Long before there was a media climate where words like “burned,” “ripped,” and “destroyed” appeared in daily headlines, there was a television program that showed off what a utopic Washington, D.C., could look like.
“The West Wing” went off the air in May 2006, just a few months before Mark Zuckerber’s Facebook went live to anyone over age 13 with a valid email address. The show was hugely influential to viewers, including many who would eventually impact Washington politics.
“If a generation of reporters signed up for journalism aspiring to be Robert Redford’s character in ‘All the President’s Men,’ then the Obama White House is staffed with younger aides (myself included) who entered politics hoping to serve a future President Bartlet,” former White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote in 2015.
In the 11 years the followed, the actors and actresses of “The West Wing” have gone on to have impactful careers in Hollywood and, for many of them, a continued presence in a political discussion driven by a new generation.
On Thursday night, actor Bradley Whitford, aka Josh Lyman on “The West Wing,” appeared on “The Late Show with Steven Colbert.” At 57, Whitford is a little grayer than he was as a fictional White House staffer, but he now has an extremely active social media presence and often encourages people who are interested in politics to try to enact social change.
During his “Late Show” appearance, Whitford spoke about “The West Wing” and gave a piece of advice to his real-life White House counterpart, Reince Priebus.
“You know, change your name, I think?” Whitford joked.
Whitford’s comments came less than 24 hours after he became the latest target of the Fox News Facebook page, which took a comment he made about first daughter Ivanka Trump and pushed it out to their millions of followers.
Earlier in the week, Whitford sent Trump a tweet where he called her father, President Donald Trump, “a racist birther.” He also told Ivanka that she had her husband “are enabling hatred.”
The Fox News Facebook crowd was not too happy about that.
“What is wrong with people,” one user asked. “How can you be so hateful to someone you don’t know and has done nothing personal to you at all. Celebrities get a real life one that does not involve you running your mouth all the time.”
In 17 hours, the post racked up more than 10,000 comments and made Whitford a new celebrity target for conservative Fox News viewers.
During his Thursday night interview with Colbert, Whitford went on to explain his problems with Trump.
“Our president was a birther, which is racist and un-American, and we have a white nationalist working in the White House, and they’ve conflated refugees with terrorism. They’re picking on transgender people and it’s not a joke and it’s very upsetting,” the actor said.
Colbert pointed out that Whitford sent 70 political tweets in 24 hours and might want to lay off. If the first month of President Donald Trump’s time in the White House is any indication, that doesn’t seem likely.