Harsh po­lit­i­cal re­views for Voight

Ac­tor gets thumbs down from the far left

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY JEN­NIFER HARPER / Bruce Tins­ley

Jon Voight is at the cusp of a cul­tural mo­ment.

Fel­low ac­tors and celebri­ties are not heap­ing crit­i­cism on the sil­ver-screen con­ser­va­tive fol­low­ing his feisty crit­i­cisms of Pres­i­dent Obama, made in a speech be­fore Repub­li­cans and in The Wash­ing­ton Times ear­lier this month.

But Mr. Voight is get­ting some se­ri­ous flak in the po­lit­i­cal realm, and the crit­i­cism is ide­o­log­i­cally driven. He’s be­ing ac­cused of hate speech.

The Academy Award-winning ac­tor was cited June 15 by Peo­ple’s Weekly World, a mag­a­zine once known as the “Daily Worker” and sym­pa­thetic to the Com­mu­nist Party.

In a wide-rang­ing ed­i­to­rial de­nounc­ing “home-grown ter­ror­ism,” the pub­li­ca­tion pounced on Mr. Voight’s men­tion of an ef­fort “to bring an end to this false prophet, Obama” as he ad­dressed the Na­tional Repub­li­can Con­gres­sional Com­mit­tee.

“I don’t want to equate what Jon Voight said as ex­press­ing a con­ser­va­tive opin­ion on pol­i­tics. It went way be­yond that. He made a threat against the pres­i­dent of the United States to a crowd at a GOP fundraiser and got a good re­sponse from the Se­nate mi­nor­ity leader and other pow­er­ful peo­ple. And that is scary,” said Teresa Al­bano, ed­i­tor of the pub­li­ca­tion.

Mar­sha Zakowski, pres­i­dent of the Coali­tion of La­bor Union Women, was alarmed, too.

“Jon Voight is a celebrity. He can in­flu­ence peo­ple. Voight has just been com­ing out with this ul­tra­con­ser­va­tive point of view. It is de­plorable,” she told the mag­a­zine in a sep­a­rate ar­ti­cle.

Mr. Voight’s en­tire com­ment was a lit­tle longer than the eight words cited.

He was in the process of laud­ing a list of 23 Repub­li­cans and con­ser­va­tives — from for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich to his­to­rian Shelby Steele and Fred Barnes, ex­ec­u­tive ed­i­tor of the Weekly Stan­dard.

“Let’s give thanks to them for stay­ing on course to bring an end to this false prophet, Obama,” Mr. Voight said that night, ac- cord­ing to his hand­writ­ten speech, shared dur­ing a re­cent visit to The Times news­room.

But the ab­bre­vi­ated phrase, iso­lated out of con­text, for the most part, stuck in the craw of many.

Mr. Voight at­tracted the at­ten­tion of some prom­i­nent jour­nal­ists who were not treat­ing the 71year-old per­former as a nov­elty act, sim­ple-minded Hol­ly­wood con­ser­va­tive or some up­start cu­rios­ity left over from the John Wayne era.

Frank Rich, Op-Ed colum­nist for the New York Times, in­cluded Mr. Voight on a ros­ter of “Obama haters’ si­lent en­ablers” and also cited the ab­bre­vi­ated pas­sage.

Mr. Rich ob­served: “This kind of rhetoric, with its pseudo-scrip­tural call to action, is toxic.”

New York Times colum­nist Paul Krugman cited Mr. Voight’s words in an Op-Ed called “The Big Hate” that ac­cused cer­tain con­ser­va­tives and news or­ga­ni­za­tions — in­clud­ing The Wash­ing­ton Times — of “main­stream­ing right-wing ex­trem­ism” sys­tem­at­i­cally as far back as the Clin­ton ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The bl­o­go­sphere also rever- be­rated with anti-Voight state­ments that segued into a Repub­li­can bash­ing as well.

“Ac­tor Jon Voight typ­i­fied right-wing vit­riol by call­ing for ‘an end to this false prophet, Obama.’ Com­pared to Obama’s feel for rel­e­vance, what mat­ters to real peo­ple, Repub­li­cans aren’t even in the same game,” noted Robert Becker of BeyondChron.com, a San Fran­cisco-based blog.

None of the ac­counts re­ferred to Mr. Voight’s en­tire speech, which in­cluded ref­er­ences to new Repub­li­can strate­gies, his fear over the safety of Is­rael and his hopes for the na­tion in gen­eral. He can be lofty and shrewd as well.

“Democ­racy is an ex­traor­di­nary ad­ven­ture. It’s dif­fi­cult, full of dar­ing and risk and dan­ger,” Mr. Voight told The Times on June 10.

“Obama is a very good ac­tor. He knows how to play it. And he is very adept at cre­at­ing this ‘Obama’ — this char­ac­ter who is there when­ever the world needs some­thing,” he later added.

“Jon Voight def­i­nitely de­liv­ered when it came to giv­ing a mes­sage at the right time. And he got a lot of at­ten­tion be­cause of the high-pro­file plat­form he was given — asked to head­line a top Repub­li­can Par ty fundraiser. The press was watch­ing,” said Repub­li­can strate­gist Ron Bon­jean.

“It’s not easy for con­ser­va­tives to punch through in an Oba­madom­i­nated news cy­cle,” he said.

But as Hol­ly­wood con­ser­va­tives like Mr. Voight gain more trac­tion in the po­lit­i­cal land­scape, the new role re­quires pru­dence, cau­tion and at­ten­tion to lan­guage.

“When a speech like that is over, you ask ‘did it have a pos­i­tive im­pact on lis­ten­ers?’ That’s re­ally key,” Mr. Bon­jean said. “But you have to be very care­ful about pick­ing lan­guage, be­cause there are bound­aries. And I think Jon Voight was walk­ing the thin line in his Repub­li­can speech.”

Some ridiculed the idea of lump­ing Mr. Voight in with hate­mon­gers al­to­gether.

“For Krugman and oth­ers to seize on the case of neo-Nazi [and sus­pect in the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­rial Mu­seum shoot­ing] James W. von Brunn as a ra­tio­nale for rant­ing against Rush Lim­baugh, Glenn Beck and ac­tor Jon Voight is the height of ab­sur­dity. Noth­ing they have said or done is even re­motely con­nected to this mur­der­ous nut or any­one else who might share his anti-Semitic views,” coun­tered Jonathan Tobin of Com­men­tary mag­a­zine.

But while he has irked audiences in the po­lit­i­cal realm, Mr. Voight is get­ting some love on the celebrity cir­cuit, and from his peers in Hol­ly­wood and be­yond.

He has gar­nered re­cent crit­i­cal praise for his role as a vil­lain in the Fox broad­cast net­work se­ries “24.” On June 14, he also re­ceived the Mar­quee Award — “rec­og­niz­ing his artis­tic ex­cel­lence, pro­fes­sional ac­com­plish­ment and ded­i­ca­tion to cin­ema” — from CineVe­gas, an an­nual five-day film fes­ti­val in Las Ve­gas.

Last week, Va­ri­ety also praised Mr. Voight’s “long and dis­tin­guished ca­reer.”

J.M. ED­DINS JR./THE WASH­ING­TON TIMES

Not hid­ing: Ac­tor Jon Voight shares his con­ser­va­tive out­look June 16 on “Amer­ica’s Morn­ing News with Me­lanie Mor­gan and John McCaslin” ra­dio show at The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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