Celebrities can become just as embroiled in politics as any of us. This was made clear when footage emerged of Tom Arnold and former Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman actor Dean Cain having an angry debate backstage at Larry King Now. The argument took in some of the most important issues facing our world today, such as LGBT rights, racism and abortion. The recording wasn’t meant to make it to the internet – but it did.
Arnold and Cain are both actors who came to prominence in the ’90s, but that’s where the similarities end. Arnold is a liberal, and is extremely anti-President Trump. Cain, on the other hand, described himself as “very conservative” to the Washington Free Beacon in November 2014.
Cain voted for Trump, and explained himself to The West Australian in 2017. “I don’t like all of the things that Donald Trump says by any stretch of the imagination,” he told the newspaper. “What I don’t like is, if I say I support Trump, I get called a white supremacist, anti-women, a Nazi, a homophobe, a racist — everything I’m not.”
As for Arnold, he began work on a series called The Hunt for the Trump Tapes With Tom Arnold, in which cameras followed him while he searched for tapes that might incriminate the President. He also frequently engaged Trump fans on Twitter. If someone popped up to insult him, he immediately swung back.
Arnold’s former marriage to Roseanne Barr, who became a Trump supporter and a magnet for controversy, came up in the media occasionally. After Barr was fired from her show Roseanne in May 2018 after an allegedly racist tweet, Arnold spoke to People magazine about it. “I believe she has a mental illness,” he said. “She had multiple personality disorder when we lived together.”
“When I met her she was a feminist, and so enlightened. She wasn’t a racist. I never heard her say a racist comment. I had no idea how pro-Trump she really was,” he said. However, he had sympathy for her. “Roseanne needs to heal and get better and I think she’ll become an amazing advocate. I think she’ll turn it around.”
Meanwhile, Cain pursed his own agendas. He appeared in the film Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer, which many slammed as anti-abortion. He then attended a special screening of the movie at a Values Voter Summit event for the Family Research Council, which led to outcry. The Family Research Council is designated as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit which keeps track of extremist groups across America.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) organization, which monitors anti-LGBTQ activity in the media, tweeted Cain about the issue. The group spoke directly to him, posting: “We know that you’ve professed your support for LGBTQ people in the past, so why are you speaking at an event hosted by the anti-LGBTQ activists at @FRCdc?”
Cain answered, “I hope they ask me about my support for gay rights, and the fact that I’m pro-choice. I’m happy to have that conversation.” To which GLAAD responded, “Dean, we hope you will not wait to be asked but will proactively challenge FRC on their anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and record.” Then, Arnold got involved.
In the Twitter thread started by GLAAD, the actor posted, “@RealDeanCain is another @realDonaldTrump loving fake Christian coward which makes Dean Cain anti-LGBTQ and racist. #complicit.” And not long afterwards Cain responded with a tweet of his own: “Tom, you’re a cowardly, slanderous weasel.”
It could have ended there on Twitter – but the argument carried over into real life. On October 9, The Hollywood Reporter posted some covertly-taken footage of the two actors quarreling backstage at Larry King Now. In it, Cain angrily denied the accusations made against him. “I’m not a racist person; I never have been,” he told Arnold.
“I’ve always supported gay rights. … Let me finish for a second. You’re giving me guilt by association,” he went on. Then Arnold brought up The Family Research Council, swearing frequently as he did so. “They’re hurting people — you know how many suicides of f***ing gay kids?… They f***ing shame them and they try to keep them out of f***ing schools,” he said.
“Please hear me. That’s why it’s so visceral… I don’t want those f***ers using you,” Arnold told Cain. Cain’s answer was “Nobody is using me. I speak my mind.” And although it probably wouldn’t have been surprising if the argument turned into a full-on fight, the video actually ended in an unexpected way. The two awkwardly shook hands and hugged.
But the hug, as it turned out, didn’t symbolize an end to the feud. The same day The Hollywood Reporter tweeted out the footage, Arnold said in reply to it, “Holy hell, Superman is a full on white supremacist Trump lover. Holy hell, I almost had to knock out Superman. Good lord, has anyone seen Batman? Please tell my children about me…”
Cain replied to that one as well. “Tom, I was standing right in front of you, buddy. Why didn’t you say that when I was looking you in the eye? Coward,” he said. That same day, he retweeted a post calling Arnold a “garbage human being,” and another one that said he “talks nice while he’s in the room with @RealDeancain, but then runs his addled mouth when Dean’s not there anymore.”
Arnold bit back in a similar vein. “Good lord you are a p***y and a phony and the worst kind of anti-LGBTQ racist Trump suck up Christian fraud,” he tweeted to Cain. “Kids are getting hurt. I will continue to call out you and your sick side’s support of Trump’s cruel policies and you can play the big white man victim like the quisling you are.”
Other people got involved. “Dean, totally legit question here. If you fully support a man that is racist and anti-LGBT what does that make you?” one Twitter user asked Cain. Cain answered, “The President is not racist, and not anti-LGBT.”
Towards the end of October, Cain tried to debate anti-Republican actress Tara Strong on Twitter, as well. They had met each other previously. “Dean, I really liked hanging with you at the con, but every time you tweet at me politically your sycophant followers attack me mercilessly,” she tweeted to him. “I respect your opinion and never call you out even though I disagree with pretty much everything you say. I’d appreciate it if you did the same.”
“I’d love to, Tara – but sometimes you say things that are empirically false and inflammatory – so I have to call balls and strikes,” Cain answered. Another Twitter user said to him, “You are not entitled to her time or her attention. You need to listen to women when they tell you to stop.” Cain replied to that comment with the words “Go to bed,” and a laughing emoji.
Today, Cain’s Twitter remains pro-Trump as much as Arnold’s remains anti-Trump. Indeed, Arnold has retweeted messages encouraging people to vote – including one from Tara Strong – as the US midterms are fast approaching. Twitter may be an easy way for a person to express themselves, but ultimately voting ensures their voices can really be heard.