Whether it’s protesting the Vietnam War or criticizing Israel’s actions in the latest Gaza conflict, celebrities have been known to throw their two cents in about world affairs. But their opinions haven’t always been well received. Throughout Hollywood’s history, some stars have been blacklisted, received death threats or labeled just plain dumb for giving their opinion.
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Maybe there should be a new Hollywood rule: Never comment on the Middle East conflict. Ever since criticizing Israel’s response to the terrorist threat in Gaza, Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz have faced a backlash with fellow actor Jon Voight calling them “ignorant” and guilty of potentially inciting “anti-Semitism all over the world.” According to The Hollywood Reporter at least one top producer who worked with Cruz in the past has privately vowed never to hire her again.
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Speaking of Jon Voight, while his future son-in-law Brad Pitt may support Barack Obama, he is no fan of the president and that’s putting it mildly. In a recent interview with Fox News, the Ray Donovan star said Obama was “piece-by-piece, whittling down our military strength” and “has paved the way for the most violent radical elements across the world to thrive.”
“We do not want this war, this violence and we’re ashamed that the president of the United States is from Texas.” When Natalie Maines from the Dixie Chicks made that comment about George W. Bush and the Iraq War from a U.K. stage in 2003, the country stars faced a massive backlash back home. Not only were their songs banned on some radio stations the trio received death threats.
In 2005, during a book signing for her memoir, My Life So Far, a Vietnam vet walked up to Jane Fonda and spat in her face. Such was the venom that some Americans still hold for the actress who was a vocal opponent to the conflict. Dubbed “Hanoi Jane” by the media, she drew criticism for being photographed on a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun during a 1972 visit to the warzone.
Next to Obama, nothing seems to irk the right-wing media more than Sean Penn rubbing shoulders with, and praising his friends like, the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez and Cuba’s Fidel Castro. In 2010, the Milk star told Bill Maher that, “every day, this elected leader is called a dictator here” in the “mainstream media” adding that “there should be a bar by which one goes to prison for these kind of lies."
Buffoon, brilliant businessman, political animal or all three? Donald Trump has done everything possible to discredit Barack Obama, including offering to donate money to charity in exchange for the president’s college transcripts and passport records. Obsessed with proving that Obama was actually born in Kenya, he said in 2012: “Someday those papers will come out and people will say: ‘You know what? Donald Trump was right.'”
He was supposed to bring star wattage to the 2012 Republican National Convention, but all Clint Eastwood did was draw uncomfortable laughter after he took to the stage to ridicule an empty chair. He told the piece of furniture, which was supposed to represent President Barack Obama: “What do you want me to tell Mitt Romney? I can’t tell him to do that to himself!”
Way back before he went off on Jimmy Kimmel, and long before he took to the MTV Video Music Awards stage to wrest the mike from Taylor Swift’s hands, Kanye West went on national TV to give his opinion on then President George W. Bush, live. During a fundraiser for Hurricane Katrina victims, he told the world, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” The look on Mike Myers face – West’s co-presenter – when the rapper made his controversial comment is priceless.
Former SNL cast member Victoria Jackson is no shy, retiring type when it comes to expressing her political views. The Tea Party activist has spoken out against gay marriage (saying it would “make God mad”) and claims that the “Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated our highest positions in government.” But the blonde went into a serious meltdown when Obama won the 2012 election, tweeting: “I can’t stop crying. America died.”
In a YouTube video posted on the eve of the eight-year anniversary of 9/11, Charlie Sheen urged President Obama to open an investigation into the attacks, which he has previously claimed were allegedly masterminded by the Bush administration to justify the Iraq War. The actor has said that the official version of the terrorist attacks is “an absolute fairytale, a complete work of fiction and not a very good one.”
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Perhaps the most politically controversial thing that Jay-Z and Beyoncé have done was to visit Cuba in 2013 to mark their fifth wedding anniversary. Their mere presence on the Communist island irked many. The rapper later compounded the controversy with his song “Open Letter,” telling his critics that he got “White House clearance” to make the trip.
Back in 2000, actor Charlton Heston made his view on gun control very clear during a speech at the National Rifle Association. Then president of the NRA he was later celebrated and lampooned for challenging his critics to pry his guns away “from my cold dead hands.”
In 1978, Vanessa Redgrave criticized “a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums” at the Academy Awards and walked away from the event with her career intact. In 1977 she narrated and helped fund a documentary called The Palestinian, which supported a Palestinian state. The following year Rabbi Meir Kahane led a crowd that burned effigies of the actress outside the Oscars because she had been nominated – and subsequently won – a Best Actress award.
John Lennon’s protest against the Vietnam War rattled the government so much that the FBI spied on him and deportation proceedings were begun to expel the former Beatle from the country.
Funnily enough, when you label the first black president of the United States a “communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel” not everyone is going to take kindly to your comments. Thus it is no surprise that the Coeur d’Alene Tribe of American Indians recently cancelled Ted Nugent’s appearance at their Idaho casino. It is just one in a string of cancelled appointments booked by the NRA supporter.