“Star Encourages People to Vote on Blind Faith”
January 19, 1999, 1:00am

“It’s okay to be as fiercely loyal to Bill Clinton as Barbra Streisand is. It’s okay for a celebrity to appear at stump speeches. It’s even okay for a celebrity to use her star power to help a candidate raise money. But when Streisand went online the day before the elections and gave the Democrats what amounted to a free hour-long advertisement, she went too far. The well-publicized online chat drew 41,000 hits from Streisand’s hoards of fans, who were told by their idol to vote for the Democrat in their district. But the star wasn’t familiar with all the races, so her advice was based almost entirely on her blind faith in Clinton.”


Barbra Streisand’s Letter to George:

I’m writing to set the record straight on the Editor’s Picks item in the January 1999 issue about my pre-election Internet chat, in which I encouraged people to vote. Specifically, I’m concerned about your comment that when I “went online the day before the election and gave the Democrats what amounted to a free hour-long advertisement, [I] went too far.” While it is fair to question the content of what I said, it concerns me that as journalists you would question my right to say it. The last time I checked, the Internet was supposed to be an open forum for the free exchange of ideas. No one is forced to go online or join in on a chat. The choice is theirs.

In addition, your comment that because I “wasn’t familiar with all the races, [my] advice was based almost entirely on blind faith in Clinton” continues a long-standing prejudice that when people in the arts, and particularly in Hollywood, address political issues, they are overstepping their bounds into an arena they know little about. Besides being an unfair generalization, it is just not true. While I am a strong supporter of President Clinton and many of his policies, blind faith had nothing to do with my decision to endorse certain candidates. My staff and I examined the voting records of various candidates. Of the nearly 362 Democrats running for the House of Representatives, the 34 Democrats running for the Senate, and the 38 Democrats running for gubernatorial seats (a total of 434 candidates), I endorsed fewer than 200. If I were [deciding on] blind faith, wouldn’t I have endorsed them all?

My decision was based on where a candidate stood on seven key issues: preserving the environment, ensuring a woman’s right to choose, reforming education, strengthening gun-control laws, fighting for health care reform, saving Social Security, and increasing the minimum wage. I agreed with about 85 percent of the candidates I endorsed on all seven issues. The rest I differed with on a couple of topics, but their views on the remaining issues made up for it. Thus, I made the decision to support them.

Although I am a Democrat, I have on occasion supported Republicans and Independents. Among those were John Lindsay, a former mayor of New York; Lowell Weicker, a former U.S. Senator and governor of Connecticut; and Representative Bernie Sanders from Vermont. I judge each candidate by his or her record and not by party affiliation, but it is obvious that there are more Democrats than Republicans who share my positions. For this very reason, I have tended not to give my money to candidates through the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which support all Democrats, regardless of their position on specific issues. Instead, I have chosen to work with candidates directly or through such progressive groups as the [now defunct] Hollywood Women’s Political Committee, the National Committee for an Effective Congress, and EMILY’s List. This way, I can be sure which specific candidates my money is going to support.

The next time you write something, it would be good to check your facts, not to mention the Constitution. Who could have imagined that in this day and age, journalists would question a person’s right to express his or her views? So much for freedom of speech. What will be next: Do I dare say freedom of the press?

Barbra Streisand
Los Angeles