The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
on entertainment and media

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Is the liberal media hushing up Peter Fonda's crazy talk about Barack Obama?

May 25, 2011 |  5:18 pm

Peter_fonda It's hard to imagine anyone spouting crazier talk in recent days than Lars von Trier, who pretty much stole the show at Cannes, getting banned from the film festival after volunteering some truly bizarre musings about being a Nazi. But hey, Peter Fonda is making a real run for Nut of the Year after making some very outrageous claims of his own about Barack Obama, who seems to have aroused Fonda's ire for his handling of the gulf oil spill.

When Fonda was at Cannes, promoting a new environmental documentary that focuses on the mess made by the explosion of the BP oil rig Deepwater Horizon, the 71-year-old actor-filmmaker accused Obama of suppressing media coverage of the spill, and said he sent the president an email saying, "You are a [expletive] traitor.... You allowed foreign boots on our soil telling our military--in this case the Coast Guard--what they can and could not do."

Fonda gave a follow-up interview to the London Telegraph where he dug a deeper hole for himself, saying: “I’m training my grandchildren to use long-range rifles. For what purpose? Well, I’m not going to say the words ‘Barack Obama,’ but … I prefer to not to use the words, ‘let’s stop something.’ I prefer to say, ‘let’s start something, let’s start the world.’ "

OK, so I think we can all agree that Fonda is a true kook who has a bug up his butt about the commander in chief. But if you're looking for a really nutty response to Fonda's remarks, just check out John Nolte's reaction at the conservative Big Hollywood blog. Nolte agrees that Fonda is talking "crazy talk," but he claims that the mainstream media has shied away from covering Fonda's wild accusations because he's "a famous Lefty, after all and therefore a member of the MSM's protected class."

When it comes to allegations that don't really make any sense, this has to be at the top of the list. Let me get this straight: The liberal media, which is always accused by Fox News of protecting Obama from criticism, is now guilty of protecting wacky Peter Fonda, even when he appears to be encouraging his grandkids to take up arms against the president? If the media is so determined to protect Obama, you'd think they would protect him from someone threatening his life. It sounds like the liberal media is being damned if they do, damned if they don't. 

Having interviewed Fonda a couple of times myself over the years, I have to say that I was hardly surprised to read about him going off the deep end. When we spoke in person, Fonda often launched into a number of spacey, free-association rants about all sorts of unrelated topics, perhaps fueled by the two carafes of wine he had over lunch. He told me that he still smokes pot--it helps soothe his sour stomach--and he downs a bottle of oatmeal stout before bedtime. When I asked him if some people would consider him an alcoholic, he said, "This country is just nuts about sobriety."

If anything, the media should be applauded for not giving ink to every nut who's ever made a movie, including the likes of Randy Quaid, who has sought asylum in Canada, claiming that dark forces in the U.S. were out to have him killed. It's often difficult to figure out why one nutty celebrity hits media pay dirt while another gets roundly ignored, but it feels like a stretch to analyze the process through a rigid political lens.  

Sometimes the media just loses interest in its prey. After all, as Salon's Andrew O'Hehir sagely noted, while Von Trier was being banned at Cannes, Mel Gibson was given a free pass at the festival, "walking the red carpet alongside Jodie Foster for 'The Beaver,'  but I guess since he kept his trap shut about the Jews on that particular occasion, it was all blowing kisses to the crowd and posing for the paparazzi."

Peter Fonda can rant and rave all he wants, but no one seems interested in taking him seriously anymore. It's not about politics. It's about heat. If Lady Gaga were standing at his side, you can bet the media would find Fonda's crazy talk a lot more compelling.

--Patrick Goldstein

Photo: Peter Fonda on the red carpet for a screening of "La Conquete" at the Cannes Film Festival. Credit: Christian Hartmann / Reuters

 

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