What do you get when you cross a rabbi with a, a Muslim leader, a Fox News host and a possible presidential hopeful? Besides a bad joke, you get Def Jam Co-founder Russell Simmons to the rescue. After Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly opened up his big mouth and talked about a “Muslim problem,” Simmons, a majority shareholder in Hip-Hop website GlobalGrind.com and chairman of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, felt the need to set up a meeting earlier this week among another big mouth, GOP Possible Presidential Hopeful Donald Trump, Rabbi Marc Schneier and Imam Shamsi Ali, spiritual leader of NYC’s biggest mosque. The purpose was to teach everyone to get along better in a diverse world. We caught up with Simmons yesterday by phone to chat about Trump, the Muslim “problem” and the media.
Simmons, a vegan, meditating political junkie who has testified before Congress a few times about lyrics and freedom of speech, is almost squarely behind President Obama. “I would do anything I could to get Obama reelected,” he said. “Unless Dennis Kucinich is running.”
1. Was it hard for you to get Donald to the meeting? I can get Donald. I can walk in Donald’s office anytime I want to. He was happy to take the meeting. I think he learned a lot. What’s your relationship to Trump? Donald has been very good to me, to my family. He has taken my brother [Rev. Joseph Simmons better known as "Run" of Run-DMC] to Mara Lago many times. Fifty times. We went to fights together. It’s unfortunate that people are so upset with him. I look at him like Richie Rich. He has a lot of fun. He’s interested in the little shiny stuff in his hotels, the way his building is built matters. His work in building hotels, in looking at the detail, in assessing, connotes a lot of joy in his life. I give him that. I give him a guy who really understands how to enjoy his life.
2. What was your meeting like with Trump? They all went away satisfied that they had educated Donald. Very friendly. Very informative. Sharing a lot of information. Clearing up a lot of misinformation. As Rabbi Snyder said, “Very productive Russell, thank you.”
3. Would you go on O’Reilly’s show after this? I’ve been on O’Reilly’s show five times. [Mike] Huckabee’s show I like the most. He’s a really good listener. The problem is Islamaphobia creates a cycle, sometimes our lack of concern. Was it offensive? Yeah, it was more than that. But yeah, I’d go on his show. I talk to anybody. People do things I don’t like, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like them. I like Roger Ailes very much. I don’t like anything Donald said regarding the Birthers.
4. Do you think the media is giving Trump a raw deal? [Laughter] I think he could have gotten out a little earlier. It was a fun exercise in branding early on and I think he stayed a little too long.
5. What is your general media diet? I wake up and I read Huffington Post. I read the New York Times. I get it delivered unfortunately. I like it better in print. I play with the Daily News. I read the [NY] Post gossip column. Then I go into an editorial meeting at GlobalGrind.com.
Want more Simmons? He sat down with mediabistro’s Media Beat earlier this year. Check it out here.