This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," July 21, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Members in the audience in Las Vegas reacting to the ruckus caused by Linda Ronstadt (search). She caused an uproar during a concert at The Aladdin Casino when she praised Michael Moore's (search) anti-Bush movie "Fahrenheit 9/11."
One might wonder what the reaction would have been if the audience knew what she really thinks of her fans. She recently said it's a real downer when she knows there's a Republican or Fundamentalist Christian in the crowd.
Darrell West is a poly-sci professor at Brown University and author of the book, "Celebrity Politics." Mr. West, today's big questions: Do Americans really care what celebrities or entertainers have to say?
DARRELL WEST, PROFESSOR AND AUTHOR: Well, we're certainly not persuaded by them. They're free to express their opinions, but, for example, if I'm a liberal and Garth Brooks came out and gave an impassioned defense of President Bush (search), I would not be happy with that.
So, I think celebrities need to keep in mind, they're entertainers, they can express their views on their own time but they shouldn't be expressing their political views for an audience that comes out for entertainment.
GIBSON: Well, why is it though that now you're seeing entertainers who are lavishly paid -- I mean, we're talking about the top rungs of the entertainment world -- who feel -- we're looking at Whoopi Goldberg, I don't know if she's a top rung anymore, but was up there once -- who feel compelled to tell their fellow Americans what they think; that it isn't enough to just be a star. What is lacking in the world of stardom that they feel the need to weigh in on political matters?
WEST: Well, it used to be Hollywood celebrities were content just to be the star. But, it's really the allure of the microphone; that people pay attention now when celebrities speak. Their views get reported in the media and across the world. And few people really can resist that.
You know, people like to use their platform to further their own political views, whether it's liberals, in this case, or conservatives also have been guilty of that in the past.
GIBSON: I sense that among the Hollywood people, because they're saying things in Hollywood that when they come to New York to say or go out in the middle of red-state America, they say that they seem to be kind of shocked that people take offense.
Have we got two different worlds where they can kind of say what they want if they stay at home in Hollywood, but once they venture out, they really have to be careful?
WEST: They do. Middle America is very different from the West Coast and the East Coast. You know, we see it in the Electoral College map -- the blue states and the red states. America is very polarized in the middle of this election. Bush, Iraq, and Michael Moore all have become hot button issues.
And so, celebrities have to be careful how they express their opinion. If Linda Ronstadt had just come out and said, "You know, I don't think President Bush is doing a good job and we should pull out of Iraq," I don't think it would have attracted nearly the same attention but she attached herself to Michael Moore, who obviously is a polarizing figure right now.
GIBSON: Do you think that celebrities speaking out can tip the election? I mean, evidently they feel like they're taking a chance, they could get yelled at by they're audience. They could turn off their audience. But apparently they feel so strongly, they hate Bush so much that they're willing to take the chance. Can they actually tip the election?
WEST: I don't think Americans are so foolish as to let Hollywood celebrities influence their vote. I mean, I think people are going to make up their minds based on their own personal situation and their values and their beliefs.
But where Hollywood celebrities can be incredibly effective is on fundraising for political causes because it's already been well established if you put a Hollywood figure at a fundraising event, people will come out and pay a lot of money for that privilege.
So I think that's really where they're most influential in American politics these days.
GIBSON: Why is it that moviemakers and singers and songwriters have given up burying their message in their art? Why do they feel like they have to step out of their art and say something just like you and I talk.
WEST: Art is too indirect. There may be an inability to deliver a message there but people like the direct medium of communicating with voters. And so, Linda Ronstadt certainly wanted to let her audience know where she stood, Whoopi Goldberg clearly has done the same thing, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks used the platform to make fun of President Bush.
And so, people just cannot resist the microphone. When you put the microphone in front of people, they like to use that to express their opinions.
GIBSON: Darrell West. Appreciate it, Mr. West. Thanks very much.
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