In June of last year, then Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump received his first—and one of his only—endorsements from a publication. It came courtesy of The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi and white supremacist website. The Daily Stormer’s stated goal, according to founder Andrew Anglin, is “to ethnically cleanse White nations of non-Whites and establish an authoritarian government. Many people also believe that the Jews should be exterminated.” In the wake of Trump’s shock victory, Anglin urged his readers to troll mourning pro-Clinton liberals into committing suicide.
As if that weren’t enough, Trump also received endorsements from the American Nazi Party, whose chairman felt a Trump victory would present “a real opportunity” for the white nationalist movement, as well as the Crusader, otherwise known as the official newspaper of the KKK. And over the course of the campaign, both Trump and his eldest son, Donald Jr., shared anti-Semitic memes that originated on neo-Nazi message boards, while Don Jr. and Eric Trump gave interviews to white nationalist-affiliated outlets.
The Trump camp’s seeming embrace of the white nationalist movement, and their utter refusal to condemn any and all anti-Semitism spread in Trump’s name, is particularly puzzling when you consider the fact that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who Trump advisers have called his “real campaign manager,” is an Orthodox Jew. It’s even more baffling when you take into account how Trump’s own daughter, Ivanka, converted to Orthodox Judaism to marry him.
“We’re pretty observant, more than some, less than others,” Ivanka told Vogue last year. “It’s been such a great life decision for me. I am very modern, but I’m also a very traditional person, and I think that’s an interesting juxtaposition in how I was raised as well. I really find that with Judaism, it creates an amazing blueprint for family connectivity.”
This conundrum baffles Rob Reiner, the celebrated filmmaker behind the movies This Is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally…, The Princess Bride, and many more.
“I don’t understand Jared Kushner at all. What is he doing? He’s turning his back on his religion and his heritage just so he can make money? I don’t get it. I just can’t wrap my mind around it,” Reiner, who is Jewish, tells The Daily Beast.
“The whole time while all those anti-Semitic memes were being passed on throughout the campaign, [Trump] certainly must have known, and his sons Eric and Don Jr. must have known they were retweeting things from anti-Semitic websites,” he adds. “Even if you want to cut them all the slack in the world, they have never to this day said, ‘This is absolutely unacceptable and abhorrent that we are being supported by these groups of people.’ They’ve never said it! So they’re completely comfortable with the idea that anti-Semitic and racist groups are supporting them.”
Reiner, a longtime Democrat, has a strange connection to Team Trump. He is the co-founder of Castle Rock Entertainment, a production company that produced many of Reiner’s films and developed a number of TV shows. Castle Rock was founded in 1987, and in 1989, they struck a deal with Westinghouse Electric to inject $48 million of equity into the company in exchange for a 15 percent ownership stake. Then, in the early ‘90s, Ted Turner wanted to buy Castle Rock, so Westinghouse hired the boutique investment bank Bannon & Co. to broker the deal for their cut of the company. In lieu of a fee, Bannon & Co. accepted a portion of Castle Rock—including profit participation in five shows, one of which was a then struggling sitcom called Seinfeld. When the show sold into syndication, Bannon & Co.—including its founder, Steve Bannon—hit the jackpot. Bannon, who is a racist, would later achieve notoriety first as an absolutely terrible documentary filmmaker, then as the chief executive of the alt-right website Breitbart, and finally as Trump’s campaign manager turned chief strategist—making him the Karl Rove of the Trump administration. The KKK and American Nazi party celebrated the news. Reiner felt ill.
“If you read the stuff that’s posted on Breitbart, it’s more than a dog whistle to white supremacists—it’s a dog bullhorn,” Reiner says of the racist and sexist site. “They print all this crap on there, then Trump takes this idea on and rides it all the way to the presidency.”
Reiner had been fairly visible this election season, touting Hillary on the HBO program Real Time with Bill Maher and embarrassing the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe for toadying to Trump. The filmmaker is angry with the media for the way they balanced Trump’s endless array of transgressions with Hillary’s emails. “You look at the media and the way it covered things and think, what is going on here? How are we giving this man who’s a pathological liar, a misogynist, a racist, and a fraud—how are we letting him have a free pass and we’re holding her up to emails like there’s some sort of goddamn false equivalency?” he exclaims.
“And Trump’s appearance on Jimmy Fallon was disgraceful. Jimmy Fallon messing up his hair was absolutely disgraceful,” adds Reiner. “This man is a racist misogynist who should be called out at every turn. He’s not a nice guy. There’s no ‘regular guy’ here. And if you don’t call him out, you’re basically giving him a free pass.”
Nobody has seemed more stunned by the election results than President-elect Trump, who was so convinced he was going to lose he didn’t have any transition plan in place (by comparison, Mitt Romney had hundreds of pages of federal policy transitions written out—as well as an entire transition website—back in 2012). Like many Americans, Reiner isn’t sure why Trump fought so hard for a job he doesn’t even seem to want. “Trump knows how to promote himself and I think that’s done out of a sheer desperation for wanting to be liked,” says Reiner. “It seems to me like this guy’s got a big hole in his heart and he’s doing whatever he can to try to fill it. I don’t think even the presidency is going to do that for him, and I think that’s what he’s going to discover.”