John Lithgow pens book of protest poetry about Trump: 'A lot of damage is being done'
© Getty Images

John Lithgow says there’s a “good chance” of President TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE winning reelection, which is one of the reasons he’s written a book of protest poetry about him.

“I think he has a good chance of winning, mainly because of the ruthlessness of his politics,” the 74-year-old Emmy and Tony Award winner said. “Tyranny works.”


Lithgow, who says that he’s “always been reticent to go political in a public way” hopes that “Dumpty: The Age of Trump in Verse,” a collection of poems and illustrations he’s crafted, may help wake readers up to the prospect of four more years.

“It’s not that actors should be seen and not heard. I don’t judge my actor friends who are politically active at all, in fact I’m very impressed with them,” says Lithgow, who earlier this year starred in Broadway’s “Hillary and Clinton” as former President Clinton. “I’ve always been a little bit wary about using my own celebrity, such as it is, for anything. But the Trump era has changed everything. He’s yanked me into the public arena.”

Included in “Dumpty,” which hit store shelves on Tuesday, are verses that take satirical aim at Vice President Pence — “Hentsy Pentsy sat on a fence, The most vapid and vacant of vice presidents. / A poem? Alas, at the end of the day, Quite frankly, dear reader, there’s not much to say” — and White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne ConwayJudge blocks Spicer, Vought bid to return to Naval Academy board Trump came in contact with 500 people between first positive test and hospitalization: report Christie says he was unable to reach Trump on Jan. 6 MORE, imagined as a contestant in a Trump beauty pageant.

“Kellyanne comes to mind as another suggestion, Though not in the interview portions, / For she’d bulldoze her judge in the midst of a question, With alternative facts and distortions,” the book reads.

“In a way it was a relief to just concentrate on witty language,” Lithgow tells ITK. “Doing sort of handsprings with language and wit with rhyme and meter is the perfect response, for one thing, the debasement of language in this administration. I thought I’ll just concentrate on being as clever and creating the snappiest rhymes I possibly can to just captivate people, make them laugh in spite of themselves.”

The idea for the book, Lithgow says, came about after he performed at a 2017 gala for New York’s Public Theater a song from Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Pirates of Penzance” — but in the character of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

“I so took the audience by surprise, the sort of liberal, New York audience, that they absolutely exploded.”

A few months later, during a meeting with his literary agent, Lithgow remembered that event and sang the entire song for the publishing pro.

“It really just hit him like a thunderbolt: You’ve got to write political satire in verse.”

But for all the playful rhymes and linguistic gymnastics in “Dumpty,” Lithgow also shares some serious messages. The performer, who plays former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes in the upcoming film “Bombshell,” calls out Trump supporters for having “contradictory leanings,” referring to them as “crazy.”

Asked what he would say to critics who could argue he’s just another Hollywood liberal bashing half the country who voted for the 45th commander in chief, Lithgow replies, “I can only think that the people who voted for Trump have had some misgivings about Trump’s presidency. To me, a lot of damage is being done — not just in liberal causes, but in conservative causes, too. This is a very, very reckless and sloppy presidency.”

When ITK inquires whether Lithgow would ever play the president he’s so critical of, he notes he took on the role in a live stage reading of the Mueller report, following the conclusion of the former special counsel’s investigation. “Since then I’ve been asked to play Trump in an upcoming TV series, but I turned that down because I’m doing something else at the time,” Lithgow says.

The veteran actor, who also played former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Netflix’s “The Crown,” quips, “I’m not sure I should become known as the guy who imitates big, fat, bloviating men.”

“I would wait a few years to touch Trump.”

Looking ahead to 2020, Lithgow dubs himself a “big fan” of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBiden's proposals spark phase 2 of supply chain crisis Biden returns restores tradition, returning to Kennedy Center Honors The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown MORE (D). “He’s such an eloquent man,” he says of the White House hopeful.

In 2016, Lithgow campaigned for then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBen Affleck: Republicans 'want to dodge the consequences for their actions' through gerrymandering Republican Ohio Senate candidate slams JD Vance over previous Trump comments Budowsky: Why GOP donors flock to Manchin and Sinema MORE in Ohio — the first time he had hit the campaign trail for any candidate.

“I felt like if Trump wins and I did nothing, I would feel so badly about myself,” he says.

“So in a sense that’s connected with my impulse to write this book,” Lithgow continues. “I just feel I am an entertainer. I am sort of a lightweight politically — so what can I do? I can entertain people and I can entertain people with a not-so-hidden political agenda.”