Everyone knows that it’s bad form in Hollywood to have anything nice to say about a Republican. It’s even worse – approaching career suicide – to have something decent to say about Steve Bannon.
Jeff Kwatinetz, founder of talent management and TV production company The Firm, worked with Bannon for two years. He’s a dedicated liberal who was sick of seeing his former business partner labeled as racist and anti-Semitic, so he gave an exclusive interview to The Hollywood Reporter to set the record straight.
Kwatinetz described Bannon as “brilliant” and “a very successful banker.” They worked long hours together at The Firm in 2002-2003 and discussed politics frequently. Unlike many liberals, he didn’t judge Bannon on his neoconservative politics.
He has beliefs and stands by them. Those beliefs aren’t based on racism, they’re based on what he honestly believes is best for the world….But not being a liberal doesn’t mean you’re a racist.
I know that he’s not anti-Semitic. I am absolutely positive that he’s not anti-Semitic or racist. It is absurd. I am Jewish, Roy Furman was Jewish, Andrew Breitbart was Jewish. He is not anti-Semitic. Period.
He might still be okay in Hollywood after asserting that not being liberal doesn’t equal racism, but after Iliza Schlesinger’s tweetstorm the other day, he’s probably on shaky ground. But he didn’t stop there.
So there are things we agree on, but we disagree about politics more than we agree. But we both love America and want the world to be a better place and we believe in being true to ourselves. I don’t want to be demonized for my views, and he shouldn’t be either.
This guy makes sense!
The reporter then asked him if he’d seen any of Bannon’s documentaries, and if they were propaganda. He strayed far from Accepted Progressive Thought™ with this answer:
I’d call Michael Moore’s films propaganda. Seriously. I mean, Roger and Me was a great film, but he makes a lot of films with untruths in them. Just by the question, “Are his films propaganda?” is a way to dismiss Steve’s point of view. I can say I don’t agree with most of what he says in his films. But having opinions is a good thing.
Wow. It’s definitely not okay in West LA to say that Michael Moore films are not 100 Pure Gospel Truth. And some conservative politicians should take note of the way he called out the reporter’s dismissive question – and the way he sees through chattering class technique with his answer to the “give us an anecdote about Bannon” question:
I don’t want to define someone by a specific anecdote because, not by you but by someone else, it will be re-quoted and bastardized.
In our sound bite culture, one will be psychoanalyzed by one quote or tweet. Kwatinetz understands that (he is a successful talent manager, after all) and refused to give the commentariat bait.
Why aren’t others speaking up, he was asked?
I don’t believe that’s true. I know of two others who talked to reporters on background whose statements were ignored, as were mine.
And he named names.
In terms of me, Connie Bruck at The New Yorker ignored what I had to say. She heard a story that Steve demanded of Ovitz that he had to sell for a price way lower and she wrote that ultimately the price we paid was much closer to the pre-Bannon negotiated price. I told her it was unequivocally false. Steve negotiated the price we paid, and she reported the opposite, based on an anonymous source at The Firm.
Wait, reporters ignore statements that don’t fit their narrative and just make things up based on an anonymous source? Well, I never.
Fortunately Kwatinetz has already been extremely successful in the entertainment business, because standing up for a friend – especially a conservative friend who is thought of as the devil by many in that business – has never been a lucrative proposition.