- The Washington Times
Tuesday, August 13, 2019

NEW ORLEANS | When Democratic Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards visited Hollywood in October, he was seeking money, not controversy. He got both.

The state’s Republican Party demanded Tuesday that Mr. Edwards apologize for allowing an anti-Trump Hollywood production to be made in Louisiana, saying it’s proof the incumbent governor is out of touch with the pro-Trump state.

The production was for “The Hunt,” a canceled Universal Studios movie that depicts liberals hunting down the “deplorables” — a phrase 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton used to describe supporters of then-candidate Donald Trump.

Universal last week canceled the movie’s release, slated for Sept. 27, in the aftermath of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.

“We are appalled that Gov. Edwards invited his progressive Hollywood friends to bring their hate-fueled propaganda into our backyard,” Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Louis Gurvich told The Washington Times.

“Louisiana overwhelmingly supports President Trump and we do not appreciate our tax dollars being siphoned off to fund a movie about murdering ordinary people because of their political beliefs,” Mr. Gurvich said in a statement. “We demand the governor apologize to the people of Louisiana and guarantee that this film and future projects like it will NEVER receive state incentives of any kind.”

Like many other states and municipalities, Louisiana offers tax incentives — up to 40% — to companies that film in the Pelican State.

The incentives have been a smashing success, according to its boosters, and have led to some popular and acclaimed entertainment, such as “NCIS: New Orleans” on television and the movie “Green Book,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture in February.

Detractors, on the other hand, say the economic impact of movie-making in Louisiana is wildly overstated because many of the jobs are fleeting and that on a cost per-job basis state taxpayers are being fleeced.

Mr. Edwards said the purpose of his trip to Hollywood was to pitch filmmakers on the state’s incentives.

Yet with the exception of a state police security detail the law mandates accompany the governor, the trip’s costs were mostly covered by his campaign, showing it had a second purpose: fundraising.

While Mr. Edwards could not offer any concrete deals when he returned to New Orleans after the trip, his campaign war chest soon swelled by more than $30,000 with contributions from Sony, 21st Century Fox and other entertainment companies, according to his annual fundraising report.

His campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on the GOP’s move to tie him to the anti-Trump film.

The film arm of the New Orleans government declined to discuss “The Hunt,” saying it does not comment on shooting locations and the like until after a show is released, and it referred all questions on economic impact to the state.

Republicans said allowing the movie to film in Louisiana is a troubling move for a governor running for reelection.

“Hollywood elitists making movies in our state about liberals hunting President Donald J. Trump supporters for sport is Gov. John Bel Edwards’ idea of economic development,” Republican Rep. Ralph Abraham, one of those seeking to unseat the governor, said on Facebook. “What a sicko.”

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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