Anthony Bourdain, an outspoken critic of President-elect Donald Trump, has called out “privileged Eastern liberals” — including himself — for their “utter contempt” of working-class Americans that he says made Trump’s presidency possible.
In an interview with Reason magazine, the celebrity chef and television host lamented the proliferating “fear of the Other,” which he believes has led to a rise in nationalism globally, citing examples in the Philippines, Russia and Italy, as well as the Brexit vote in June.
“When people are afraid and feel that their government has failed them, they do things that seem completely mad and unreasonable to those of who are perhaps under less pressure,” Bourdain said.
Still, Bourdain said he was empathetic to the circumstances that led to outcomes in those countries. And he faulted those same forces for Trump’s win in November.
“The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we’re seeing now,” Bourdain told Reason.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America,” he added. “There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good.”
Bourdain went on to criticize HBO political talk show host Bill Maher as “the worst of the smug, self-congratulatory left” after being asked about an appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher” a few years ago.
“Not a show I plan to do again. He’s a classic example of the smirking, contemptuous, privileged guy who lives in a bubble,” Bourdain told the magazine. “And he is in no way looking to reach outside, or even look outside, of that bubble, in an empathetic way.”
Such “preaching to the converted,” Bourdain said, was no way to win the hearts and minds of Trump supporters.
“It doesn’t change anyone’s opinions. It only solidifies them, and makes things worse for all of us,” Bourdain said. “We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we’ve done.”
The prolific chef received some criticism online for his comments, but he has defended his working-class background on Twitter, saying he had spent three decades rising up through back-of-the-house restaurant jobs.
Bourdain did not specify in the interview whether he might be interested in breaking bread with Trump, a notion he shot down in a September conversation with the Wrap. At the time, Bourdain was asked whether he might consider a private dining session with Trump if he should be elected president.
“Absolutely f—ing not,” Bourdain told the Wrap. “We know him well here [in New York] … I would give the same answer that I would have given 10 years ago, when he was just as loathsome.”
The interview with Reason was conducted Dec. 20, the day after the electoral college made Trump’s win official. Bourdain’s comments were part of a wide-ranging conversation that included talk of “Sichuan peppers, sex, eating dogs and political correctness,” according to the magazine.
To be fair, such an amalgam of topics — along with his usual dissing of vegetarians — can be expected from just about any recent Bourdain interview. The globe-trotting, often foul-mouthed personality is also a best-selling author and host of CNN’s “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,” now in its eighth season.
This season’s premiere aired on Sept. 25 with a guest appearance by none other than President Obama in Hanoi, where the two drank beer and ate bun cha — a Vietnamese dish of grilled pork and rice vermicelli — atop plastic stools at a casual family-run restaurant.
Bourdain has made, well, no reservations about his disdain for Trump — or for those who choose to do business with him.
In a recent interview with Eater, Bourdain said he had “utter and complete contempt” for restaurateur Alessandro Borgognone, who announced in November he would open a sushi restaurant at Trump’s hotel in Washington.
“I will never eat in his restaurant,” Bourdain declared in that interview.
He expressed similar feelings about chef David Burke, who said he would take over another space at the same hotel after José Andrés pulled out.
“Burke’s a steaming loaf of s—, as far as I’m concerned, and feel free to quote me,” Bourdain told Eater.