For years, Hollywood conservatives have worked tirelessly to gain acceptance in a town known for its uber-liberal views. They’ve quietly started their own support groups and, recently, have even felt comfortable speaking to the media — something unthinkable just a few years ago.
But that’s all changed now, with many right-leaning industry members saying they’ve been forced back into the closet. And it’s all thanks to Donald Trump.
“The genie is being squeezed back into the bottle,” said Lionel Chetwynd, an Academy-Award nominee and member of leading conservative Hollywood group Friends of Abe. “All the efforts to make this a two-party town have gone down the drain. It’s very sad.”
Chetwynd, a supporter of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, said the last few weeks have been particularly hard, with many of his friends keeping a low profile. Things have gotten so bad, he’s found himself becoming more cautious about discussing politics, even with fellow conservatives.
“It’s very harsh out there,” he said. “You don’t want to talk to people about it. I met with a friend of mine and we avoided the topic altogether. It’s that bad.”
Dave Berg, former co-producer of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and Friends of Abe member, told TheWrap: “Trump’s flaws are certainly cause for serious reflection.”
Others believe Trump is so bad for the party, he could actually push some Hollywood conservatives to — gasp! — vote for Hillary Clinton.
“Trump is not only pushing people into the closet, he’s pushing them into Hillary’s closet,” one member of Friends of Abe, who wished to remain anonymous, told TheWrap. “The most recent debate was really embarrassing. He’s setting a really disappointing tone to the race.”
Trump has been criticized in recent weeks for not distancing himself from white supremacist groups and for asking voters to raise their right hand in a pledge of support, resulting in an image that critics likened to a Nazi salute. During last week’s GOP debate in Detroit, the billionaire real estate developer bragged about the size of his genitals live on TV.
“Is this the best the GOP can come up with?” asked Michael Ramirez, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist who said he is still undecided between Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “It’s been a divisive contest, even for Republicans.”
Silicon Valley CEOs including Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Larry Page and Tesla’s Elon Musk met last weekend with GOP officials to discuss stopping the mogul-turned-reality-star’s presidential bid, and now Trump’s recent antics have had a direct effect on Hollywood.
Many industry conservatives now hold out hope for a brokered convention in Cleveland in July, despite all of the bad press and perceived weaknesses that might accompany a contested nomination process.
“There’s nothing wrong about a brokered convention,” Berg said. “I’m counting on that still.”
Even those conservatives in Hollywood who’ve never supported Trump — but who’ve said time and time again that they would vote for him should he become the party’s nominee — are now changing their tune.
“It will be a tough call,” said one FOA member. “If it comes down to Hillary and Trump, I don’t know what I’d do.”