Emmy-winning actor Kelsey Grammer is a household name, thanks to his role as Dr. Frasier Crane on hit shows Cheers and Frasier as well as major roles in countless movies. Off-screen, however, he has some political views that are pretty unusual for Hollywood.
In the past, he has kept these views fairly quiet, so a lot of people who watched his performances in films like X-Men: The Last Stand may not have had have a clue about them. In 2015, though, his wife posted a picture to Instagram that showed him in a very controversial T-shirt – and one which left little doubt as to his ideological leanings on one hot-button issue.
Kelsey Grammer may have had an extremely successful acting career, but his life has been marred by tragedy ever since he was a child. Heartbreakingly, he lost both his estranged father and his 18-year-old sister to separate murders – both violent and terrible ones – as well as two half-brothers, to a scuba-diving accident. The actor himself has spoken of the immense psychological impact these events have had on him.
And Grammer turned to substance abuse as a way of coping with his losses. In particular, through the late ’80s and into the ’90s, while he was working on Frasier and then Cheers, he suffered from alcoholism and drug addiction. These afflictions affected him so badly, moreover, that his behavior set back run-throughs and filming times on set. Nevertheless, some of his co-workers were amazed at how he was able to metamorphose from below-par to dazzling as soon as the cameras started rolling.
But gradually, he overcame his addictions. Indeed, after a series of high-profile incidents, including one where he totaled his $75,000 car, he started to get his life back on track. To that end, he checked into rehab in 1996 and successfully began to leave alcohol and drugs behind him.
Meanwhile, though Frasier came to an end in 2004, Grammer didn’t go on to lack for other work. In addition to providing the voice of Sideshow Bob on The Simpsons – a role for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance in 2006 – he would appear in multiple TV shows, TV films and movies over the next few years.
And before too long, people began to take notice of his political beliefs. Specifically, Grammer is a self-professed Republican: a bit of a rarity in Hollywood, which swings fairly liberal. And he is a downright devoted one, too. In 2001, for instance, he attended the inauguration of Republican President George W. Bush. Grammer has also befriended and given money to several high-profile Republican politicians.
Come 2010, he even backed a new TV on-demand service called RightNetwork, dedicated to right-wing political programming. Not everyone was impressed at that move, perhaps leading Grammer to go on to defend his part in the project. “We’re not out to vilify or accuse or identify anybody as an enemy,” Grammer told USA Today at the time. “We’re out there to encourage people to open their minds and take a look at some things that we as a group of people believe is the right direction for the country.”
So, what exactly did Grammer believe himself? Well, he wasn’t afraid to let the public know. “At the heart of my beliefs about being a Republican is the idea that the individual is America’s greatest national treasure,” he revealed to entertainment site PopEater in 2010. He also believed, as he told Piers Morgan in 2011, in lower taxes and smaller government. However, there were some other contentious issues on which he seemed to be rather more neutral.
Before same-sex marriage became legal in the U.S., for instance, Grammer explained his thoughts on it in his PopEater interview. “I don’t understand the civil angle on marriage at all. So, am I pro-my friends who love each other getting married? Yes – gay, straight or otherwise. I don’t have an issue about it,” he said. Still, he continued to endorse politicians who were anti-same-sex-marriage.
And it also seemed that Grammer, in another departure from Republican Party mores, considered himself pro-choice. Indeed, he described himself as such in a piece for New York Magazine in 2010, albeit while adding, “But I don’t advocate for abortion.” However, events in 2015 made it clear that he’d since changed his mind on that matter.
In October of that year, Grammer’s fourth wife Kayte Walsh snapped a picture of him wearing an anti-abortion shirt reading, “Would it bother us more if they used guns?” and posted it to her Instagram page. The shirt was from Abort73, a group created by the Christian Loxafamosity Ministries and a pro-life campaigner called Michael Spielman. The Abort73 website claims that it wishes to “expose the practice of abortion as an injustice of historic proportions.”
And, understandably, the reaction to the shirt amongst some of Grammer’s fellow celebrities was not very positive. For instance, on TV show The View, Whoopi Goldberg questioned whether abortion should ever be equated with gun violence. She added, “If you’re a woman who has found that she needs to go get an abortion, isn’t that her choice between her and her God? If you go into a school and you shoot up 5- and 6- and 7-year-olds… I think there’s a big difference.”
Other people questioned what exactly the slogan on the shirt meant. “Is he simultaneously supporting gun rights while putting down abortion? Is he putting down both the second amendment and abortion? Is he simply using the gun issue to create controversy and further his point?” Lisa Fogarty, a writer for the website Bustle, wondered. “I don’t personally feel that he wins his argument by leeching off another controversial issue.”
With his shirt, Grammer had tapped into one of the most divisive issues in the whole of America. Though abortion is legal in the U.S, it is not always easy to obtain one, and people can face strict restrictions depending on what state they’re in. Furthermore, there are several countries where it is still extremely difficult for a woman to have a legal abortion. In yet others, it’s just flat-out illegal – even in cases of rape or incest.
It’s not surprising, then, that Grammer’s choice of shirt made headlines all over the internet. The people who seemed to benefit most from this, though, were the members and supporters of Abort73. “It took Abort73 89 weeks to reach 2,000 followers on Instagram,” the organization posted in an apparent response to Walsh’s post. “It took Abort73 89 weeks and three days to reach 3,000 followers. Thanks, @kayte_kelsey!”
However, the controversy seemed to have proved too much for Grammer and Walsh, as they took the offending picture of Grammer down. Could the decision to remove the image have been down to a softening of Grammer’s anti-abortion stance? An interview he did with British newspaper The Times a year later soon cleared that misconception up.
In the July 2016 piece, Grammer criticized not only abortion as a practice, but also abortion in cases of rape. “It gets a bit dishonest to call something reproductive rights when you clearly have a choice well before a baby is conceived,” he said. “If someone has to die as a result of rape, then we should kill the rapist – not the unborn child.” He also implied that he felt that abortion was “an injustice.”
Of course, anti-abortion groups were quick to praise Grammer and pro-choice groups quick to condemn him for his words. And both groups must have been keeping a close eye on who he was voting for as the Republican nomination for president in 2016. At first, Grammer supported Ben Carson, a Republican candidate who wanted to make abortion illegal no matter what, including in cases of rape and incest, and had compared women seeking abortions to slave owners.
After Carson was knocked out of the race, however, Grammer switched his support to Donald Trump, who of course ultimately won the presidency. And the two seemed to have some common ground when it came to their thoughts on reproductive choice. In March 2016, for instance, Trump commented that women should be punished in “some form” if they sought out an abortion. And while he later tried to take back those words, as soon as he got into office he signed a law to cut abortion funding.
Specifically, on Trump’s first full day as president, he reinstated an executive order stating that international NGOs were not allowed to provide abortions or even talk about them with patients. On his inauguration day, meanwhile, the Women’s March had taken place, with many women protesting any potential pushback of reproductive rights under the Trump administration. So, given the debate that continues to rage today about abortion provision in the U.S., it’s unlikely that the matter will be put to rest by the involvement of a famous actor, even one wearing a controversial T-shirt.