Morrissey on How Obama ‘Has Meant Nothing’ and Trump ‘Can’t Be Allowed to Represent America’

The outspoken solo artist and ex-frontman of The Smiths opens up about his recent album, why he thinks U.S. police are the new KKK, and much more.

08.26.15 8:15 AM ET

Last week on Larry King Now, Morrissey sealed his place as one of popdom’s most incendiary cultural critics by dropping unfiltered, unapologetic, and eloquently devastating truth bombs in the face of contemporary America—and he isn’t done critiquing everyone from President Obama to 2016 GOP hopeful Donald Trump.

In a wide-ranging email interview with The Daily Beast ahead of his recent FYF Fest headlining show in Los Angeles, the outspoken English rock icon (and former Smiths frontman) expounded on his controversial statements blasting Obama’s “whiteness” over his handling of America’s ongoing police brutality crisis.

“Obama, is he white inside? That’s a very logical question—but I think he probably is,” Morrissey pondered aloud last week to a smitten Larry King in a rare televised conversation in which he also addressed suicide, his cancer scare, and his notorious butt-groping at the fingers of the TSA.

Asked to clarify those controversial statements on Obama, Moz zeroed in on the president’s refusal to take a tougher stance in the face of Ferguson and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

“I can’t see him doing anything at all for the black community except warning them that they must respect the security forces,” Morrissey wrote. “This is ludicrous because the so-called security forces are the Ku Klux Klan to most black Americans. It seems evident to me that black males are being deliberately murdered throughout America as a closing message to Obama, telling him that his presidency has meant nothing and that the division of color is now bigger than ever.

“Obama doesn’t see this, but if a white cop shot one of his daughters I don’t imagine he’d be willing to accept the exoneration of that white cop,” he said.

Morrissey, who projected images of police brutality and animal cruelty onstage and to crowds of gyrating millennials during his set at FYF Fest, denounced American police forces for targeting those without the means to fight back.

“I am wryly amused by all of these tough cop reality programs on American TV because it’s always white cops arresting the black or Hispanic poor, yet you don’t ever see the cops frisking a crooked lawyer or chasing a middle-class accountant who’s robbed millions from clients,” he said. “It’s always the extreme poor who are targeted by the cops because the poor have no influential friends and therefore can’t retaliate, and the cops know that they can play about with poor people.”

“The final point about Obama,” Morrissey added, “is that he doesn’t look overly African black. He’s as close to soft, whiteness as someone who isn’t white could get, and I often wonder if he would have been elected if he had a stronger, more African-black face? It’s a point.”

Moz has strong opinions on the potential successors to Obama, too. On stage Sunday, Morrissey, who has a devoted Hispanic following, begged thousands of fans not to elect Donald Trump. Morrissey tells The Daily Beast he’s skeptical of a future where The Donald is running the White House. “Can you imagine the international stage announcing the arrival of President Trump? On the basis of his name alone he can’t be allowed to represent America,” he said.

He had scorn for the once Trump-friendly Fox News, too.

“Fox News were pushing Jeb Bush insanely until they realized that Trump had jumped ahead, so now they don’t even mention Jeb Bush... which proves how insincere their words were in the first place,” he said. “Republican states in America have higher crime rates than Democratic states, and you only need watch one airing of Fox News to see the crackpot fraternity wielding their utter nonsense. They give an air of not believing it themselves, yet just yattering non-stop with the hope of sounding informed.”

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, “has no competition” in the current Democratic race. “I think she shows an earnest composure, whereas all of the Republican candidates are dangerously reactionary and occasionally insane,” said Morrissey. “I don’t think Clinton has even begun to dig into the race yet, and when she does she will gain massive support. The world does not want to look at Donald Trump’s face for the years to come.”

But is the world ready to embrace Hillary? “Just to be able to say or hear the words ‘the president, she’ will be a new age of enlightenment for America... even if Margaret Thatcher was so abysmal that she became the first and last female prime minister. British politics will never again trust a woman because of Thatcher. And, in actual fact, it hasn’t.”

Sunday’s audience at the Main Stage of FYF Fest was treated to scathing images of the British royalty during Morrissey’s set, like Drake PowerPoint-roasting Meek Mill—Queen Elizabeth flipping the bird, William and Kate pegged with the caption “United King-DUMB.” The man who once asked Margaret Thatcher “When will you die?” on his debut album Viva Hate slammed current British Prime Minister David Cameron for his ineffectual tenure, blaming Cameron for a rippling sense of dissatisfaction across the U.K.

“When the results of the recent U.K. election came through there was a terrible cloud of uselessness across the country... a question of why we are always stuck with this blocked regime of elitism. This is why British people are never happy,” he concluded. “If David Cameron left British politics tomorrow he would be impossible to recall by the following week. It’s astonishing how someone can represent the entire country whilst also not meaning anything at all to the populace.

“Perhaps this is how politics must always be,” Morrissey continued. “Only a certain type is drawn into it, and they are always impassioned people. As I listen to news of more nuclear weapons, fracking, further airport runways, you can only conclude that the business of politics gets further and further away from what the people want. What is the point of nuclear weapons... designed to destroy millions... whilst you also incinerate yourself once you press the button? It’s quite pathetic.

“The British government takes billions of pounds from the taxpayer in order to extend nuclear plans, whilst people die in British hospitals because there’s no money to fund their treatments. The scientists who devise nuclear weapons are the world’s most evil people, yet if I accidentally ran a child over I’d be sent to prison for six years. It’s funny how arbitrary the law is when it comes to killing. If you kill, for example, with political control as the result, then it’s thought to be OK. As long as political control is the final aim then you can destroy whomever you wish and it isn’t termed murder.”

“World peace is none of your business
Police will stun you with their stun guns
Or they’ll disable you with tasers
That’s what government’s for”

— “World Peace Is None Of Your Business”

Morrissey is still promoting his single “Kiss Me A Lot” from his politically pointed 10th studio album, World Peace Is None Of Your Business, which he recorded and released last year. In addition to his first authored novel, he’s already announced plans for a new album and says he’s taking inspiration yet again from the world around him.

“I see change everywhere now, and I find it very exciting,” he said. “The world won’t keep still for a single second. The old guard is falling everywhere, and people power is exhilarating. It’s as if people have finally realized that they no longer need to be afraid. Even the immigrant rush across the Mediterranean is interesting because, whether you like it or not, it shows people saying no more destitution—we want what you’ve got, and not the poverty that you impose upon us simply because we’re not a distant, useless relative of Prince Phillip.

Morrissey famously declared himself a “humasexual” after decades of speculation over his sexuality, and after revealing in his 2013 memoir that he’d had a two-year relationship with a man during his 30s. In a year of tremendous visibility for the LGBT movement, particularly within the trans community, it’s been impossible not to take note of those who’ve stepped into the limelight for the cause. What does Morrissey make of the efforts that celebrity advocates like Caitlyn Jenner have made to bring visibility to the mainstream?

“I assume the Caitlyn Jenner explosion was a glut of PR companies pushing insanely because I don’t know anyone who felt that interested,” said Morrissey. “I believe in humasexuality... we are all human and we are all attracted to humans. To chip it down to tags and tote-bags simply creates division. I could only be concerned by a person’s sexuality if it directly affected me, which it never does. I do not feel asexual, but technically it appears as if I am because I don’t feel any raging affiliation with anything.”

It’s been 27 years since the convention-shirking bard of Britain went solo, sparking a celebrated career heralded as one of the most influential artists of his era. Now 56 and a veteran of over a dozen record labels in that time, Morrissey describes the difficulties even he has weathering the shifting priorities of the industry.

“Obviously I find it increasingly difficult with record labels because of my age,” he lamented. “They want to sign their own new discoveries and they don’t want someone who has a history with other labels. I miss the art of the 7 inch and 12 inch disc, and even the chance to record... yes, of course you can do it yourself, but it’s still only the artists with the major machinery who have visibility.”

He also clarified the cancer diagnosis he received, describing his condition as “not remotely life-threatening.” “Most people have cancer within, and mostly dormant, and mine is too insignificant to debate,” he said, waving off the notion that he’s battling the disease. “I raised the point once with a Swedish newspaper and I had no idea that so many people would be interested. But at this stage, it’s nothing, and I regret saying anything in the first place because people evidently think I’m hanging off a cliff by my teeth.”

He praised street artist Banksy, who grabbed international headlines by unveiling his Disney-skewering Dismaland, naming Banksy’s Action Man and Sirens of the Lambs pieces as his favorites. “I don’t see it as socially-subversive, and neither does anyone else that I know,” he said. “It is truth, and that’s why it rings so many bells... alarm bells often.”

And finally, Morrissey detailed the intimidating experience he had when, he alleges, a TSA agent violated him during a routine security check. TSA has not yet responded to his complaint beyond their initial statement.

“People ask me why I didn’t retaliate, but I think we all know how the American police machine works, and I’d be no good to anyone with a bullet in my head,” Morrissey said. “Yes, it was provocation on their part, but as soon as you physically defend yourself they simply drag you off to private rooms and that’s the end of you. There are no laws in America to protect us from the police, and this is an exploding concern.”

We live in an age when we’ve been forced to accept extreme invasions of personal privacy as necessary for our own post-9/11 safety. Morrissey questions whether it’s all just for show. “I once asked a friend who worked at LAX if all of the extreme security actually works, and she whispered to me, ‘Not really!’ The unfortunate aspect of all of this inconvenience is that it is rooted in the Iraq invasions of Bush and Blair, yet Bush and Blair receive extensive protection wherever they go whereas the rest of us are treated like terrorists simply because we turn up at an airport with a passport.”

“Once you go through so-called security... removing your shoes, your belts, your jewelry, laptops, any skin care... and all done at a humiliating breakneck speed... well it’s so repulsive that you just want to turn around and go home,” he said, describing the hell that is going through airport security—sans groping, even—to a tee. “Thank you, Bush and Blair. We feel so much more secure now!”