Today, many Hollywood celebrities use their fame to air their Leftist political views. Johnny Depp whines about America and lives in France. Sean Penn travels to Iraq to provide sound bites for Saddam. America is attacked and Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, and Janeane Garofalo attack America as the root cause of anti-American hate. Michael Moore produces a propaganda film for the enemy and the cinema community gives him an award.
A few very brave entertainment industry figures who still appreciate their country and what it represents have stood up to the crowd. One such is Robert Davi. Since his debut opposite Frank Sinatra in “Contract on Cherry Street,” Davi has starred in over 60 films, appearing opposite some of Hollywood’s most notable stars, including Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s worked with directors Steven Speilberg, Paul Verhoeven, Michael Ritchie, Richard Donner and Blake Edwards. Many consider Davi one of the premier James Bond villains for his portrayal of the Columbian drug lord, Franz Sanchez, in “License to Kill.” He has also appeared in “Goonies, “Diehard,” and the groundbreaking NBC television series, “Profiler.”
Recently, Davi rescued a young girl from a fire and saved her life. KNX radio in Los Angeles recognized his heroism with its Citizen of the Week Award. Also this year, he received the Royal Court of the Golden Lion Award from the Sons of Italy for his work helping children through I Safe America (www.isafe.org), a children’s Internet safety organization for which he is the national spokesperson.
On November 11-14, Davi will join fellow conservatives at the four-day Restoration Weekend in Boca Raton, Florida. Sponsored by the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, the weekend features Senators Zell Miller, Jeff Sessions, John Sunnunu and Jim Bunning, Human Rights hero Natan Sharansky, Swift Boat vet John O'Neill, Vietnam hero Bud Day, pundits Dick Morris and Pat Caddell, and conservative writers Michelle Malkin, Victor Davis Hanson and David Horowitz.
I caught up with Davi as he prepared for the shooting of his newest film, “Gilgamesh,” a pre-biblical epic in which he stars alongside Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif. We discussed Hollywood’s transformation into a bastion of the left.
KAPLAN: Many outspoken liberal celebrities in Hollywood have created the image that the town is dominated by the Left. Why do there seem to be fewer overtly outspoken actors and show-business personalities on the Right today?
DAVI: During the 1930’s, you had the Group Theater, in New York, that included a lot of members who were politically Marxist/Leninist. There was a different overall sentiment at the time however. World War II inspired a strong patriotism among Hollywood celebrities and American society in general. Then, in the 1950’s there was the period of McCarthyism and the Red Scare that made a lot of people nervous, so they were less vocal than we see today. In the 1960’s, Noam Chomsky began his anti-American campaign, as David Horowitz has outlined in his recent book, The Anti-Chomsky Reader. That’s a fantastic book. When I hear other Hollywood celebrities like Janeane Garofalo speak about America, she sounds just like Chomsky.
KAPLAN: I usually find that people like her are not that knowledgeable. They should read Horowitz’s book.
DAVI: They’re knowledgeable and unknowledgeable. They should read all of David Horowitz’s books. When they speak, they not only denigrate President Bush but America also. When Garofalo is speaking, her words convey a strong anti-American sentiment. What I hear from them is this Chomsky-like revisionist propaganda that always attacks America first. It’s an attack on America without any historical perspective or reference, always blaming America for the ills of the world. It’s always ignoring or excusing the atrocities committed by Communists and other adversaries of the Untied States. Even a discussion of slavery, a five-thousand-year-old institution, somehow ends up as an attack on America. Slavery was certainly not an American invention. America fought a civil war to get rid of slavery and became a better country because of it. Were there post-slavery race problems? So we had the Civil Rights movement. That is what America is really all about.
In the 1960’s John F. Kennedy was able to galvanize society—and Hollywood followed suit. The Civil Rights movement was a protest, but in a way that strengthened America. The revisionists ignore the positive and distort what Kennedy stood for. John Kennedy was a Zell Miller Democrat.
KAPLAN: Why does it seem there are fewer conservatives speaking out today in Hollywood?
DAVI: That’s the second difference. Back then you had the studio system. Actors were under contract and under the control of the studio management. Many of those studio heads were immigrants who escaped from undemocratic societies and revered America. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke about America as an immigrant society to be revered for its democratic principles at the Republican Convention. Today there’s a different tone in Hollywood because power is in different hands. Some actors and celebrities wield their own power today.
KAPLAN: You mean like Sean Penn practicing foreign policy by going to Iraq, or Johnny Depp saying he prefers France to America because of America’s politics?
DAVI: I think there’s a fear today in Hollywood of coming forward as a conservative. I find it interesting that the Screen Actors Guild made a statement a few months ago that speeches made by members with left-leaning messages should not be ostracized. I found that odd that the Guild should be afraid of conservatives when today in Hollywood we are a minority. The statement seemed designed to distance them from conservative points of view.
KAPLAN: What do you think about the election and how Hollywood is reacting to it?
DAVI: There is an almost visceral prejudice against George W. Bush by many in Hollywood, bordering on being totally irrational.
KAPLAN: You feel people in Hollywood have an unfair view of President Bush?
DAVI: I see a disconnection between Hollywood and the administration after the 2000 election. During the recount in Florida, I spoke to friends in Hollywood who felt they were “disenfranchised.” As for myself, I thought it was almost a divine intervention how the dispute turned out: the week of 9/11, some people who told me they felt disenfranchised during the recount told me, “Thank God Bush was in office at that moment, instead of his opponent!” Mayor Giuliani said the same thing. They felt much safer with President Bush in office. I think Bush is absolutely the right man at the right time, and thank God he’s in office. Many of my friends who didn’t vote for him said so, too.
But it only took three weeks after we went into Afghanistan to change all that. Now, as we get further away from 9/11, it seems like the left-wing media has begun to interject more politics into the war effort. I travel around the world on location shooting, and when I see how CNN presents the United States, it’s negative. When I’m watching CNN in Budapest, London, Paris, and other foreign countries—until recently all you had was CNN when traveling overseas—the message is always skewed against America. That network is totally biased. If people overseas are constantly exposed only to negative messages about America, no wonder they react a certain way. Here we have shows like Scarborough Country on MSNBC, and Fox News, to give some balance. Even when CNN has commentators to present a conservative point of view, they are weak or inarticulate and not up to the heavyweights from the other side. For example, James Carville up against Tucker Carlson. Does that seem like a heavyweight match to you?
KAPLAN: I don’t see either of them as heavyweights.
DAVI: Their debates seem almost about who can make the most noise.
KAPLAN: Let’s discuss your background. Were you always a conservative?
DAVI: Yes, more or less. In the 1960’s, I grew up in an Italian-American family in which we discussed politics. My father, uncle and grandfather all served in the military.
My grandfather served in World War I and was awarded a Purple Heart and Oak Leaf Cluster. He was an Italian immigrant who enlisted in the U.S. Army infantry. Several of my uncles were in the Navy and fought in the Battle of Midway. My father was also in the Navy, as a gunner on a Merchant Marine ship which was torpedoed by a submarine. He spent three days on the open sea in a raft and was also awarded a Purple Heart. Until his death at age 53, my dad would put on his Navy uniform and raise the American flag on every Fourth of July and Memorial Day. So when we speak about supporting our troops today, as well as during Vietnam, it has special meaning for me.
I remember there was always a lot of political discussion around the dinner table. My Uncle Mike was a staunch Republican. My immediate family were John F. Kennedy Democrats because Kennedy was the Catholic president. As kids, my cousin Michael Jr. and I would perform mock political debates and record them for our families, portraying the political figures of the day. My Uncle Mike was always advocating Republican ideas. He was an authority figure for my cousin and myself, and I suppose out of youthful rebellion we would sometimes turn a deaf ear to his conservative point of view.
My dad was a member of the Knights of Columbus. I remember when he came home one day—I must have been about 12 years-old—and he gave me two books, None Dare Call It Treason by John Stormer and Masters of Deceit by J. Edgar Hoover. After reading them, my Uncle Mike’s point of view didn’t seem so out of sync. This was during the mid-1960’s, and both books had a profound effect on me. They discussed how America was going to be attacked from within, through our education system and through weakening homeland defense. They frightened and alarmed me. Now, since time has moved on, we see that things predicted in those books have occurred.
I began to see the anti-American sentiment growing during the 1960’s and 1970’s—the Vietnam era—and I began to notice what was going on around me. Then came the Reagan years. But I was still focused mainly on my acting career.
By the 1980’s, my career was in full swing. I was able to take more interest in world affairs as an adjunct to my career. Since then I’ve been an avid reader of political books, among them The Art of Political War and Radical Son by David Horowitz. I also read books by Ann Coulter and Christopher Hitchens. I eventually met David Horowitz. I just finished reading Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, one of the most important books for our current times—and I urge everyone, if they do nothing else, they should read this book. I feel that strongly about this.
KAPLAN: You mentioned earlier threats posed to America from within. FrontPage has been dealing with this sort of thing in our educational system through Students for Academic Freedom.
DAVI: I am aware of that. I became sensitized to these issues by what was going on in my own daughter’s private school, where it seems a majority of the teachers have a left-wing agenda. The Center for the Study of Popular Culture made me aware of how 90% of college instructors also have left-wing political views and how that affects education in this country. Just before mock presidential elections at my daughter’s school, the pupils were given Time Magazine for Kids to read an article, Leader of the Pack: John Kerry. It discussed Kerry’s views on terrorism and education in a very slanted and positive way, while President Bush’s agenda and policies were all presented negatively. I passed this same article among seven or eight adults of different political viewpoints at my home, and all of them agreed the article was biased. The students were all told to read that one article and then vote. If you only give an eighth grader one point of view to read, with no balance, what are you going to get? My daughter said Kerry won, hands down.
During a parent-teacher evening at her school, my daughter’s history teacher, who seemed like a nice enough man, told all the parents “We’re going to show America, warts and all.” I asked him why he didn’t say he was going to show some of the great things America has done as well as some mistakes America may have made in the past. It was almost as if he had the perception that the parents would be glad he brought up the “warts” of America. I’m not saying that we should blindly be taught something in an uneducated manner, but when something is slanted this way....
KAPLAN: America, the great imperialist in the world?
DAVI: Exactly. I also think this usurps the child’s respect for the parents, since the teacher becomes the new authority figure for the child in school. There’s something very insidious about this.
KAPLAN: What do you think about the presidential campaign? What about the Swift Boats controversy vs. President Bush’s National Guard service?
DAVI: Here’s what I think. First, it’s amazing to me that most Americans don’t remember that it wasn’t Bush who wanted the courts to decide the 2000 election—Gore did. But even today, some try to make that a divisive issue during this election campaign. As for Kerry, nobody’s questioning his love for America. But he was the one who put Vietnam in the public eye. I have enormous respect for anyone who served in Vietnam. My hat’s off to all the veterans. I can’t talk because my draft number was 308 and I was sweating over the draft the same as everyone else back then. But the way I see it, if I’m in battle with someone and come home with the troops still there and I behave as he did, it’s not right. From what I understand, those weren’t his medals that he threw away. They were surrogate medals. He kept his medals and threw away his ribbons. What’s the difference? It goes right to the character of the man trying to have it both ways. If you’re really saying something, then throw the whole thing away. What he did coming back, put a big question in my mind about Kerry.
You can’t equate what Bush did or didn’t do 30 years ago with what’s happening now. Bush didn’t put Kerry’s service on the table. Bush didn’t go around bragging about his National Guard service. It’s irrelevant. Instead of 30 years ago, we need to discuss today. I’d like Kerry to say where he is today. I’d like him to discuss his Senate record. I don’t want him to answer me by attacking Bush.
The major issues today are the Middle East, Iraq and terrorism. I think they are broad subjects. Criticism of Bush about the war in Iraq is just politicizing the war in an election year. Imagine if Bush did not send American forces into Iraq. Before we went in, the world was concerned that Iraq was a threat. Regardless of the outcome, if we did not go in to disarm Hussein from WMDs, the Democratic Party today would be campaigning and complaining that he did not do anything about Saddam Hussein until now, that he endangered American security by not taking action. Iraq would still be a major part of the terrorist network, with camps all over that country, such as the training camps at Salman Pak. Hussein paid $25,000—then raised it to $30,000—to every family of the suicide bombers attacking Israel. Even some Americans were killed in those attacks. Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas would still be a threat.
[For the Left] it’s not about security for America. It’s about dividing the country, a purely political agenda for the Democrats. The other side talks about President Bush dividing the people, but, the truth be told, the attacks on President Bush about Iraq are not going to unify the country in the long run. And this is a time when we should be unified.
KAPLAN: What else do you think about the Middle East situation and Iraq? Is President Bush on the right track?
DAVI: Yes. A lot of people don’t know about the Iraqi flag. Between 1991 and the 1993 bombing attack on the World Trade Center, the Iraqi flag changed. Hussein wrote “Allahu Akhbar” on it. To me, that was an open door to militant Islam.
KAPLAN: I write extensively on the Middle East and was unaware of that.
DAVI: In my mind, you have to make the observation that the Iraqis were moving toward working with al-Qaeda and militant Islam, [working] with the terrorists. In 1988, I played a Palestinian terrorist who was kidnapped and brought back to the U.S. to face trial in "The U.S. vs. Salim Ajami." I did a lot of research for that project and the role I played.
KAPLAN: You received critical praise for your portrayal of a Palestinian terrorist that was objective and sensitive. But the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee claimed the film was anti-Arab.
DAVI: George Englund, who produced the film, actually had the script vetted by the Arab League to be objective. And as an actor, I had to be objective and be the character, to portray his point of view as if it were my own. I’m a kid from New York, an actor, and I didn’t know anything about the PLO. I went into that role a clean slate, not having the issues at hand, but in my research I made sure I had an understanding of the region. I met people from Algeria, Syria, Palestinians, even members of the PLO.... I met with the Israeli Consul General and even with the Museum of Tolerance to understand the nature of the piece. Ron Liebman played my defense attorney, and Sam Waterston played the prosecutor.
I broke down during the making of the film. I flashed at one point to Martin Luther King’s funeral, to a rickety old wagon being drawn by two mules that I had seen on TV that represented to me the human struggle—either we all pull it apart or all pull it together. My character was defended by a Jewish defense attorney, but our ideologies were different. After that piece, I felt there should be a Palestinian state; I thought if you give them their own governance, all would work out. But when I went to Jordan in 1994 to shoot "The Return of the Pink Panther," many of the older Arabs kept telling me “We will push the Jews into the sea,” and kept repeating it. Some of the younger ones said they didn’t believe that. I believe Israel has to exist. The suicide bombings are irrational. King Hussein’s family asked me if I’d teach a seminar on acting there. I told them I’d consider it if they’d put 50 million dollars into a bank to make million-dollar movies, to bring writers and directors to the region committed to the idea of using the money to pay people for better ideas rather than bullets.
KAPLAN: So you believe Israel has a right to exist?
DAVI: Of course—needs to exist, has a right to exist. I think the Palestinians have a right to exist also, but their leadership has betrayed them.
KAPLAN: I believe a Palestinian state will be another Iran.
DAVI: It’s a vital issue that needs to be resolved. It seems to be mired in a sea of information, but I am learning, through FrontPage, historical facts and current information about the Israel-Palestine dispute all the time. Recently, I found out about Hamas using ambulances paid for by U.S. tax money to transport weapons to kill people in Israel—even though Israel is withdrawing from Gaza. Regarding the security fence, if I have people trying to enter my home and kill my children, I would want a fence to protect them and keep the killers out. The security fence should be there until the PLO puts down its weapons and arrests the terrorists. Then they can negotiate borders. How can anyone be expected to negotiate when someone is trying to kill their children? One side calls the security fence a wall, but it’s in fact only a huge wall for about one quarter of a mile. The rest is barbed wire and mesh fencing, much as we have on our own border with Mexico. I’m angered that they say the security fence is a wall. It’s a wall that saves lives. What’s wrong with that?
A lot of films have been made about the Holocaust, but still anti-Semitism continues.
This upsets me. Take a look at what’s happening in Europe. In France, Jews are being attacked openly on the streets. I spoke to a Chasidic Jew I met recently while working on a film in Canada. “You must come to Israel,” he told me. I told him I was a little bit nervous to do so, with all the terrorism. But he told me, “You must come to Israel and see what a pluralistic society it is.”
It’s shocking what is going on in the colleges in America. Like when Bill O’Reilly revealed that Sami al-Arian, the head of a major terrorist organization was teaching the next generations in our universities. It’s truly frightening.
Why do there seem to be many Jews who are opposed to George W. Bush? There seems to be a major disconnection from reality with that. Bush would not invite Arafat to the White House—and still hasn’t, as long as he has been in office. People need to know that. I meet many Jews who are of progressive views but who fail to see how things have shifted, how the Left is now posing a real threat to Jews around the world. I can see this clearly, and I’m not even Jewish.
KAPLAN: Do you believe the Jews run Hollywood?
DAVI: That’s a statement I hear from the media, part of the media myth. I guess it comes from the old Group Theater days (that grew out of the Yiddish Theater). The Goldwyns, the Mayers, the Warner Brothers, the early studio chiefs were Jewish. I don’t see it like that.
KAPLAN: Besides the Restoration Weekend coming up, where will you lecture, and what other conservative groups have you spoken to?
DAVI: There’s the Sunday Night Club. It’s a group of about 150 people in the entertainment business who are actors, writers, production people and models who want to speak in a Republican way. It’s a nice symposium. We have other speakers also. We meet periodically. I recently was on Scarborough Country and on [Neil] Cavuto on Fox. And I am the national spokesman for I Safe America for kids. I’ve been their spokesman for seven years. Recently, it’s been funded by Congress as an Internet safety program for kids in America. I’m also working on a program, Civilian Patrol 93 [The “93” represents Flight 93, whose passengers tried to overpower their 9/11 hijackers]. We will be working and training with several community outreach groups, training people to help Homeland Security. Sort of like the National Guard, but not military. Civilians can be the eyes and ears to help the infrastructure of America. The Department of Homeland Security is working on it right now.
I’m also on the Steering Committee of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University. I’m the only civilian. I work with corporate CEO’s and major players in national security. William Sessions, formerly of the FBI, James Woolsey, formerly of the CIA, and the U.S. Army’s former Chief of Staff, Edward “Shy” Meyer, are among a large panel made up of many of America’s best and most experienced leaders, both from business and military backgrounds, lending their expertise to help protect America.
KAPLAN: Were you appointed by President Bush?
DAVI: I Safe America is a non-partisan organization with a celebrity board. The Homeland Security Institute was different. I was chosen by people who know me. I’m also on the Board of Directors of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture, David Horowitz’s outfit.
KAPLAN: I didn’t know that! (Laughter)
DAVI: David Horowitz has credibility when it comes to politics. He really knows where all the bodies are buried. I have a lot of respect for him.