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Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Is the liberal media hushing up Peter Fonda's crazy talk about Barack Obama?

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


Comments () | Archives (18)

The comments to this entry are closed.

patrick goldstein: aren't there better targets than Peter Fonda?

I mean the man was mostly responsible for Easy Rider, so he does have some plus points on the Grand Ledger.

& now he's the guy in the bar who's had too much to drink -- but as a nut he pales beside your colleague Jonah Goldberg, as one example, who has done, is doing and will do real damage.

Goldberg helped produce propaganda for the Iraq War. He suggested we should destroy France. And what he says now about Palestinians displays the same lack of insight or character.

It seems such arrogant know-nothings are breaking out all over. Shouldn't we all do what we can to diminish pertinent nonsense?

Fonda is baying at the moon -- Goldberg is bullhorning the mainstream and from your own LA Times' bully pulpit. He might be walking down your hall right now. Please Patrick, reach out and touch him, here or there, with your boot, for all of us.

and ignore Peter's howling -- like Ezra Pound -- he's just woofing.

If you're talking about it here then the "Liberal Media" isn't "hushing it up." And neither is anyone in Greater Blogistan.

Fonda has gone the way of his late pal Dennis Hopper -- off the deep extreme right end.

Fonda sounds dangerously crazy, but he's right that the country can't tell the difference between people who are and people who aren't addicted to alcohol. I can't say whether Fonda is or isn't, but are you seriously raising the alcoholism question over a nightly bottle of beer?

Randy Quaid has received a warm and sympathetic reception up in Vancouver, both from the press and people on the street. He's been playing his music in local venues and having a good time it seems, beyond the long arm of US law.
I don't think Quaid's crazy situation compares with this. With his violent talk--and the attention you have given it--Mr. Fonda will probably be able to attract some serious right-wing money for his next project.

I don't care what Peter Fonda thinks. I don't care what Glenn Beck thinks. I don't care what Sarah Palin thinks. I don't care what Brad Pitt thinks.
In short ... I don't care to hear or read celebrity takes on such issues. Most of the time, they are like Fonda: Illogical and irrelevant.

This is what happens to your perspective when you don't have to work.

Finally. Someone in Hollywood with enough guts to call out the pretender-in-chief. The violence rant was a little too much, but his gulf oil spill comments probably have some merit (since he actually researched it, not just took the media's account of it).

Doesn't matter though. Everyone in the media will dismiss him as "crazy" for insulting B-HO. If the same comments were made about Bush, he would be a hero to all the libs in Hollywood and people would comment about Fonda's relevancy and genius.

Instead, the media gives ink to worthless opinions on topics of marginal interest. Congratulations on still having a job.

Lady Gaga notwithstanding, reporters who dislike wasting their time will ignore the has-been B-rate actor--probably has Alzheimers. He's no longer newsworthy, so why publicize his opinions. As an alcoholic and drug addict, he's probably incapable of most activity and doesn't pose a danger, but the one statement crosses free-speech boundaries, a clear threat directed at the president--"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 not to use the words, 'let's stop something...." Secret Service is surely shadowing this guy. These violence-mongers are at liberty to say what they want, but if they push the edge too far there will be consequences.

Just a few months back, wasn't Hollywood lecturing Republicans about civility?

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