As socially liberal as the entertainment industry is, many in this influential community are also business-minded and harbor a deep private fear of a socialist like Bernie Sanders
The ascending presidential candidacy of Mike Bloomberg has Hollywood abuzz.
You can keep your Bernie bros, your persisting Warren, your trusty Mayor Peter — it’s the billionaire former mayor of New York City, with his aggressive messaging on social media and mainstream business pedigree, that has many in Hollywood breathing a sigh of relief.
“I’ve been really impressed lately in the quality and reach of Bloomberg’s social and transition media ads,” Ross Gerber, an L.A.-based investor whose clientele is heavily comprised of Hollywood, told TheWrap. “He seems to get what he needs to do to get voters behind him. People are super happy to have a non-socialist who is business-friendly running for the Democrats.”
Hollywood is about as anti-Trump as it comes. But as socially liberal as the entertainment industry is, many in this influential community are also business-minded and harbor a deep private fear of a socialist like Bernie Sanders becoming the Democrats’ nominee.
So as the Democratic field drifts into subsets of low-double-digit polling for moderate candidates like Pete Buttigieg or Amy Klobuchar, and single digits for everybody’s pal Joe Biden while Sanders soars, Bloomberg has emerged as an increasingly appealing candidate for the presidential nomination.
Conversations with a dozen Hollywood executives over the past week — most of whom decline to go on the record — reflected an almost palpable sense of relief that Bloomberg has gained traction with his feisty anti-Trump memes and online fisticuffs with Sanders. (Bernie has given as good as he’s gotten, tweeting a photo of Bloomberg and Trump on the golf course, on President’s Day.)
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 17, 2020
“Of course people are relieved to have the option of Bloomberg,” said one former studio chief, confessing to liking the current flush economic climate. “I would not want to have to vote for Trump,” he said, but a Sanders candidacy would leave him little choice.
“If I had a wand and I could pick the nominee — it would be Bloomberg. It’s a no brainer,” said a Democratic donor who has not yet committed and declined to be identified. “He’ll be beholden to no one.”
Another studio chief said he was “glad to see he was in the game,” but still needed to know more.
Others have worried aloud that Trump’s pugilistic style would wither the likes of Biden or Klobuchar in a debate. Bloomberg, they say, has the confidence fed by his billionaire status and the thick skin of a New Yorker with three mayoral terms under his belt to stand up to Trump in a debate or on Twitter.
Bloomberg is particularly appealing to those entertainment insiders with roots in New York. Those people have almost a visceral dislike of Trump, while crediting Bloomberg with accomplishing important things when he was mayor from 2002 to 2013.
“I watched what he did for New York City, how he built an amazing administration,” veteran producer Jane Rosenthal (“The Irishman”) told The Hollywood Reporter in January. “He changed the way the city works, and I know he can do the same for the country.”
Many Hollywood Democrats, like party members nationwide, have an “anyone but Trump” position. They support their individual candidates, but are mostly focused on defeating the former reality show star in the White House. One mid-level studio executive said she had attended a Bloomberg informational event, which was notable to her because unlike other Democratic candidates coming through L.A. he was not raising money. She said she went to see what he’s all about because “we need someone who can beat Trump” and Bloomberg seemed like the guy who could do it.
Though more Hollywood stars have put their support behind candidates like Sanders, Warren and Buttigieg, Bloomberg has drawn a smaller but vocal group of industry supporters.
One of the first to publicly endorse Bloomberg — even before he officially entered the race — was Judy Sheindlin, best known as Judge Judy. Writing an op-ed in USA Today, Sheindlin said Bloomberg was a “realist,” “man of the center” and a “pragmatist.”
Actor and producer Michael Douglas, speaking about his endorsement of Bloomberg with People, described the former New York City mayor as “one of the greatest candidates in the history of our elections.” Douglas also said he hasn’t been as excited about a candidate since John F. Kennedy. Actors Sam Waterston and Ted Danson, former “Project Runway” mainstay Tim Gunn and musician John Mellencamp have also thrown their support behind Bloomberg.
But Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy, as well as his past behavior toward women, have drawn him sharp criticism from other Hollywood figures. Actor and comedian Rob Delaney (“Catastrophe”) called Bloomberg an “authoritarian racist” on Twitter, while “Daily Show” correspondent Jaboukie Young-White described him as a “racist piece of s—.”
But in the Bel Air living rooms where candid opinions are shared and influence traded, Bloomberg is gaining ground. “Bloomberg is crucial to beating Trump as Bernie will NOT get the votes to beat Trump,” Gerber said. “I think Bloomberg is the best bet to unify the Democrats under a leader that can win and be great for America.”
J. Clara Chan and Trey Williams contributed to this story.