Another Ignorant Actor Spouts Off

September 11th, 2005 1:03 PM

It is not a hold-the-presses moment when a major Hollywood actor comments on American politics and demonstrates that he/she is ignorant as a board fence on the subject. However, as a reminder that some people ARE paying attention and DO know truth from falsehoods, some comments are in order about an interview with Donald Sutherland today (Sunday).

Sutherland was interviewed at the Savoy by Jasper Gerard, and the article was published in the Sunday Times, in the UK.

After talking about acting in general, and then his role in Pride and Prejudice, now being filmed, Sutherland turns his attentions to politics. Here is the main paragraph on that:

"But is preening in a petticoat at all relevant today? ‘My God, it is,’ he booms. ‘Particularly in the United States where they talk about family values but leave people to drown.’ Sutherland enjoys rhetorical flourishes, and soon he is off: ‘In France they might not earn as much (as in America) but they work a 35-hour week and they spend time with their families; isn’t that real family values?’ Soon we have covered 9/11, touched on the ‘evil’ that is Tony Blair and been through a rant about the war in Iraq and why it is a bigger crime than Vietnam."


Readers of Newsbusters know that "America" did not leave people to drown. The Mayor of New Orleans did that. By contrast, the actor praises France for "real" family values. Apparently, he is unaware that about 15,000 Frenchmen died in August, 2003, during a heat wave in Paris. The deaths were extremely ironic, when compared to Sutherland’s comments.

These were elderly Frenchmen, and women, grandparents who died alone in their unairconditioned apartments as the rest of their families were out of Paris on their legendary one-month annual vacations. Some "time with families;" some "family values." One could not expect a mere celebrity interviewer to catch Sutherland up on his nonsense. But doesn’t the Times have any editors who can remember 15,000 deaths in August, two years ago?

Concerning his friend and colleague, Jane Fonda, Sutherland says, " ‘They can do what they want. They lie. This is one of the most mendacious governments in the history of the world.’ This is a reference to the last presidential election when photos were doctored to give the impression that John Kerry, the Democrat candidate, had shared a platform with Fonda. ‘I was there and I don’t even remember Kerry’s presence.’ "

I know the person who created that "doctored" photo. It was labeled as such when first published, and others stripped the label off. But there is a real photograph, published at the time and many times since, which shows Fonda in the foreground and Kerry three rows up from her and slightly to the left. Kerry WAS there. Sutherland is dead wrong. And any competent photo editor for the Times would have known that.

When actors and actresses talk about their craft, their movies, plays, etc., they are entitled to respect because they know their subject. On the other hand, when they venture into areas of ignorance, which for many of them means politics, they deserve to be ridiculed as fools, when they speak and act that way.

A Correction to This Article: In this article, I castigated the French for the 15,000 deaths in the 2003 heat wave. Some friends, one in particular, have brought to my attention that the effects of this heat wave were general across Europe, and that in Italy the deaths were slightly less than 20,000. Because of errors in collecting and assigning the causes of deaths, only the French totals were known fairly promptly, and therefore an undeserved special blame was laid on the French by the American press. I regret that I contributed to that by my singular focus on deaths in France only.