Celebrity Endorsements For The Win? | Crooked Media
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June 03, 2024
What A Day
Celebrity Endorsements For The Win?

In This Episode

  • We’re about five months away from election day, meaning both campaigns will do whatever they can to boost their standing with voters. One of the ways campaigns traditionally try to do this is with celebrity endorsements. But do they actually convince people to vote? Jared Clemons, assistant professor of political science at Temple University, walks us through the data.
  • And in headlines: Hunter Biden’s federal gun charge trial begins this week, Israel has agreed to President Biden’s proposed ceasefire deal for the war in Gaza, and former president and convicted felon Donald Trump has joined TikTok.
Show Notes:




Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, June 3rd. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What a Day. The pod that’s giving the singer Adele an ally award. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. Adele told an anti pride heckler at her concert over the weekend to not, quote, “be so fucking ridiculous.” And I’d just like to remind everyone this pride season, we’re here, we’re queer, and we got bricks y’all, okay? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Don’t be so fucking ridiculous is my quote of the year. [laugh] [music break] On today’s show, Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial is scheduled to begin today. Plus, former President Donald Trump joined TikTok and got a lot of followers fast. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, we are about five months away from Election Day, which means both of the campaigns will be doing whatever they can to boost their standing with voters. And one of the ways campaigns traditionally try to do this is with celebrity endorsements. Later this month, President Joe Biden is set to host a fundraiser here in L.A. with Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and former President Barack Obama. Last week, we saw Robert De Niro heckling Trump supporters outside of the Manhattan courtroom, where the former president was eventually convicted of covering up payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels to avoid damaging his 2016 campaign. But we’ve also seen Biden losing support from celebrities who backed him the last time around. Rapper Cardi B told Rolling Stone she wouldn’t be voting for anyone this election cycle. She had endorsed Biden in 2020, but says she feels like people got betrayed. And then the Rock also said he won’t endorse Biden again this year. Now, I’m not clear who exactly is getting their political behavior from Belcalis and Dwayne Johnson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Tre’vell Anderson: But these people have changed their minds, okay. They’re no longer endorsing. And then on the other side of the aisle a few weeks ago, we saw model, Amber Rose endorse Trump in a photo on Instagram. Now, she’s not as much of a household name as the others, right? But she still has 24 million Instagram followers. So, you know, that’s not nothing. 


Josie Duffy Rice: No, it’s not nothing. There was an era when she was relevant. It was brief but meaningful. Just kidding, not that meaningful. And we know the Biden campaign has been courting some other big endorsements, namely Taylor Swift. But do these kind of endorsements, like, actually really make a meaningful difference? Would Taylor make a meaningful difference? Like tell us what we know? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes and no, there’s some evidence to both. Right. And Taylor Swift is actually a good person to look at. Last year, she posted a little message on her Instagram encouraging her hundreds of millions of followers to register to vote. She linked to the nonpartisan, nonprofit vote.org, and that day, the organization said it recorded more than 35,000 new registrations. Now, of course, that may not all have been Swifties, but vote.org said it saw a huge spike in the hour after Swift’s posts. But just a few years earlier, in 2018, Swift decided to break her historic political silence for the first time and endorse congressional Democrats in Tennessee, where her career started. That included the Democratic candidate for Senate that year, Phil Bredesen. And if your first reaction to that name is who? Well, that’s not surprising, since he lost pretty handedly to Republican Marsha Blackburn despite winning Swift’s endorsement. So we’ve seen her influence lead to increased voter registration, but maybe not as much impact in the very tough place, right, for Democrats, that is Tennessee. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s an uphill battle to get a Democrat elected in Tennessee so. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I don’t know if we can draw too much about Taylor from that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. For sure. But to get a better sense of the role celebrity endorsements and celebrity campaign surrogates play in an election, I spoke with Jared Clemons. He’s an assistant professor of political science at Temple University in Philadelphia. I started by asking him whether endorsements really turn into voter support. 


Jared Clemons: Endorsements really only matter at the margins. It’s really the people that are kind of on the fence about participating, you know, maybe heard something about this politics stuff, but by and large, like, they’re kind of not really that politically active, not really into that type of thing. You know, the endorsements are something that elected officials or candidates want because they want to use that and put it on ads. Or run it in newspapers or so on and so forth. But there’s not a lot of evidence that it really is decisive. But it’s one of those things like no one wants to find out how decisive it might be. So everyone seeks them out. So it’s one of those things like, we don’t know for sure, but I don’t want to be the person to find out. But I personally don’t think, especially for people who are have generally voted for one side or the other, if Taylor Swift or Beyonce says they’re going to vote for this candidate, it’s really not going to make that big of a difference in the grand scheme of things, I think. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I love that you bring out Taylor Swift and Beyonce, right? Because we’re also in this moment where I feel like we are seeing on social media and whatnot,  John. Q Public wanting more of our celebrities to speak out right about these, you know, social and political issues, right? Waving my hand wildly at everything that’s going on. And so we do hear folks saying that. But then I also hear you saying that the data doesn’t show, right, that any of them necessarily speaking up changes voter behavior. Is that right? 


Jared Clemons: Yeah, exactly. So think about someone like Taylor Swift. Just to use her as an example. Like her fan base is typically going to be comfortably middle class, predominately white, [laugh] people who are going to more likely already be inclined to vote. They’re going to be aware of the candidates. They’re going to know what’s at stake. So like, you’re not going to need to convince them. The people you really are trying to hope to sway are maybe people who are deciding not between two candidates, but between participating at all versus not. And so I think that’s really what we should be thinking about in terms of endorsements. Like nobody’s deciding between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. Like that’s pretty settled. Now the wildcard is what do we do with third party candidates? So I live in Pennsylvania, for instance, which is a I mean, the margins from all indications are going to be very, very thin. And so either candidate is going to need every vote they can possibly get to win the state. And so if you have a candidate, let’s say like RFK Jr. or if Jill Stein is able to qualify for the ballot, could they potentially siphon off enough voters from one of the two candidates that maybe receives an outside endorsement from some candidates saying, hey, like, forget Democrats and Republicans, consider RFK Jr. That might potentially sway somebody who might look at one of these other candidates and be like, oh, okay, maybe they’re not like these other two. So maybe I’ll just give them my vote to feel like they have some sway. But I think that’s really where we should be looking. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So what I’m also hearing is that, you know, Amber Rose saying that she’s going to vote for Donald Trump, maybe not as revolutionary of a endorsement, but I do want to ask about, you know, we have seen in this moment particularly, you know, I’m Black, you Black, um we’ve seen a number of notable Black folks say, what I would say are foolish things publicly that could look like an endorsement of Donald Trump. And when I think of, like you mentioned, folks who aren’t politically engaged, right, to the levels that we may be randomly seeing Snoop Dogg say, for example, Donald Trump is cool with me. 


Jared Clemons: Right. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Is there a world where these folks are possibly making, you know, cousin [?], I say that lovingly, at least curious about, you know, looking into Trump as a potential option? 


Jared Clemons: So I’ve studied Black politics. And so one thing that’s becoming apparent is there is a very clear generational divide within the Black community, in the sense that Gen Z and like younger millennials, are less connected to the Democratic Party than Black people have been, at least since the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed in the mid 20th century. And there’s a host of reasons for that. I think one thing that doesn’t get discussed enough is the decline in churchgoing. So we know that historically and politically, the Black church has been really instrumental in getting um Black people to the polls to develop political sensibilities and to advance political knowledge. But people are not really going to church as much. So you’re losing that institutional setting that has typically kept Black people tethered to the Democratic Party. So a lot of younger people, especially younger Black people, are kind of they don’t really have that same relationship with the Democratic Party. And I so I’m a professor. So I teach a lot of young Gen Zers. And even when we talk about Obama, like they don’t have that same feeling of oh Obama that, you know, people like the millennials or even Gen Xers had. And so even people like Obama, who are often thrown out or put forth as a person or a figure that could potentially convince younger voters, younger Black voters to support the Democratic Party aren’t really as efficacious because they’re not seeing those figures in the same way that we are. And so I also don’t think that seeing Amber Rose or some other rapper saying that, oh, maybe you should, you know, give Trump another look. I don’t think that’s really make much of a difference either. I think the thing that would be most likely to happen among younger Black voters, especially, is either a third party vote or not participating at all. I would say that’s something to also look out for. We don’t really have these same institutional mechanisms to give people information pretty much. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, you know, and and you already mentioned this a little bit. We know that Biden has been struggling to court younger voters overall. There’s another poll out here from NPR that showed Biden and Trump virtually tied right now with voters under 45. A Pew Research poll found out that about a third of voters under 30 are getting their news from TikTok, which makes me itch. But I note all of this to ask is TikTok going to be this massive, like tool that we end up seeing used more and more? I know they be inviting TikTok influencers to the White House now and stuff. What’s your estimation in that regard? 


Jared Clemons: So that’s tricky because this is something that I don’t think the Biden administration has figured out. Because on one hand, so you remember when we were kind of growing up and developing our political sensibilities, there was like rock the vote. And like these other kind of high profile voter registration drives, we don’t really see that as much anymore. And really the reason is for that is because a lot of these big campaigns have really moved towards micro-targeting. So it’s less about trying to reach people generally, and more so about using the new technologies to identify certain aspects of our behavior that might make us more inclined to support one candidate over the other. So we’re collecting all this data on people to, like, target them with ads, with messaging and so on and so forth. But if you remember, the Biden administration has also supported the ban on TikTok, and part of the reason they’ve supported that ban is because they argue that it’s a national security issue. But really, what’s at play is that the Biden administration was really surprised by how much younger voters supported Palestine and how much they did not support what the United States was doing with Israel. So on one hand, they need TikTok to reach out to these younger voters, like you said, who get their news from this application, who go to TikTok to develop their political sensibilities. But by the same token, they don’t actually want them to see the images that are souring these younger people on the Biden administration. So they’re kind of caught between a rock and a hard place. And I don’t think they’ve really ironed out how to use the technology for their advantage. And I mean, time is ticking. There’s only, what, five ,six months until the election. And so whether or not they’re going to figure out how to, let’s say, accomplish that through the technology is kind of an open question. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Jared Clemons, assistant professor of political science at Temple University in Philadelphia. And for more on this topic, check out the latest episode of Inside 2024. John Legend joined Jon Favreau to talk about the impact of celebrity endorsements, his political origins, and why a second Trump presidency would be a disaster. Sign up for friends of the Pod on Apple Podcasts or learn more about our community at crooked.com/friends.


Josie Duffy Rice: That is the latest for now. We’ll get to some headlines in a moment, but if you like our show, make sure to subscribe and share with your friends. We will be back after some ads. [music break]




Josie Duffy Rice: Now let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Hunter Biden’s federal gun charge trial begins this week. And it’s historic, because it’s the first time the child of a sitting president is on trial. The Justice Department’s special counsel assigned to look into Hunter Biden, brought the three indictments against him related to a gun he purchased back in October 2018. Prosecutors allege he lied about not using drugs on his application to own the gun. The trial is expected to last a few days. This is the first of two trials scheduled for Hunter this year, and there’s a lot of concern about what the hearing could reveal about the Biden family amid the election. Witnesses will include former love interests including Hallie Biden, Hunter’s sister-in-law, with whom he had a romantic relationship after his brother Beau died. She allegedly played a role in the events leading to the charges. Hunter could face up to 25 years in prison if convicted on all three charges. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Israel has agreed to President Biden’s three phase ceasefire proposal deal for the war in Gaza. On Friday, Biden delivered a speech and called for a six week pause in fighting, during which Israeli hostages held by Hamas are released in exchange for Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. But there’s a lot of conflict around the deal, and nothing has been finalized. Biden has been pushing Israeli and Hamas leaders to accept the cease fire proposal terms. Britain’s Sunday Times interview Netanyahu’s chief foreign policy adviser, who said that Israel reluctantly accepted the deal but that it was, quote, “a deal we agreed to. It’s not a good deal, but we dearly want the hostages released, all of them.” At least two Israeli officials have threatened to leave the government if the deal is finalized, putting the prime minister’s political future at risk. Hamas released a statement Friday addressing the proposal. It said Hamas, quote, “views positively what was included in U.S. President Joe Biden’s speech.” 


Josie Duffy Rice: The Republican Party continues to give Democrats a helping hand in one of this year’s most competitive Senate races. On Sunday, Republican National Committee co-chair Lara Trump said Maryland Senate candidate Larry Hogan, quote, “doesn’t deserve the respect of the party.” That’s after Hogan last week urged Americans to, quote, “respect the verdict and the legal process.” Just before a jury convicted former President Trump in his criminal hush money trial. Here’s Lara Trump on CNN Sunday. 


[clip of Lara Trump] He doesn’t deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party at this point. And quite frankly, anybody in America, if that’s the way you feel, that’s very upsetting to hear that. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The RNC co-chair is also Donald Trump’s daughter in law. She declined to say whether the party would stop giving money to Hogan’s campaign. Hogan, the former Maryland governor, is in a tight race with Democrat Angela Alsobrooks for Maryland’s open Senate seat and it’s seen as one of the best chances Republicans have to flip a seat. It’s currently held by Democrat Ben Cardin, who is retiring. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And finally, former president and convicted felon Donald Trump has joined TikTok, the app he tried to ban as president. And the numbers show that his followers quickly surpassed those of President Biden’s count on the app in less than 24 hours of being active. It’s part of his campaign’s push to reach younger voters. And with the app’s 170 million users in the U.S., it’s becoming increasingly popular for candidates to use TikTok in their campaign strategies. Josie, I have to know, how do you feel about Donald Trump now being on the Tiketty Toks? 


Josie Duffy Rice: I hope that many of these people are following him for humor, not agreement. But I will say he was on vine. His vine era has been lost to history, but he was on vine. 


Tre’vell Anderson: He was on vine.


Josie Duffy Rice: And just Google it. Just Google it. It’s a good way to start your Monday. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Just Google it. And those are the headlines. 




Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Register to vote because your favorite podcast host told you to and tell your friends to listen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And if you are into reading and not just Hunter Biden’s text messages like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter, so check it out and subscribe at crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And don’t mess with Adele. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t know like how do you show up to her concert where you know the homosexuals are in the crowd and you go say pride sucks? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Pride sucks? Like that’s what you’ve got? Are you like a [?] from the [?]? Like it’s just so stupid. How are you going to yell out, pride sucks? [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison, and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.