Gary Abernathy is publisher and editor of the (Hillsboro, Ohio) Times-Gazette.
Across southern Ohio, northern Kentucky and other parts of the Cincinnati media market, actor George Clooney’s father was a celebrity long before his now-famous son. In the 1960s and ’70s, Nick Clooney hosted variety shows out of Cincinnati — in the days when the city was a hotbed of local programming that was syndicated live to Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis and other locales — before becoming a top-rated local news anchor and a fine journalist.
Consequently, local residents watched George grow up and take a special pride in his success. George has always shared his father’s ability to project a sense of warmth and sincerity through the screen, along with a fair dose of “aw, shucks” Midwestern humility. The famous Clooney family — which also includes George’s aunt, the late singer Rosemary Clooney — felt like neighbors even to area residents who never personally met them.
So it’s been puzzling to watch George’s immersion into liberal politics over the years. Most people here have always written that off as the usual thing that happens when people go to Hollywood. But it could be that George grew up with left-of-center philosophies; his dad eventually ran as a Democrat for Congress in northern Kentucky about a decade ago (and was soundly defeated). Either way, George Clooney’s liberal activism jarringly contrasts with the region that produced him.
The famous Clooney modesty appears sadly to have faded somewhat with George, based on his comments at this month’s Toronto International Film Festival about ousted White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon. Clooney said this about an old Bannon screenplay: “Now, if he’d somehow managed miraculously to get that thing produced, he’d still be in Hollywood, still making movies and licking my a-- to get me to do one of his stupid-a-- screenplays.” So much for Midwestern humility.
The imaginary world so convincingly created by Hollywood actors, producers and directors such as Clooney seems to be easily confused by Hollywood’s elite with the real one. The latest example was this week’s Emmy Awards show, another typical Trump-bashing spectacle that barely beat last year’s historically low ratings. Of course, the low viewership has nothing to do with how politicized awards shows have become, according to their defenders. Sure.
According to liberal critics, the lowlight of the Emmy show was a cameo by Sean Spicer, the former White House press secretary, who did a riff with host Stephen Colbert making light of Spicer’s famous argument with the media over the size of President Trump’s inauguration crowd. Why was this so wrong? Because it served to “normalize” Spicer.
One example reported by The Post’s Morning Mix came from Kelly Dittmar, an assistant professor at Rutgers University, who tweeted, “Do NOT cheer for Sean Spicer. This is how we normalize & excuse unethical, racist, sexist, etc. behavior.”
That’s the same warning we’ve been hearing about Trump and anyone associated with him since the campaign. Trump and friends cannot be treated like human beings because doing so will “normalize” them. Translation: The anti-Trump citizenry is “normal,” while Trump and millions of Americans who support him are “abnormal.”
In recent history, herculean efforts have been made to ensure that society “normalized” behaviors that were once labeled, sometimes even by the scientific community, as outside the norms of social conduct and comportment. In many cases — on homosexuality, most notably — this has resulted in welcome understanding and acceptance. But so far to the left has the pendulum swung that today the only acceptable reference to abnormality is if it involves an association with Donald J. Trump.
We can all only hope that in a civilized world, society will become so tolerant as to recognize that Trump Supporter Syndrome (TSS) is not an illness at all. It is perfectly normal behavior that is merely misunderstood by those who do not share it. Those with TSS should be loved and accepted, not ostracized and shunned.
In fact, Colbert should be admired for his brave outreach to Spicer. Stephen, some — including many of your Hollywood friends — may ridicule you. But history will prove you right.
Unlike Colbert, our favorite son, George Clooney, clearly exhibits a bias against those with TSS. But George, too, will become enlightened someday, as will others. And despite our differences, George, in southern Ohio we’re still proud of your success. Say hi to your dad.