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Celebrities risk backlash with vulgar anti-Trump rhetoric

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Hollywood celebrities have been raising the heat in their rhetoric against President Trump, but critics say the often-profane criticism could actually inflame a pro-Trump backlash ahead of November’s midterm elections.

Trump is considered vulgar Enemy No. 1 in much of the entertainment world, and more and more performers — from Robert De Niro to Michelle Wolf — are following him into the mud, though their harshest insults may actually be giving Republicans a boost.

“I think that they live inside this cultural bubble where they all talk among themselves and make the incredibly erroneous conclusion that the rest of the nation must think like they do,” GOP consultant John Brabender said in an interview with The Hill this week.

{mosads}Celebrities were all-but unanimous in their anti-Trump stance during the 2016 election, after all, but the former “Apprentice” host captured the White House regardless.

“Some of the videos that De Niro has put up are scarier than some of his fictional roles,” Brabender said.

De Niro, who once said in a YouTube video he wanted to “punch [Trump] in the face,” made headlines last month when he took the stage at the Tony Awards and declared, “F— Trump.”

“It’s no longer ‘down with Trump,’ it’s ‘f— Trump,’ ” the Academy Award winner exclaimed, to a standing ovation.

While Brabender, a veteran GOP strategist, says he has “absolutely no problem” with celebrities speaking out and says “they should” use their voices, he maintains that expletive-ridden diatribes can actually help unite the right.

“All it does is it bonds the rest of America, saying, ‘Well these people are idiots,’ ” he said.

In May, TBS’s “Full Frontal” host Samantha Bee was heavily criticized by both sides of the aisle after making a derogatory remark about Ivanka Trump during her show’s opening monologue.

Commenting on the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that led to the separation of children from their families at the Mexico-U.S. border, Bee called the president’s daughter and White House senior adviser a “feckless c—.”

Chelsea Clinton tweeted that Bee’s words were “grossly inappropriate,” saying it’s “flat-out wrong to describe or talk about @IvankaTrump or any woman that way.”

While several comedians came to the late-night personality’s defense, Bee and TBS later apologized, saying she “deeply regret[ted]” crossing the line with the “inappropriate and inexcusable” remark.

“I’m currently of the mindset that we waste far too much energy thinking about what might turn off so-called moderates,” said Christy Setzer, who’s worked for numerous Democratic campaigns, when asked about any effect the harsh words out of Hollywood might have on voters. “If someone is more upset by Samantha Bee’s language than Donald Trump putting children in cages, that’s a vote we were never going to get anyway.”

Fellow Democratic strategist Basil Smikle says there can be a benefit to entertainers, who shouldn’t be held to the same standard as public officials, raising their voices about politics.

“Celebrity endorsements or surrogates can be helpful in fundraising, or raising awareness about candidates and issues, but they aren’t constrained by the same accountability nor are they expected to uphold the public’s trust as a voter would demand of an elected official,” he said.

But Smikle, who used to work for former presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, warns that Democrats “don’t want to be taken off message” or “have to defend or distance themselves from comments” made by star supporters.

Another Democratic strategist, David Wade, calls the uproar over the language used by America’s famous faces a “mindless Washington distraction,” but says entertainers are simply reacting to the same factors that are leading to blue victories in deep-red territory under Trump.

“Before we get a collective case of the vapors and faint over the latest comment by any celebrity, let’s get real,” Wade said. “The palpable outrage of many in Hollywood isn’t that much different from the sense of outrage in places like Alabama and western Pennsylvania that boosted over-performing Democratic turnout into the stratosphere to elect [Sen. Doug Jones] and [Rep. Conor Lamb].”

Some critics have questioned the motivation of stars to inject their voices in feverish political debates, raising the possibility that throwing out profane put-downs could be a way of getting attention.

“That’s the other question that I sometimes sit and wonder,” said Brabender. “To what end are they doing that other than to make sure they’re in the news cycle?”

Prominent Los Angeles-based public relations executive Danny Deraney rejects that notion: “I’m a publicist. I never had that conversation in my life: ‘How can I get myself in the paper if I call someone a ‘feckless whatever?’ ”

Pointing to Bee’s Trump dig, Deraney said, “She has her own show. She doesn’t need more attention.”

Wolf has proven to be one of the Trump administration’s fiercest critics. The host of Netflix’s “The Break” burst into the public eye when she headlined April’s White House Correspondents’ Association dinner. Wolf, a “Daily Show” alum, blasted Ivanka Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders as part of her scathing set, comparing the White House press secretary to a character from “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Amid widespread condemnation, Wolf stood by her correspondents’ dinner remarks.

She has since compared Trump’s eldest daughter to herpes on her Netflix show.

“She’s fair game. And she is useless,” Wolf said of Ivanka Trump in an interview last month with The Daily Beast. “So I think it’s very fair to point out that she’s doing a terrible job.”

Other Hollywood defenders say celebs are simply matching Trump’s crude language and history of lobbing personal insults at his opponents. Trump called “Meet the Press” moderator Chuck Todd a “son of a bitch” at a March rally, and last year accused “low I.Q. crazy” MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski of “bleeding badly from a face-lift” in public.

In the past he’s hurled slurs of “moron” and “dummy” at plenty of targets.

But Brabender says politically outspoken performers are actually helping to line the GOP’s pockets.

“The one thing they’re doing, I can tell you for sure, is helping Republicans raise money,” he said.

“Every time one of these celebrities does something like this, there’s about 200, 300 organizations quickly sending out emails raising money off of it,” said Brabender.

Deraney says he doesn’t necessarily see the fiery denunciations of Trump as helping — or harming — either political party.

“I don’t think it’s hurting anyone, to be quite honest. I don’t think it’s hurting Democrats, I also don’t think it’s hurting the president,” said Deraney. “I think what this is, is frustration.”

Yet if he was a Democratic adviser, Brabender says, he would encourage celebrities to keep their cool going into the November midterms by putting the kibosh on profanity-laced, anti-Trump digs: “If they really want to positively impact the election, and maybe I would argue more importantly positively impact the country, I would come up with Plan B.”

Tags Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Ivanka Trump

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