Some of Donald Trump’s prominent supporters in entertainment and the media industry are sticking with him, even as some major Republican party figures and Beltway pundits start to write off his hopes of winning the presidency.
Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s national finance chairman who has been a major Hollywood film financier, said that Trump’s debate performance was “fabulous.”
“He did an amazing job at the debate, and we could not be more pleased with the outcome,” he said. “We had a very strong night in online donations as well.”
He said that Trump’s video apology, released just after midnight on Saturday, “had a big impact and was received well by supporters. He apologized for something that happened a long time ago and is now focusing in the election on issues facing the country — the economy, jobs, national security, and safety around the world.”
The release of a 2005 “Access Hollywood” video, in which Trump is heard making lewd and vulgar comments to co-host Billy Bush, triggered a firestorm. Major figures like John McCain and John Thune announced that they were withdrawing support from Trump, while House Majority Leader Paul Ryan said he will no longer defend the candidate.
Broadcaster Stanley S. Hubbard, who didn’t back Trump in the primary but was later named co-chair of the pro-Trump Great America PAC, said that the release of the video will not keep him from voting for him.
When it comes to Trump and Clinton, Hubbard finds fault with both. While Trump has said things that are “vulgar and disgusting,” he said, “she’s not exactly an angel.” He cited her role in Travelgate, a scandal in the 1990s over the White House travel office, as well as other controversies.
Hubbard, who says he is an independent, pointed to what is at stake with the Supreme Court, with one or more vacancies in the next four years. He likes that Trump would appoint justices like Samuel Alito. “I want a Supreme Court justice who can read plain English,” he said.
“Both of them have crossed the line of morality,” he said. “I’m not here to say who is worse. I am not the morality police. But the reality is, one is going to be president.”
Trump chided Ryan on Monday, tweeting that the House Speaker should “spend more time on balancing the budget, jobs and illegal immigration and not waste his time on fighting Republican nominee.”
Other Trump supporters have echoed that note of defiance.
Scott Baio, who spoke at the GOP convention, tweeted on Monday, “When both sides are against you. You must be doing something right. They all fear the end of their meal ticket.”
Baio also dismissed Trump’s comments as “not a big thing.”
On Fox News’ “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” he told the host, “He talks like a guy, and ladies out there, this is what guys talk about when you’re not around. So, if you’re offended by it, grow up, okay?
“And by the way, this is what you guys talk about over white wine when you have your brunches. So take it easy with the phony outrage. This is the way the world works.”
Jon Voight, who narrated a biographical video of Trump at the convention, also defended him over the weekend and called those abandoning him “Republican turncoats.”
The entertainment industry’s smaller but still significant community of conservatives has had sharp disagreements during the primary about Trump — and a number of figures have declined to publicly get involved in the fray of the fall campaign. Clint Eastwood said last month that he’s “stayed out of it,” and others who have been involved in the past, like Robert Duvall, have also been on the sidelines. Harry Sloan, co-founder of Golden Eagle Acquisition and former CEO of MGM, is backing Hillary Clinton.
And in this most polarized of all election cycles, going public with support for Trump has also come with a backlash. After he spoke at the Republican National Convention, actor Antonio Sabato Jr. told Variety that he not only got pushback but was blacklisted from work.
Writer-director Lionel Chetwynd, a longtime prominent conservative in the industry, said on Monday that “no one I know has turned one inch away from Trump.”
“This was a media event, because the media doesn’t seem to understand that it is part of what the Trump movement is against,” he said.
He also sided with Trump’s point, made at Sunday’s debate, that Clinton’s handling of her emails required a special prosecutor. Trump vowed that if election, he would appoint one to look into it.
“We have all witnessed Mrs. Clinton’s scofflaw, on Benghazi to the destruction of government property,” Chetwynd said. “We have seen time and time again how she got away with things far worse than minor infractions used by her allies to destroy General [David] Petraeus and other good public servants.”
Petreaus last year plead guilty to one misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information, after revelations that he shared information via a Gmail server with his biographer. He had been having an affair with her.
“I have spent my adult life in Hollywood where I have been subjected to a more polite, similarly painful rigor and vigilance that was never applied to me liberal friends,” Chetwynd noted. “Although I am not saying it is payback time, I am saying no one should be afraid of balance. A special prosecutor who follows the law is not a threat — he or she is a disinfectant.”
Trump’s campaign includes other figures with ties to entertainment. His campaign CEO, Stephen Bannon, was a producer and financier before he was tapped as executive chairman of Breitbart News. Tom Barrack, the founder of Colony Capital, has been a key fundraiser and also spoke at the convention.
Mnuchin said that Trump will not be returning to California for fundraising before the election, as the focus has been on keeping him in battleground states. Clinton will be holding her final industry-centric fundraiser — a concert with Elton John — at the home of Casey and Laura Wasserman on Thursday.