She’s won just about every award in Hollywood and is one of the most politically-active celebrities in show business. Whoopi Goldberg has a new show debuting on NBC, already being called the “All in the Family” for a new generation. She joined ‘Buchanan and Press’ to talk about her influence on popular culture, Hollywood, patriotism, and her new show.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, OSCAR-WINNING ACTRESS: I would hasten to say to you that I wouldn’t put it in the category of “All in the Family.” I think it’s a little bit more unique than that for this time period. It’s a woman of my age, about 47-48, who smokes and drinks a little bit, is menopausal, weighs more than 100 pounds, and has views on life.
And her brother, who lives with her because he got fired from Enron, comes to stay with her at the hotel she runs. His girlfriend is about 5’8,” blonde, sounds like Eminem. And the gentleman that works for me is Iranian, a Persian man, who in many respects allows us to sort of talk about the things that are scaring both ends of the spectrum-scaring us, scaring them. Because, you know, we’ve separated people into these categories.And so, what this show really is trying to do is keep it on a one-on-one basis. So, yes, we’re a little bit out there. We’re having a good time being out there, though.
ELIZABETH BIRCH, HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN: Now, Whoopi, I want to say that I have always seen you playing a very important role in American culture, really translating between the races in particular. And I’ve been with you on the front lines of AIDS and a lot of other causes, and you’ve always stood up. But in that translation, what is it-there is some of this in the show— what is it that from your childhood or your experience that has allowed you to do everything, including playing an older white man, in your roles?
GOLDBERG: Well, you know, I was raised with confidence and the knowledge that anything I chose to do was possible, as long as I was willing to accept the fact that not everybody was going to like it. So, knowing that allows you to go ahead and explore things and say, you know what? Maybe this wasn’t so good for me, or maybe this was really good. And once you have that, then nothing can really stop you.
BIRCH: Yes, you’ve stood up on issues since the beginning of your career. I admire you very, very much on AIDS, on race, on sexual orientation. And you really took risks from the beginning of your career. Much appreciated.
GOLDBERG: Well, thank you.
PAT BUCHANAN, HOST: Whoopi, let me get into this. You’re going to take on all kinds of subjects—I understand you’re even going to take on Mr. Bush.
BUCHANAN: And you were quoted as saying, “I don’t have to make fun of him. He makes fun of himself.” Why do you think President Bush is so very popular in this country?
GOLDBERG: Well, I think, Pat, because people wanted something different from what they had. You know, we spent eight years listening for whatever reason, and whether you agree with it or not, to really the sort of destruction of a president’s personality. Forget what he did. You know, forget whether you agree with his policies or not. It was just the personality.
And it sort of seems to me that, in part, that’s part of what we’re supposed to do. We’re not supposed to try to destroy them. And so, for me, President Bush offers us, as comics, the opportunity to have some fun with some of the things that he has decided and some of the things he’s said, much like we did with Jimmy Carter, much like we do with Ronald Reagan. It’s sort of par for the course.
BUCHANAN: Whoopi, doesn’t it really take a lot more courage to be a Dennis Miller, who will take on Hollywood, his own entertainment industry, than for someone in Hollywood to take on President Bush? I mean, doesn’t Dennis Miller really stand out in terms of showing courage, if you will, in taking on Hollywood for its lack of moral seriousness?
GOLDBERG: Well, here is the interesting thing for me, Pat, is I love Dennis’ work. I love what he does. But just the mere fact that I’m here means I’m taking on Hollywood. The mere fact that I exist and have existed for the last 20 years is my commentary on Hollywood.
I don’t live there personally, and so I can’t really speak to whatever moral decay people feel that has happened in Hollywood... though I sort of feel like the decay has a lot more to do with just our lack of hope than anything else. I mean...
GOLDBERG: ... I know you have very different opinions than I do.
BUCHANAN: All, well, let me ask you about that. When you say, “dire,” because there are a lot of statements that’s been made by folks in Hollywood. Let me give you a Johnny Depp statement today, and it’s on Drudge, and I guess everybody has read it. And he says... “America is dumb like a dumb puppy that has big teeth, that can bite and hurt you.” And he would want his kids to take a look at America and then get out. Why do so many people in Hollywood— I mean, and you say you can look at him objectively-they give not give the American people hope? They seem to trash the country. What do you think of a statement like that by Johnny Depp?
GOLDBERG: Now, you know, Pat, you’re making a really broad statement by saying that. You’re taking one person’s opinion, which in this country we’re still allowed to have.
GOLDBERG: So, remember now, everyone is allowed to have their opinion, and I don’t know what Drudge is. You have to forgive me. But whatever it is-wherever that is, you know, that’s his opinion, and this country is allowed to have it.
I think there are a lot of folks in Hollywood who are huge Americans, who feel that there are some things that aren’t going as well as they’d like them to go. And that’s the great thing about being here. This is not Afghanistan. We are allowed to have these opinions, both in Hollywood and New York and Chicago and Detroit and Iowa and Minnesota. That’s the key to this country.
BUCHANAN: Let me ask you, why do you think— and, again, as an objective observer— why do you think Hollywood is so hostile to Bush when you realize- they don’t think he’s very bright? But here is a man who has cut the taxes for the rich and famous more than anybody in history, except for Ronald Reagan. Here is an individual who, along with Attorney General Ashcroft, has protected this country from a terrorist attack since 9/11. Doesn’t he deserve a tremendous amount of credit for what he has done, even though it’s OK to kid about him?
GOLDBERG: I’m not real happy with what he has done. I think he’s made some really serious missteps, in my opinion. I don’t think we should have gone to war without having every piece of information we need. I don’t think we should have disdained the U.N. the way we did only to have come back now to ask for help.
There are some serious missteps that he has also made, and I feel quite strongly about that. And I guess in time we’ll see what his legacy is going to be.
I’m glad to hear you say that you can see that all presidents have good aspects and bad aspects, things that we like and things that we don’t. And thank goodness we can talk about them, because that’s why I love being here. That’s what I love about America.
BIRCH: But there does seem to be a trend, where anyone in the entertainment industry that critiques Bush or any of the things going on in Iraq is labeled as anti-patriotic. How do you feel about that?
GOLDBERG: Well, that bothers me a lot, because, you know, I don’t there anyone in the entertainment industry or anywhere else who wants soldiers to die. So, if you’re anti-war, it kind of feels to me like you’re pro-soldier, because you want them to live and be there to protect you.
But I do find that we’re having a little bit of trouble being able to speak out, and I think that just Americans. You know, it’s interesting that it keeps coming back to the entertainment industry, which I would point out is getting the attention because news people want to talk to them. So, if you ask them their opinions, you know, you’re going to get it. And it sounds like all of these, you know, entertainers are doing it, but that’s who you’re asking.
BIRCH: That’s right.
GOLDBERG: Go and ask other people, and I suspect that you’ll find a myriad of responses to that question.
BIRCH: Whoopi, you were a big supporter of President Clinton and Al Gore. Are you supporting anyone among the Democrats for 2004 yet?
GOLDBERG: I’m leaning towards Dean. I’m leaning towards Dean, because I like what he has to say and I like what he’s done, what he’s done in Vermont, you know. But I haven’t heard everyone speak. I know John Kerry has just gotten into the race.
GOLDBERG: And I’m hoping that I will be able to make a better decision, a stronger decision in the future. But, you know, all eyes have been on California, so I haven’t had a minute to think about anything else.
BIRCH: Speaking of which, as also a Californian, although I know you live in New York, what do you think about Arnold Schwarzenegger? Or what do you think about him launching into this recall?
GOLDBERG: You know what? This is a catch-all. “It will be what it will be.” I can’t say that I’ve had a better chuckle at the lineup of people ever, ever, ever, ever. But, you know, again, I don’t live there, and I don’t know Arnold well enough to really even give you an opinion about him. I don’t know what his politics are.