The day after Norman Lear’s death, his friend and mentee, director Rob Reiner, spoke to MSNBC’s Chris Hayes about the legacy of the man he called “my second father.”
Noting Lear’s heroic service during the second world war as well as his lifetime of political activism and the kinds of groundbreaking television shows he created, Reiner said that Lear “fought his entire life, for democracy and against fascism.”
You can watch Reiner’s entire conversation with Hayes at the top of the page now.
Reiner, of course, had his career breakthrough co-starring in Lear’s groundbreaking sitcom, the political satire “All in the Family” from the show’s debut in 1971 until he left in 1978, and he continued to work with Lear for decades after. And as he’s said many times, Reiner regarded Lear in almost the same regard as he does his own father, the comedy legend Karl Reiner.
After being introduced by Hayes, Reiner told him, “I was very lucky to have two men in my life that were great role models. Norman showed me how you could use your celebrity, use your fame to advance issues that you cared about. I mean, I I learned from him when he started People for the American Way, that you could accomplish a lot by using your platform and so I miss him already. I love him.”
“I’ve known him since I’m a little kid,” Reiner continued, “and I’m glad to be able to come on your show to talk about him because, you know, this is a man who flew 57 bombing missions over Nazi Germany in the Second World War. He fought his entire life, for democracy and against fascism.”
Reiner linked that fight to America’s current political situation, telling Hayes that he and Lear “had so many conversations recently, in the last couple of months, that he couldn’t recognize the country that he fought for so hard. And we now see ourselves on the verge of maybe slipping into fascism. And it’s just, you know, you can’t wrap your head around [it].”
Reiner was of course talking about Donald Trump. And the “This Is Spinal Tap” director noted that Lear recently compared Trump to Archie Bunker, the main character of “All in the Family,” whose bigoted, right wing political views often brought him into conflict with his son-in-law, played by Reiner. But Reiner then drew a distinction between Bunker and Trump.
“But the truth of the matter is, Archie Bunker, he was a racist. He was a bigot. He was very conservative. But he was human. He loved his wife, he loved his daughter, even loved his son-in-law, who he fought with, you know, mercilessly. Donald Trump is not, he doesn’t have any feelings. He’s not human. He’s a psychopath… And you guys have been talking about it for days now… He wants to rule as an autocrat as a dictator, and we have a big choice and I love that I can call on your show and talk to you know, to speak for Norman, that we have a choice. We can either choose fascism or democracy. And that is it and that simple. And you know, we can argue about issues once we’ve saved the democracy,” Reiner said.