‘24’ chief scoffs at Hillary, leaning toward Giuliani
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Hollywood producer Joel Surnow dismissed as “nuts” the notion that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton can be elected president and said he and other conservatives in the entertainment industry are leaning toward supporting Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani’s presidential campaign.
The executive producer of Fox’s Emmy-winning counterterrorism thriller “24,” interviewed after a Nov. 10 speech to a conservative student group, also predicted that the current screenwriters’ strike would be “hugely long” and settled to the disadvantage of the writers union.
“I’m not even sure that Hillary is a fait accompli [to win the Democratic Party nomination] as this point,” Mr. Surnow told a group of reporters and bloggers in a wide-ranging interview during the Young America’s Foundation’s (YAF) West Coast Leadership Conference. “Are we nuts thinking Hillary Clinton could be president of this country? Honest to God, just stand back and think about it.”
Saying that he was “probably going to get behind Rudy” for the White House, Mr. Surnow named comedian Dennis Miller as another entertainer who has “come out” as a conservative in the overwhelmingly liberal Hollywood environment and said that another popular comedian, Adam Sandler, “is going to come out and support Rudy Giuliani.”
Former Attorney General John Ashcroft was the keynote speaker at the conference, which YAF spokesman Jason Mattera said was attended by more than 500 student activists and foundation supporters.
“Real leadership is not the friend of consensus, because the real leader is always outside the consensus,” Mr. Ashcroft said in remarks to foundation supporters at the Reagan Ranch Center, where he accepted YAF’s Torch of Freedom Award and paid tribute to former President Ronald Reagan as a leader who exemplified vision and values.
Students attending the event also heard presentations by Dinesh D’Souza, author of the new book, “What’s So Great About Christianity?” and Nonie Darwish, author of “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.”
The influence of Hollywood and the entertainment industry was a topic of discussion from the beginning of the weekend conference, when Internet newshound Andrew Breitbart gave an impromptu talk on Nov. 8 to a select group of top campus conservative activists.
There is “an underground society of Hollywood conservatives,” said Mr. Breitbart, author of “Hollywood, Interrupted,” and founder of the Breitbart.com news site. He said students interested in entertainment careers should not be frightened away by the industry’s reputation as a liberal bastion. Those remarks were echoed by Mr. Surnow, who dismissed as “whining” conservatives’ complaints that they are treated unfairly by Hollywood liberals.
“Our job is not to whine. That’s their job,” Mr. Surnow told students gathered in the grand ballroom of the oceanside Fess Parker Doubletree Resort. He named former President Bill Clinton, California Sen. Barbara Boxer and singer Barbra Streisand among the liberals who have publicly declared themselves fans of “24.”
The action-packed show also has many prominent conservative fans, including radio talkshow host Rush Limbaugh, White House adviser Mary Matalin and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and Mr. Surnow said excellence in entertainment transcends politics.
Asked by a student during a question-and-answer session why he’d cast outspoken liberal actress Janeane Garofalo in the most recent season of “24,” Mr. Surnow answered, “Because she’s a great actress.”
He described the Fox network series’ protagonist, counterterrorism agent Jack Bauer, as “a tragic character” who has been emotionally damaged by his experiences.
“There’s nothing left but to do the right thing,” Mr. Surnow said of the character portrayed for seven seasons by Keifer Sutherland. “He’s come to symbolize this sort of pure killing machine that all of us secretly want to unleash on the bad guys.”
The character “really represents just justice,” he said, describing Bauer ’s attitude as, “They’re bad, we’re good and we’re going to get them.”
After his speech, sipping a vodka gimlet as he talked to a group of writers, Mr. Surnow scoffed at the suggestion that Hollywood’s liberalism prevents conservatives from getting work in film and television.
“There’s tons of conservatives who work,” he said. “If you write a great script, you could drop it off a freeway overpass in rush hour, and the movie would still get made.”
Speaking of the ongoing writers’ strike, which has stopped production of many movies and TV programs, Mr. Surnow predicted a long strike that could prove disastrous to the Writers Guild and rejected the suggestion that the union had the industry at a disadvantage.
“Hollywood’s not being held hostage. [. . . ] I think [the studios] are going to break the Guild,” he said, later remarking: “Millionaires on the picket line. [. . .] They’re not going to get a lot of empathy.”