CNN: Can conservatives find their footing in Hollywood in 2016?

Thursday, June 4, 2015
By: Maeve Reston, CNN

Los Angeles -- The West Coast has long been a fundraising bastion for Democrats -- famously fueling the long struggle between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential race when Hollywood's loyalties were divided. And George Clooney grabbed headlines in 2012 by raising a $15 million haul for Obama in one night.

But Republicans have raised plenty of money on the West Coast -- albeit more quietly than their Democratic rivals.

Now the Republican Jewish Coalition, with its roster of influential donors and board members, is looking to raise the profile of Hollywood conservatives at their annual gala Sunday night in Beverly Hills.

Arizona Sen. John McCain, New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson will be the featured guests at the gathering, but the Republican Jewish Coalition is also hosting its own red carpet to draw attention to more conservative actors and studio executives including Raquel Welch, Angie Harmon, Jeremy Boreing and Nick Searcy.

On Sunday night, the group plans to honor actor Jon Voight, who has often drawn headlines with his vociferous critiques of President Barack Obama's approach to foreign policy.

The group plans to praise Voight for his outspoken support of Israel, and specifically for responding publicly to an open letter signed by Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, as well as other Spanish actors, directors and writers that condemned the incursion into Gaza by the Israeli military last year. European press outlets reported that the letter signed by Cruz, Bardem and Pedro Almodovar urged a cease-fire and was critical of Israel's actions in Gaza.

In his opinion column in The Hollywood Reporter, Voight wrote that he was "heartsick that people like Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem could incite anti-Semitism all over the world and are oblivious to the damage they have caused."

Both Bardem and Cruz, who are married, issued statements after the event clarifying that they were expressing their wish for peace in the region.

"I am now being labeled by some as anti-Semitic, as is my wife -- which is the antithesis of who we are as human beings," Bardem said in a statement last year. "We detest anti-Semitism as much as we detest the horrible and painful consequences of war."

Nick Searcy of the FX series "Justified" said he and others would be attending the gala Sunday in part to honor Voight's advocacy for conservative causes as an example to others with similar political views.

"There are really are some (conservatives)" in Hollywood," Searcy told CNN in a telephone interview. "I've met them -- some of them will tell you who they are and some of them won't."

Searcy called political recognition of Voight by the Republican Jewish Coalition "a big step."

"Jon obviously has been very outspoken in his disagreements with the Obama-Democrat foreign policy, and at the same time, he doesn't seem to be hurting for work," Searcy said. "In a town like Hollywood -- where we're supposed to be about freedom of thought and freedom of expression -- it's good to see Jon practicing that."

Copyright CNN 2015. This article appeared on the CNN web site on June 4, 2015.