- Film actor and director
- Lifelong Democrat
- Great admirer of the late Marxist historian Howard Zinn
Benjamin Géza Affleck-Boldt, better known as the film actor/director Ben Affleck, was born in Berkeley, California on August 15, 1972, and was raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts beginning in 1974. Affleck launched his theatrical career as a child actor in the 1984 PBS series The Voyage of the Mimi, and rocketed to stardom in 1997 when the movie Good Will Hunting—which Affleck co-wrote and starred in with his longtime friend Matt Damon—won critical acclaim.
Raised in what he describes as “a very strong union household” by “very left-wing Democrats,” Affleck says: “I picked up a lot of those values there, and I brought them with me when I showed up in Hollywood.” “I’ve been a Democrat all my life,” he avers.
Affleck met Bill and Hillary Clinton in January 1998, when the president invited him and some two-dozen other guests to attend a screening of Good Will Hunting at Camp David. Two years later, Affleck campaigned actively in support of Mrs. Clinton’s U.S. Senate bid in New York, lauding her as “a friend of children” and a champion of women and working families.
Affleck praised the decision by producers of his 2002 film The Sum of All Fears — based on Tom Clancy’s novel of the same name — to replace the Palestinian Muslim villains of the novel with neo-Nazis. “[T]he Arab terrorist thing has been done a million times in the movies,” Affleck said.
In December 2003, Affleck stated: “I think [the Middle East] is the most misunderstood part of the world by certain people in the United States…. There is a perception in some circles that Islam is inherently more violent than Christianity, that this notion of jihad is inherent in Islam and leads Muslims to be more brutal than Christians. I think that is false.”
In 2004 Affleck became very involved in the presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry, whom he called a “phenomenal candidate.” The actor attended fundraisers for Kerry and also traveled with the senator during the opening weekend of his August “Believe in America” tour, delivering speeches at rallies in several different states.
That same year, Affleck and Senator Ted Kennedy held a joint press conference on Capitol Hill to push for the enactment of a $1.85-per-hour increase in the minimum wage. Affleck described Kennedy as “a great man, a leader, who’s incredibly well known and an accomplished legislator … a guy who I have admired and looked up to for many years.”
Affleck appeared alongside then-Senator Barack Obama at a 2006 rally in support of California Proposition 87, which sought to raise taxes on oil companies as a means of reducing the state’s petroleum consumption while increasing its reliance on wind and solar power. The following year, Affleck appeared in a global-warming-awareness video produced by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
In 2006 Affleck described Obama as “the most galvanizing leader to come out of either party … in at least a decade and a half, if not more.” In 2007-08, the actor supported Obama’s presidential campaign, hosting and attending major fundraising events on the latter’s behalf and making several high-profile appearances at the Democratic National Convention. In a pro-Obama initiative by MoveOn.org, Affleck urged voters “to raise their voices to put Obama over the top and help make history.” He predicted that Obama, if elected, would somehow manage “to find legitimate, thoughtful, political, diplomatic solutions in the Middle East.”
Affleck supports the creation of a government-run, universal healthcare system. In June 2007, for instance, he told NBC newsman Chris Matthews that Barack Obama, if he were to be elected president, would likely “take steps toward a more universal health care,” a move that “I think … will be really legitimate.”
Strongly opposed to the death penalty, Affleck said in June 2008: “As long we have a flawed system of determining guilt and innocence, I think capital punishment is a bad idea.”
In 2010, Affleck and Whitney Williams co-founded the Eastern Congo Initiative, which strves to: “increase investments from private and public funding sources to strategically support established Congolese-led programs that build safe and sustainable communities”; “raise public awareness about the tremendous need in the region through targeted media and advocacy activities”; and “drive policy change that increases United States government engagement in Congo.”
In 2012 as well, Affleck praised Senator John McCain for his “leadership” in defending Hillary Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, against Republican critics who had voiced concern about Abedin’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
In 2013, Affleck said that the political leanings of his fellow actors affect him when he watches their films. “When I watch a guy [on screen] I know is a big Republican, part of me thinks, I probably wouldn’t like this person if I met him, or we would have different opinions. That (expletive) fogs the mind when you should be paying attention and be swept into the illusion.”
Asked in a December 2013 interview whether he would support a Hillary Clinton presidential run in 2016, Affleck replied: “… Hillary does excite me, in the same way the potent symbolism of the first African American president was what thrilled people about Obama. It’s similar with Hillary and gender equality. The idea that 100 years after women got the right to vote, to have a woman president would be exciting.”
Affleck and Matt Damon greatly admired the late Marxist historian Howard Zinn, whose writings they cited and extolled in their Good Will Hunting screenplay. Affleck and Damon also served as executive producers of a proposed adaptation of Zinn’s signature book, A People’s History of the United States. Following Zinn’s death in 2010, Affleck described him as “one of the great voices in the American political life.” “He taught me how valuable, how necessary dissent was to democracy and to America itself,” the actor added. “He taught that history was made by the everyman, not the elites. I was lucky enough to know him personally, and I will carry with me what I learned from him—and try to impart it to my own children—in his memory.”
In April 2013, Affleck — who had an estimated net worth of $65 million and a combined net worth of $100 million with his actress wife Jennifer Garner — participated in the Global Poverty Project’s “Live Below the Line” challenge, which sought to raise public awareness about impoverished people around the world who lived on $1.50 per day or less. In this challenge, Affleck pledged to go five days without consuming more than $1.50 worth of food and drink daily. As political commentator and bestselling author Ben Shapiro observed: “The underlying notion [that Affleck wanted to promote] is clear: economics are random. On average, anyone, regardless of intelligence, initiative and decision-making ability, can be poor. So, too, anyone can be rich in the lottery of life.”
In 2014, Affleck was featured in an episode of Henry Louis Gates‘s PBS series, Finding Your Roots, which used traditional genealogical research as well as genetics to piece together the family histories of famous Americans. But when the actor discovered that one of his ancestors was a 19th-century slaveowner, he quietly persuaded Gates to edit that fact out of the show. When news of this secret deal unexpectedly became public in 2015, Affleck released a statement explaining that he felt “embarrassed” by his forebear and “didn’t want any show about my family to include a guy who owned slaves.”
When the atheist philosopher Sam Harris made an October 2014 guest appearance on Bill Maher’s HBO show Real Time and derided “this meme of Islamophobia where every criticism of Islam is conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people,” Affleck—a fellow guest on the program that night—called Harris’s remarks “gross” and “racist.” When Harris subsequently suggested that “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas,” Affleck exclaimed: “Jesus, how about the more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who … don’t do any of the things you say all Muslims do?” And when Maher characterized Islam as “the only religion that … will f**king kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book,” Affleck replied: “What is your solution, to just condemn Islam? We’ve killed more Muslims than they have us, by an awful lot, and yet somehow we’re exempted from things because they’re not really a reflection of what we believe in…” Added Affleck: “The people who would actually believe in that you murder someone if they leave Islam is not the majority of Muslims at all.” In the same interview, Affleck downplayed the threat posed by the Islamic terror group ISIS, saying that its total number of members worldwide “couldn’t fill a Double A ballpark in Charleston, West Virginia.”
In 2015, Affleck was among 31 high-profile individuals to sign on to the United Nations Foundation‘s Action/2015 initiative that aimed to raise global awareness about two upcoming United Nations summits that would call on local and world leaders to take action against poverty and climate change. Other signatories included such luminaries as Bono, Matt Damon, Mia Farrow, Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, Annie Lennox, Ricken Patel, Jeffrey Sachs, Shakira, Sting, Ted Turner, and Desmond Tutu.
In October 2017, Affleck condemned filmmaker Harvey Weinstein — with whom he had worked on the 1997 film Good Will Hunting — in light of recent allegations by numerous women claiming that Weinstein had sexually molested them. “I am saddened and angry that a man who I worked with used his position of power to intimidate, sexually harass and manipulate many women over decades,” Affleck wrote in a statement on social media. “The additional allegations of assault that I read this morning made me sick. This is completely unacceptable, and I find myself asking what I can do to make sure this doesn’t happen to others.” Shortly after Affleck released that statement, actress Hilarie Burton accused him of having inappropriately touched her breast during a taping of MTV’s Total Request Live fourteen years earlier. Affleck apologized for his behavior. Soon after that, makeup artist Annamarie Tendler accused Affleck of having “grabbed my ass at a Golden Globes party in 2014.”
In a November 2017 interview with The Associated Press, Affleck announced that he was now “looking at my own behavior and addressing that and making sure I’m part of the solution.” He said, among other things, that “more women need to be pushed to power” and that sexual harassment must become “a men’s issue” — i.e., men should publicly denounce inappropriate behavior directed at women.
At a December 7, 2021 virtual fundraiser whose purpose was to support “the fight to end gerrymandering and defend voting rights across the country,” Affleck accused Republicans of using gerrymandering to undermine the democratic process and to “dodge the consequences of their actions.” He also praised Hillary Clinton, who likewise participated in the event, as an “extraordinary person” and a “wonderful role model.”
- Others on the Committee included Ed Asner, Barbara Boxer, Jodie Evans, Matt Damon, Tom Hayden, Norman Lear, Hilda Solis, Maxine Waters, and Diane Watson.
- On June 25, 2015, The New York Times reported the following: “PBS said that an investigation into the controversy showed that Mr. Affleck had exerted ‘improper influence’ over the editorial process and that the producers of the show, Mr. Gates included, had erred by not informing the network of the actor’s ‘efforts to affect program content.’ PBS said it would postpone the third season of the show until a fact-checker was hired and an ‘independent genealogist’ was added to the show’s staff. PBS also will not show Mr. Affleck’s episode anymore and removed it from its online archive.”
- Islam scholar Raymond Ibrahim has thoroughly debunked Affleck’s claims.
- Contrary to Affleck’s assertion, the Middle East Forum points out that: “According to a 2013 Pew poll, the percentage of Muslims who support the death penalty for apostates from Islam is 79 percent in Afghanistan, 76 percent in Pakistan, 86 percent in Egypt, and 82 percent in Jordan.”