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Actor has become '9/12 Republican'

Ron Silver
Ron Silver

SAN FRANCISCO — For years, Ron Silver was a partisan Democrat — a one-time president of the Actors' Equity union and co-founder of the Creative Coalition, which encourages left-leaning political activism among celebrities. He even played Bruno Gianelli, the Machiavellian political consigliere to Democratic President Jed Bartlet on TV's "The West Wing."

But everything changed for Silver after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Now he calls himself a "9/12 Republican."

A strong supporter of Israel and the war in Iraq, Silver spoke at the Republican National Convention and is featured prominently in a new documentary, "Fahrenhype 9/11," a searing indictment of Michael Moore's blockbuster film.

Silver says his political change of heart and outspoken support of President Bush has exacted a high professional cost in Hollywood, where Republicans are a decidedly rare breed.

"It's affected me very badly. I can't point to a person or a job I've lost, but this community is not very pluralistic," Silver said. "I haven't worked for 10 months."

It's been just a few weeks since the Republican gathering in New York where Silver made his first high-profile splash on Bush's behalf. Skeptics in the entertainment industry question how Silver can trace a drop-off of career opportunities in such a short time.

When Silver decided to hit, he hit hard — using his convention speech in large part to lash out at Hollywood and the hypocrisy he sees in its politics.

"I find it ironic that many human rights advocates and outspoken members of my own entertainment community are often on the front lines to protest repression, for which I applaud them," Silver said. "But they are usually the first ones to oppose any use of force to take care of these horrors that they catalogue repeatedly."

Silver shows particular venom for Michael Moore, whose "Fahrenheit 9/11" documentary broke box-office records and just came out on DVD. In "Fahrenhype 9/11," Silver teams with former Clinton adviser Dick Morris and others to deconstruct Moore's movie. They score strong points when some of the subjects — an Oregon state trooper, a maimed soldier, the aunt of a young man killed in Iraq — say Moore had no business involving them in his film.

Silver's film has sold more than 200,000 copies on the Internet since its release Oct. 5.

"Michael Moore and that faction of the party was one of the factors that did not let me support the Democratic nominee this year," Silver said. "He is a charlatan in a clown suit. I compare him to Leni Riefenstahl and Goebbels," referring to Adolf Hitler's infamous propagandists.

Margery Tabankin, who advises Barbra Streisand and other Hollywood heavyweights on their political giving, said Silver's views, behavior and claims about his career are in keeping with his persona.

"Ron loves controversy, he loves to say the contrarian thing. That's who he is," Tabankin said. She dismissed Silver's claim about losing jobs, pointing to Republican actors Bruce Willis and Tom Selleck whose careers have sizzled over the years.

Also, Silver is 58, and Hollywood's love affair with youth and the "next big thing" may have affected Silver's career more than a shift in his political sensibilities.

Barry Greenberg, a Hollywood agent who for many years was a member of the Wednesday Morning Group, a gathering of entertainment industry conservatives, agreed that while the facts may not prove the notion of political blackballing in Hollywood, it remains strongly rooted in lore.

"There has always been the great perception in the industry, that (Hollywood) is run by liberal Democrats and that those of us who are conservative don't work," Greenberg said. "I have spent 23 years in the industry and there is plenty of rumor and innuendo that Charlton Heston lost work and so on."

But both Greenberg and Tabankin note that Hollywood is always more about business than politics.

"I think studios and networks and cable companies are interested in projects that will make them money," Tabankin said. "I don't know anyone who doesn't hire someone based on their politics if they think that person is right for the project."

As for Silver, he remains committed to campaigning and speaking out for Bush no matter the consequences, real or imagined. While he continues to take a liberal stance on issues such as abortion rights and stem cell research, he has officially registered as an Independent.

"I know John Kerry, I like John Kerry and I respect him, but he is the candidate of the party," Silver said. "And if it's the party of Howard Dean, Dennis Kucinich and Michael Moore, then it's not my party."