In 2016, I was in the greenroom for a Fox News segment, where I met a charismatic actor named Antonio Sabato Jr. I had never heard of him. Born in Italy, he became, he told me, a “proud American citizen.” He called himself a “Christian conservative” and said that he recently came out in favor of presidential candidate Donald Trump and planned to speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Given Hollywood’s hostility toward Republicans, let alone pro-Trump Republicans, I assumed Sabato’s career was likely in decline, if, in fact, he ever really had one. Why else would a Hollywood actor risk career suicide by coming out so vocally in favor of Trump? I later learned, however, that this strikingly handsome man starred in a soap opera, had a successful modeling career and recently performed on “Dancing with the Stars.” If anything, his star was rising.
Then came Sabato’s pro-Trump speech at the 2016 GOP convention in Cleveland and, more importantly, Sabato’s 10-minute post-speech interview with ABC News. During that interview, he harshly criticized President Barack Obama, adding that, in his opinion, he considered Obama “a Muslim.” One could practically hear the sound of the interviewers’ jaws dropping over this Obama-is-a-Muslim assertion.
Now, for the record, in a survey discussed in a 2015 Washington Post blog, only 45% of Democrats thought that, “deep down,” Obama was “Christian.” The majority of Democrats said they “don’t know” Obama’s religious beliefs, or that he was “spiritual,” a “Muslim” or an “atheist.”
Similarly, a 2010 Pew Research Center survey found “nearly one-in-five Americans (18%) now say Obama is a Muslim, up from 11% in March 2009. Only about one-third of adults (34%) say Obama is a Christian, down sharply from 48% in 2009. Fully 43% say they do not know what Obama’s religion is. … Even among many of his supporters and allies, less than half now say Obama is a Christian. Among Democrats, for instance, 46% say Obama is a Christian, down from 55% in March 2009.”
So Sabato merely expressed a view of Obama’s religious beliefs widely suspected by much of the country, including Democrats.
As to the accusation that then-Sen. Obama is a Muslim, former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell, who endorsed Obama, said in 2008: “Well, the correct answer is, ‘He’s not a Muslim; he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian.’ But the really right answer is, ‘What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?’ The answer’s no, that’s not America.”
But Hollywood apparently did not get the Powell memo questioning why “being a Muslim in this country” is a bad thing. Sabato claims that after his speech and post-speech interview, Hollywood dropped him as if he were a serial killer. Sabato said: “I had to sell everything. I had to pay all my debts. I was blacklisted. All my representatives left me, from agents to managers to commercial agents. I literally had to move, find a new job to survive and take care of my kids.”
How hostile is Hollywood to conservatives?
Conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, in 2009, interviewed over 100 Hollywood players — producers, writers and others — where many openly admitted that the industry both despises and discriminates against conservatives.
Let’s roll tape.
Marta Kauffman, co-creator of “Friends,” on whether her show takes a “consistently liberal tack,” said: “How could it not? I mean, you have a bunch of liberals running the show. Which truly, we all come from a certain place, we’re going to put out there what we believe. These characters mirror who we are. … And, you know, we put together a staff of mostly liberal people. … Although I have to say, when we cast Candace Gingrich as the minister of that (lesbian) wedding, there was a bit of ‘f— you’ in it to the right wing directly.”
Leonard Goldberg, former ABC executive who produced “Starsky & Hutch,” “Fantasy Island” and “Charlie’s Angels,” on the criticism that Hollywood is “too left” and that there’s “one side of the agenda being pushed on a lot of shows”: “There’s no question about that. … And anyone who denies it is kidding or is not telling the truth. … You have to start with the premise — unquestionably — Hollywood is a liberal community.”
Fred Silverman, former head of ABC and NBC, and vice president of CBS, on liberal bias in Hollywood comedy shows: “There’s only one perspective, and it’s a very progressive perspective.”
Susan Harris, creator of “Soap” and “The Golden Girls,” on the criticism that Hollywood is “too liberal; it’s too progressive”: “Idiots talking. I mean, what can I say? … There are a lot of people who really have medieval minds in all sorts of ways. … That’s who you’re dealing with.”
This is the world Sabato was “dealing with.” He has since moved from California to Florida where, he recently told Variety, he now works in construction. At least in that world, he might just find a kindred spirit or two.