Opinion: Rob Reiner likens ‘tea party’ movement to Hitler
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The actor formerly known as Meathead blasted the “tea party” movement Friday night on HBO, comparing its followers to the Nazis.
“My fear is that the tea party gets a charismatic leader,” actor/director Rob Reiner said to applause in front of a live audience on Bill Maher’s “Real Time.” “Because all they’re selling is fear and anger. And that’s all Hitler sold. ‘I’m angry and I’m frightened and you should hate that guy over there.’ And that’s what they’re doing.”
Ranting between the senior advisor for the 2008 McCain/Palin campaign, Nicolle Wallace, and ABC’s Jake Tapper, Reiner began his assault on the tea party by talking about the likes of Christine O'Donnell, the GOP nominee for U.S. senator in Delaware. “They’re selling stupidity,” the director of “Spinal Tap” said. “They’re selling stupidity and ignorance and I’ve never seen a group of people, I’ve never seen an election cycle, with more ignorance than this one.”
And then Reiner began his comparison of the splinter group and the Nazi party’s Adolf Hitler. “He wasn’t a majority guy, but he was charismatic and they were having bad economic times –- just like we are now –- people were out of work, they needed jobs and a guy came along and rallied the troops,” Reiner said with an energy that America lapped up when he was a tie-dye-sporting hippie lashing out at his television father-in-law, Archie Bunker, in the hugely successful “All in the Family.”
Reiner has been an outspoken political activist over the last few decades, tackling issues such as the environment, alternative energy and preschool education. One of his biggest political victories was 1998’s Proposition 10, for which he was the campaign chairman. Proposition 10 added a 50-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes to fund First 5 early childhood development and smoking-prevention programs. About $480 million in funds benefits California families each year.
That victory didn’t go without the notice of Trey Parker and Matt Stone, who lampooned the overweight director for his seemingly contradictory crusade for health. The pair parodied Reiner in the 2003 South Park episode “Butt Out,” in which a cartoon version of Reiner goes to the Colorado town on an anti-cigarette campaign. The pair explained that Reiner was an easy target to make fun of.
“Obviously, South Park has a lot of politics in it, but ultimately we want to make a funny show and a good show. We try not to be, ‘All right, here’s the point we want to make,’” Stone told Reason Magazine in 2006. “But things like California’s smoking ban and Rob Reiner animate both of us. When we did that Rob Reiner episode, to us it was just common sense. Rob Reiner was just a great target.”
[Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled Hilter’s first name Adolph. That has been corrected.]
-- Tony Pierce