Pamela Anderson Defends Assange and Putin: ‘Everything Is So Anti-Russia’
The cultural icon sat down with Marlow Stern to discuss her Ride Responsibly initiative, the mission to pardon pal Julian Assange, and much more.
Pamela Anderson would like to set the record straight.
The Baywatch icon turned ardent activist has grown close to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in recent years, which has led to rampant speculation about the nature of their relationship. She thinks it’s “crazy” that they’ve been linked romantically and speaks fondly of her actual beau, Marseille footballer Adil Rami; she “doesn’t believe there’s a link between Julian and Russia;” she is adamant that “Julian represents everything America does when it comes to true information and freedom of speech;” and she has not been asked to participate in the Mueller investigation, and “would prefer not to speculate” about whether she would.
On a sunny June afternoon, Anderson paid a visit to The Daily Beast’s New York office to discuss her partnership with the National Limousine Association’s Ride Responsibly initiative, whose aim is to promote safety awareness in ride-hailing apps like Uber. It’s only the latest in a long line of endeavors for the 51-year-old, who’s been sounding the alarm on animal rights and environmental protection since the ‘90s. She also wrote a letter to former President Obama arguing for the legalization of marijuana and has recently, through her Pamela Anderson Foundation, supported activists and whistleblowers around the world.
These days, she’s traded Malibu for Marseille—thus achieving her “life goal” of living in the South of France. “I’m so grateful that I’m there,” she says. “I have my boulangerie, I drive my little car around with my dog. I love the energy, and I love that part of the world.”
Perhaps it’s the caffeine—or the jet lag—but Anderson is a font of energy, speaking fast (and fluently) on a wide variety of subjects. Over the course of an hour, we discussed everything from her unique bond with Assange and her thoughts on WikiLeaks’ election activities to the chaotic Trump administration.
How did ride-hailing app safety become an issue of great concern for you?
It’s so commonly used and I’ve never really felt comfortable with it myself. I also have two young boys and see young girls using it all the time by themselves. I realized that these drivers aren’t vetted, so there’s danger involved, and there’s this false sense of security because it’s an app, so felt it was something I could bring awareness to. Then to find out that the drivers are also exploited by the company, as it’s a part of this gig economy where they’re not supplying them with health care or any kind of rights as an employee, it all started feeling really seedy. And it’s a big business and the people are really successful who run these companies, and they need to do it right. Now riders have these panic apps and things, which shows you that it’s probably not a good idea to get an Uber if you need a panic app!
They do make it incredibly difficult to report any serious problems.
It’s your word against theirs, and you’re really getting into a locked vehicle with a complete stranger. I’m suggesting that drivers go through the same kind of screenings as taxi drivers do, and also that the drivers are treated as employees and not third-party providers, so they take responsibility for their employees and give them the benefits that they deserve so you get a more qualified driver. It’s really important because it’s such a big part of all of our lives, and there’s so many assaults happening. We’re just trying to make things safer, and hopefully if we bring awareness to it, these companies will come around and put those safeguards in place.
A recent Ride Responsibly PSA you released drew a line between the dangers of ride-hailing apps and the #MeToo movement. What was the thought process behind that ad?
It was happening at the time when we were putting the commercial together, and we thought it was really, really important to draw attention to this movement, and how this is part of it. It’s also about taking the initiative of preventing these things from happening to yourself, and I’ve been saying this a lot in different places and it hasn’t been received that well because people perceive that I’m victim-blaming—and I’m not. I’m just a girl who had a great mom who taught me to protect myself in a given situation, and I think that’s what we need to do. We need to not have this false sense of security that these things are safe—and also when it comes to going to a hotel. So we have to take preventative measures, and it’s not victim-blaming, because obviously the perpetrator is always at fault, but we have to be more vigilant about protecting ourselves.
One of the things that’s being corrected by the #MeToo movement is the insidious casting-couch culture in Hollywood, which has been around since its inception. It’s disgusting that it had been reduced to a cliché, the “casting couch.” I know you’ve spoken about a creepy incident with Steven Seagal while auditioning for Under Siege.
Right. It had been accepted as part of the culture. I’ve had a lot of creepy moments, but I got out of there fast [with Seagal]. No job is worth disrespecting yourself. I’ve been offered many campaigns and “private auditions” and they didn’t make sense to me. I thought, this doesn’t mean that much to me, and this is not how I’m going to do it. I’m not that ambitious.
Are there any incidents—besides the one with Seagal—that stick out for you in Hollywood, where your alarm bells were really going off and you thought, “I gotta get out of here?”
So many. And the thing is, people like to think that the Playboy Mansion was a sleazy place, but it was so elegant and chic and people were very respectful to each other—probably because going there they knew that it was this freer kind of environment. The women were beautiful and fun, there were artists, and it was this crazy, fun, wild time, but it was very respectful. It wasn’t creepy. Lots of things happened at the Playboy Mansion but it was all consensual.
You’ve been an activist for quite some time now, and I believe it began with PETA and fighting for animal rights.
My beginning as an activist was to defend animals. Since I was little I was always protecting animals in my neighborhood—I was always protected the three-legged dog, or a bird with a broken wing, and I had a cat that walked sideways. All the misfits. I just always felt an affinity with them. Then my father was hunting and I didn’t really put it together what that was, and then when I was about seven, I found a dead deer hanging upside down with no head in the backyard and I realized that was meat. Even my father said he was just doing it out of habit with his friends, where they’d have a beer and go hunting and kill a deer, and he’d never looked at it through the eyes of a child, and how traumatic that could be. So he stopped hunting immediately. I wasn’t having that. [Laughs]
I’ve lived in the woods and on the ocean, which gave me a great respect for the environment. And then with socialism and politics, and Canada versus America, and health care, everything that I learned I applied to my life and my cause, and then I met Julian [Assange] and got involved with the Courage Foundation. I recently started a new foundation called Activist Tenure—an extension of my foundation which I think is the most important thing that I’ve done and the most important thing that I will do. It’s based on academic tenure, so we pick ten activists a year and we pay their salary. These are career activists, so if they’re being harassed by governments or the law they have money to defend themselves. We need these people to be active. Paul Watson, Julian [Assange] and Vivienne [Westwood] are on the board.
You met Julian through Vivienne, right? How did that happen?
Yes. You know, it was really funny because I write a lot of poetry and I put Julian in one of my poems. I don’t even remember if I published it, but somehow he heard about it and read it, and he was talking to Vivienne and wanted to meet me—and I wanted to meet him. So I finally went in [to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London] and it was a funny conversation, because he was like, “Why am I in this? Why do you know me? How do you know me?” And I said, well, I wanted to ask your advice: I want to know how to be more effective as an activist—because I do believe he’s one of the leaders of the free world who’s very beloved and admired by young people, mostly. Information is happening so fast and is so rapidly moving that we need someone like Julian to help us understand and make sense of it all, and I don’t understand why he’s the enemy.
So that first meeting it’s you, Julian and Vivienne at the embassy?
No, it was just Julian and I—because I came on the wrong day… or she said the wrong day. We don’t know who made the mistake! So I went to the embassy, buzzed the buzzer, said who I was, and we had this long conversation. There were a lot of people in the room and then slowly it was just him and I. Then I came a few months later and started bringing him vegan food and made sure he was exercising, because I was worried about his health—his skin was transparent. I learned a lot about him and we have a lot of mutual friends, so it’s nice to keep his spirits up. And he is a testimony to the human spirit. He’s been in a small room for six years and now he’s being squeezed—his internet’s been taken away, he can’t have visitors, he can’t have phone calls. If I’m curious about what Julian’s going through, I follow Julian’s mother, Christine, online. She’s fantastic and talks about him as a curious young boy.
With Julian, I heard that you’d reached out to Kanye West to try to get in Trump’s ear about possibly pardoning Julian.
Yeah. Well you know, I try to think about my friendships—and my friends who have a lot of access to people—and I look at them and wonder why they’re not doing more. So I reached out to [Kanye] and I also gave Kim [Kardashian] a fake fur coat, and she’s sworn off fur, which is great. I’ve known Kim and Kanye for a long time. I don’t really see them too much, but with Kanye, I don’t know, I think he’s a really interesting guy. His thing is his thing and he’s very unique. We need more unique figures.
Do you think that message is actually gonna get passed along to Trump?
Ah, who knows. I saw Alec Baldwin the other day at Match Game and asked him, “How do you get along with Trump?” and he’s like, “Ah, not great.” I said, “Well, if you get Julian a pardon maybe he could host Saturday Night Live!”—because Julian is really funny and not a lot of people know that.
I’ve seen his dance moves… and they’re pretty funny.
You’ve seen Julian dance?
There’s video of him dancing in a club and he has some pretty elaborate dance moves.
I’ve never seen the dance moves! But okay, he’s a human being and he dances in a club.
Trump’s said a lot of things about whistleblowers—Julian included—and he doesn’t appear to be the biggest fan of theirs. How confident are you that Trump would pardon Julian?
I don’t know. You never know what’s in that brain, right? You never know. But I think that public support is really important. If he sees that the public loves Julian—and are wanting true information—and humanize Julian, then I think it’s a possibility. Anything is possible. But it’s not comforting to know that he’s the No. 1 wanted man in America. The way people speak about him is frightening.
I think public support of Julian was higher prior to the 2016 election, when WikiLeaks appeared to target the Democratic Party.
I don’t think it was “targeting,” it was just releasing true information that I’d want to know before I vote. I know Hollywood’s very angry with Julian. I get a lot of flak too for being his friend but I can usually talk people down after about ten minutes. What are you so angry at? He’s not a serial killer, he’s exposing war crimes. He’s against war and so am I. It’s just propaganda, you know? People are fed all this information and don’t even know why they’re mad. If you really think about it, what is he doing wrong? He’s exposed powerful people doing bad things and those powerful people are spreading propaganda to destroy him and his credibility. And he’s being pushed out of the embassy and then will be extradited to America, and I don’t think that would be a positive experience. But maybe it will be. Maybe then it will be all over the place in the courts and everything will be revealed.
The thing about WikiLeaks and the election though is that all the leaks only affected one candidate—Hillary Clinton. It was strange to many that, given his myriad scandals and payoffs and what have you, there were no WikiLeaks leaks involving Trump.
If there was material supplied to WikiLeaks [about Trump] they would have put it out for sure.
But there was also communication between members of the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks. Donald Trump Jr. was DMing with WikiLeaks, Roger Stone met with Julian and pressed him for Clinton dirt. Those are just some of the things that gave people the impression that there could have been coordination between WikiLeaks and team Trump.
Has anyone even found his tax returns? I don’t think those have even come out.
Two pages of an old return was leaked to The New York Times but it wasn’t much.
Well obviously there’s a lot more information and a lot more crazy things that have happened with the Clintons, and people had access to different things to supply to WikiLeaks—like Libya and things like that. Not just tax returns or reality shows.
We talked about ride safety and sexual assault, and I know Julian is a good friend of yours but he’s been accused of sexual assault by two women.
Yes, but they were made-up things and they were thrown out because it was made-up and probably an attempt to keep him kind of…
I’m sure you two have discussed those allegations.
Yes. It was devastating for him. Devastating for him. It was really difficult. He’s in the position he’s in because of all these different crazy events that happened that he’s had to manage. I went through all of the case and everything—and there was also the UN ruling that said he was arbitrarily detained and shouldn’t be there. When you look through everything you see that there were so many different attempts to be available, and they just made it impossible.
Did you see Laura Poitras’ documentary on Julian?
That was bad. He’s really trusted a lot of people to come into his circle and they’ve really let him down. With the Poitras situation, I think she got concerned with winning another Oscar instead of the truth. There were so many different things that muddied the water with her.
What were your issues with the documentary?
I don’t know. It’s just another poor example of representation. I don’t know… I think he’s given up on the documentary thing.
Now, I don’t know if it’s sexism or what but anytime you hang out with an international figure, whether it’s Julian Assange or Vladimir Putin, the tabloid media then connects you to them romantically.
I have such a sexy life! I’m very diverse! What is my type? [Laughs] It is sexism.
But now I have to ask: are the rumors of romantic relationships with Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin true?
It’s all crazy. It’s funny how your relationships do get reduced to some kind of sexual relationship. I think the world of Julian, I really do, and I think he’s an important person that needs to be protected, and that bringing any attention to him helps keep him safe. My role is to let people know that he’s a human being and not just a robot or a computer, and that he’s really sacrificing a lot for all of us. He hasn’t seen sunlight in six years. His skin is transparent. He doesn’t have access to doctors outside the embassy. And now I’m very concerned with how he’s being pushed out of the embassy. Something could happen any day now. We don’t know.
One mutual friend that you and Julian share is Vladimir Putin. Your connection to Putin dates back years, right? Around 2009?
It was way before then. It was about not importing seal products into Russia, because I want to stop the seal hunting in Canada—and being Canadian, that is such a stain on Canada. I worked closely with Brigitte Bardot and Russia’s IFAW [International Fund for Animal Welfare], so this is why I’ve spoken at the Kremlin a few times with the minister of the environment, and they’ve made such great changes when it comes to protecting endangered species. It’s a different way of doing business there, obviously, and I don’t agree with everything, but the things that I’ve been involved in there, things move very fast and it’s good to see that they’re so forward-thinking when it comes to the environment.
Many Americans believe in one version of Putin, but as someone who’s visited the Kremlin several times and met with him, what do you think of Putin?
We’re programmed in America to think that if anything’s gone wrong it’s Russia’s fault. It’s just the go-to thing to do. So that’s kind of a common joke there when I go to visit. They say, “Well, what have we done wrong this time?” And it’s authentic. People around the table are very, very powerful people, and they have this look of, “What now? Tell us what’s going on!” It’s authentic. And I’ve also had conversations when I was there about the captivity of dolphins and the illegal captivity of whales—that are then being sold to Chinese aquariums—and I’ve seen teary eyes in the room. People just think Russians are very scary and stoic but they can be very emotional, very engaged and wanting to do the right thing. It’s annoying. America can be very annoying, how everything is so anti-Russia.
You have a book out too.
The book was supposed to be called The Sensual Revolution. It’s out now and you can get it on Amazon and in some bookstores. I always talk about how living a romantic life is about being engaged in the world. Compassion is sexy and activism is sexy. And it kind of transformed into this book about relationships. With so much access online, everything is so blurred, and I really believe in committed relationships and finding love. Everybody’s a rock star now, so I think the cool thing is to be married or in a committed relationship. It’s the nouveau sexy thing to do—to not follow the herd in accumulating notches on your belt. I think we’re stronger in pairs, and considering the state the world is in now, we need each other. It’s actually more rebellious. It’s more interesting to unravel somebody—or be unraveled—and really be vulnerable.
That book is co-authored by Rabbi Schmuley Boteach, and a couple of years ago you two published an op-ed that was very critical of porn.
I think we imprint ourselves with information that we put into our bodies. I spoke at Cambridge and Oxford about this, and I had women coming up to me in tears—these were women in their twenties saying, “My boyfriend hasn’t touched me in four months, he’s in the basement looking at porn. What is wrong with me?” And they’re beautiful girls. They said, “It’s not like a teacher’s talking to us, it’s you, and we know you’re not a prude, and if you’re experiencing this and noticing this, then thank god, because we’re all talking about this but don’t know what to do.” And also they said, “My boyfriend wants me to do things that I’m not comfortable with but everybody else is doing it” and they think this is what love looks like—pornography. People are looking at porn at ten years old. And because I have two young boys, I’m very sensitive to this, and I tell them, that’s not what love looks like and to be respectful to women. It’s tough, because… what are we turning into? I’m not a prude—I’m a very open person sexually—but I think that it’s damaging.
Also, I have a friend whose daughter was just married for two months and she was walking to her job and was attacked in an alley. She was raped in every part of her body, her jaw was broken and her teeth were knocked out, and then she was left in a garbage can with a lid put on. She was in a coma for many weeks but thankfully came out of it and is still alive. It ended up being a 20-year-old boy who lived in his parents’ house and watched porn and played video games all day. So I think that violent porn is becoming more attractive too because people need more, and weirder, and crazier, and it’s creating monsters.
So you’re arguing that porn has gotten too extreme.
Well, everyone has to know what their version of porn is, too. Some people think Playboy is porn, and look, I think sexy things are fun.
I don’t think Playboy is porn at all.
We have to decide what porn is for ourselves, what is damaging, and what is replacing our relationships. If we’re not touching our wives and our girlfriends or boyfriends and are in the bathroom with our computer screens, I think that’s an addiction. It’s just too bad.
Are your views on porn and sexuality shaped at all by what happened to you in the ‘90s? Because you had a pair of sex tapes leak online of you. And it was almost at the dawn of the internet and file-sharing.
Trust me, yes—the worst. I think I was in the Guinness Book of World Records for “most downloaded” before the tape came out. It was devastating, and it was devastating to our marriage too, and really hard to get over. It was difficult on my family, on my kids, and everything. It was hard. Because Tommy [Lee] and I just filmed everything—Woo, we’re naked! Yay!—and someone spliced it together, called it something and put it out there. It was pretty embarrassing.
It ended up establishing this blueprint to fame that several women followed after, including Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian.
It was almost like a way to become famous. And they’re so sweet and I know they looked up to me, but they should never have done that. Why do that? [Laughs] But they… I don’t know. I guess I kind of started a trend, unfortunately.
I read the Hollywood Reporter interview you did, and it said that you attended one of Trump’s birthday parties in the ‘90s. Did he ever try with you?
I was paid like $500 to go, I think. But no, never. I don’t know which wife he was with, but he was with a wife. A blonde with a heavy accent. Aren’t they all blondes with heavy accents? Oh no, Melania is a brunette. I don’t know who he was with. And I don’t think he was lecherous. I think he was very kind and, thinking back, he was always very curious about how people were managing their lives, career and celebrity. I don’t know when it was, but I must have been doing something involved with activism and I remember he came up to me and said, “Good for you!”
But how do you feel about him as president? I mean, two of your big concern areas are animals and the environment, and this guy doesn’t give a damn about either. His two sons are big-game hunters who enjoy taking trips to Africa and murdering endangered species.
Yes, it’s terrible. I always have my go-to line about how big guns means small something else—but I’m not gonna say it. It’s compensation for something. Try other things. It’s terrible. And the environmental issues... But also, he’s been institutionalized. He’s out there in the world and he’s unpredictable but there’s a whole force around him too. The government is just strange right now.
You were on team Bernie Sanders during the election but ended up voting for Jill Stein.
But Jill bilked Americans out of $7 million.
Yes, there’s that too. I don’t know. The choices were difficult but I don’t believe in… just vote what you feel. Bernie I think would’ve done better [than Trump].
We’re about 500 days in. If you could go back and do it again, do you vote for Hillary? And do you think Hillary would have done a better job as president?
I don’t know. I have no idea. One thing Trump has done—and I’m not a supporter of Trump—is he’s kind of stirred things up, and everyone realizes there needs to be a new way. Because there was no right choice and people were fed up with the way our government was running. Hopefully there are people out there coming out with new ways.
One of the things about Trump is he has tremendous anxiety—the 6 a.m. tweets and all that. When you’re a leader with a lot of anxiety, you’re going to pass that on to the people.
It’s terrible. But, sitting with Assange right around the time of the election, he had no idea. He did not think Trump was going to win. He was shocked like everybody else. He didn’t think that they would allow it to happen.
You said that you reached out to Kanye but we did have Kim Kardashian recently visit the White House and successfully secure a pardon for Alice Marie Johnson. Are you trying to land a meeting with Trump to discuss a pardon for Julian?
I’d love to have a meeting with Trump. I would like to have a meeting at the White House but it just hasn’t happened. I sent a fake fur coat to Melania too, and she hasn’t worn fur since she got the coat. I said, please follow in the footsteps of other first ladies who didn’t wear fur. I would love to meet with Trump about Julian but there are so many more qualified people who I guess they’d want to listen to. I’ve spent a lot of time with him but the issues and concerns are very complicated. Julian is relentless with his fight and relentless with his vision and has incredibly smart people around him, so even if he’s taken out of the equation—hopefully not literally—the movement will still continue. People are fed up with how secretive governments are and there are a lot of skeletons in the closet of the American government. Those skeletons need to be brought to light so we can stop it.