TOUGH TALK

Stephen Colbert Confronts Susan Sarandon About Her Trump Statements

The ‘Late Show’ host grilled the Oscar-winning actress about her ambiguous claim that Trump would “bring the revolution” if elected president over Hillary Clinton.

Richard Boeth

Susan Sarandon, the ageless, Oscar-winning actress and activist, is a cool lady. I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing her on several occasions, where she’s opened up to me about everything from her secretive affair with David Bowie to finding herself at Burning Man. She even penned an op-ed for The Daily Beast about her initiative to help get a woman on the $20 bill. One year later, the U.S. Treasury announced that Harriet Tubman would grace the twenty.

But Sarandon caused some waves during a March 2016 interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes where the Bernie Sanders supporter both chastised Hillary Clinton and appeared to favor Trump over her.

“Really, some people feel that Donald Trump will bring the revolution immediately if he gets in, things will really explode,” Sarandon told Hayes. Asked if she thinks that’s “dangerous,” she replied, “It’s dangerous to think that we can continue the way we are with the militarized police force, with privatized prisons, with the death penalty, with the low minimum wage, threats to women’s rights and think you can’t do something huge to turn that around.”

It’s a fairly ambiguous, possibly misconstrued statement, and one that Sarandon has had to constantly defend, with everyone from Chris Hayes (again) to Bill Maher giving her the business for it. Now, you can add Stephen Colbert to the list.

On Friday, the Late Show host sat down with Sarandon for a surprisingly contentious interview that saw the funnyman grill the actress on the aforementioned Trump statement.

“You said, ‘Some people feel that Trump might bring about the revolution immediately.’ A) How’s that going? What’s your assessment of how ‘the revolution’ is going?” asked Colbert. “Well, I’m so happy that you asked—not really, but OK we’ll get into it,” replied a visibly uncomfortable Sarandon. “Well, have you seen this many town hall meetings of people from all parties storming and knocking on the doors of their representatives and complaining and screaming and yelling?” “Not since 2010,” Colbert responded. “No. Not since the ‘70s, I think,” shot back Sarandon. “This is really out of control. Now there are town hall meetings everywhere. I saw one in California where they were screaming about ICE coming in and taking people. I mean, people are really awake now because ‘the cracks let the light in,’ as Leonard Cohen would say.”

The comedian didn’t let up. He continued to ask Sarandon why she feels it’s good that Trump, by being a bad president, is exposing the flaws in our political system. “Goldman Sachs has been in politics forever, and now we’re noticing because this guy is such a bozo that he’s just doing everything so badly that he’s not slick like everybody else,” said Sarandon, ignoring the fact that Hillary’s been dragged through the mud over her Goldman speeches for years—including by Trump. “All the fracking that’s been going on, the pipelines were all there before Trump got in… but now everybody’s awake, they’re energized, they’re calling their senators, they’re donating to all of these groups. You’re funnier, don’t you think? It’s doing great things for comedy.”

It’s a strange, Machiavellian—and frankly, privileged—argument: that the American public is learning a valuable lesson about the broken system by having millions of less fortunate folks suffer under a remarkably corrupt administration awash in cronyism. “Now when you say ‘revolution,’ let me ask you something, you revolutionary hippie: do you mean like revolution in the head, revolution in our hearts, revolution in political engagement?” asked Colbert. “All of the above,” replied Sarandon. “But do you mean like brick through the window, line the rich people up against the wall? Because revolutions eventually get there,” he added. “You’re watching the wrong movie—that’s not what we’re talking about,” Sarandon said. “No, I’m talking about people being engaged in the system, holding representatives responsible. We have to identify real progressives, people that are going to get us health care, college education, and infrastructure, and we’re in an oligarchy right now. And people were saying ‘we don’t want the status quo,’ ‘the status quo’s not working,’ and the only candidate, as stupid as he [was and] didn’t give any specifics, was the one that—I mean, it wasn’t Hillary Clinton. It was Trump. So people wanted a change, and now they’re getting something that they didn’t expect, but they’re writing and they’re calling and they’re young people. The millennials are on fire.”

That may be so, but these are still rather perilous times, and it’s hard to argue that Americans wouldn’t be better off under a President Hillary Clinton.