, I don’t mean the rank-and-file voter. I just mean the people who run the party. The people who run these election campaigns. To me, this is not an election about building a wall. It’s not even an election about tax policy or even ISIS. The core issue is that this country is built on an idea that a guy can start at the bottom and that there are going to be ladders of opportunity that we can climb. And that how far we get up the ladder depends on luck and our own effort. Which is the party that protects the ladder? To me that’s the Republican Party. I think the Republican Party does a horrible job of describing what it actually stands for and a horrible job of communicating its message to Hispanics and to blacks.
What do you make of the Melania Trump plagiarism controversy?
If Melania Trump was putting in for the Pulitzer Prize, this might actually be a matter of some seriousness, but the truth is who the heck cares? We’re basically talking about the Eastern European model wife of Donald Trump. The election is between Trump and Hillary, so to me this is just a complete and ridiculous sideshow.
Trump has been a controversial nominee even among Republicans. Are you a supporter?
I’m very much behind him. My position on this whole thing is not, “Never Trump.” It’s “Never Hillary.”
What do you like about Trump?
I don’t know enough about Trump. I like that he’s unashamed about being successful in business. I like the fact that he’s an undisputed patriot. I like the fact that he calls it like he sees it. I like that when someone throws a punch against him, he doesn’t go into the fetal position. He punches back.
What are you doing next?
I’m giving some serious thought to putting my toe in the water of feature films. At the end of the day, Hollywood’s most powerful messaging is not in documentary films. It’s in romantic comedies and horror films and animated family films. The big man in Hollywood is not Michael Moore. It’s Steven Spielberg.
The reviews for “Hillary’s America” have been pretty bad. Have you read them?
I have combed through the critical reviews looking for a single factual error in the film and I’ve yet to find one. It looks like the critics go through the familiar 50-word vocabulary: paranoid, delusional, agitprop, blah, blah, blah. They just recycle those phrases ad nauseum as though they actually mean something. The truth of it is, I actually don’t care what those guys say. I only care about the audience reaction, which you’ll notice is a lot more favorable. I’m not worried. A 14% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That, in my opinion, is way too high. I’d be happy if it was in single digits.
Editor’s note: The movie now has a 7% on Rotten Tomatoes.