Celebrity in politics got a bad reputation after Donald Trump, former host of The Apprentice, had the honor of being the first reality TV star to become president. But former Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon told Stephen Colbert that celebrity in politics doesn't have to be a negative thing.
Nixon appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on Wednesday to discuss her New York gubernatorial campaign, rejecting comparisons to Trump that dismiss her as yet another unqualified famous person running for office.
“I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with celebrity in politics. It gives you a platform,” Nixon told Colbert. “But it’s what you do with that platform."
"If I was given a choice, I’d rather be the good Nixon than the bad Cuomo."
The actress is challenging New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in the state's Democratic primary, which is scheduled for Sept. 13, 2017. Nixon used her appearance on The Late Show to talk about her campaign platform and how she differs from Cuomo.
“I’m running because I’m a lifelong New Yorker and I love this state and I just know we could do so much better,” she told Colbert. “We’re a blue state, we’re a proudly Democratic state, but we have a governor in there who governs like a Republican.”
Nixon outlined her campaign platform, which includes campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, LGBTQ equality, women’s health, fully funded public schools, and marijuana legalization. Wealth inequality and mass incarceration have been two topics that Nixon has spoken passionately about.
On The Late Show, the candidate didn't shy away from her claims as a true-and-through Democrat, taking jabs at Cuomo's blue credentials. “He’s always tried to position himself as a centrist,” she told Colbert. “If I was given a choice, I’d rather be the good Nixon than the bad Cuomo.”
Nixon declared she won't accept any corporate donations, unlike Cuomo. Last year Politico noted that the New York governor had amassed donations of more than $100,000 each from 18 donors, mostly real estate developers and hedge fund managers. “[Cuomo] says he wants to work with the Republicans, but often times it looks more like he works for the Republicans,” Nixon said. “He’s pleasing his big-money donors.” She also criticized what she perceived as his reluctance to “pay for stuff” like the public transit system and public housing.
On a more personal note, Colbert got Nixon to come clean on pot-smoking past.
Nixon, a long-time supporter of the marijuana legalization, remarked on her history of "drug use" — two joints she smoked in the 1980s. Jokes aside, she also remarked on how legalizing cannabis could address racial inequality. Despite blacks and whites using and selling a similar amount of marijuana, blacks are four times more likely than whites to be arrested for smoking pot, according to a 2013 study by the American Civil Liberties Union.
“For white people, marijuana has effectively been legal for a long time, and I think it’s time to make it legal for everyone else,” she told Colbert. (That said, a 2018 report by The Drug Policy Alliance concluded that while legalizing marijuana has reduced the number of overall arrests, blacks and Latinos are still far more likely to be arrested and prosecuted.)
According to polls, Nixon's appeal to progressives could be giving her campaign the boost she wants before Election Day. Slate reported that Cuomo's lead is shrinking as Nixon makes gains. Cuomo campaign spokesperson Abbey Fousher told New York Daily News, “Our focus is on passing progressive policies and 100 percent on beating Republicans to take back the House, and the state Senate here in New York.”
Nixon and Cuomo are currently anticipating Sen. Bernie Sanders's endorsement, which could help give one of them the edge. One thing's for sure, it's shaping up to be a tight race for New York governor.