Springer gets serious

The chatshow host has politics on his mind, he tells Keren David


Jerry Springer, still best known for the fights and emotional outbursts that exploded on his talk show in the 1990s, has not ruled out a return to his first love, politics as an “anti, anti, anti-Trump” candidate.

In England this week as the keynote speaker at World Jewish Relief dinners in London and Manchester, he said that he was considering calls from within the Democratic party to become more actively involved. The former mayor of Cincinnati has been mooted as a future governor of Ohio.

“If I were 10 years younger I might do it, because I did start out in politics. After Trump there’s been talk about involving someone from the world of entertainment.”

But at 73, Springer is considering his quality of life and is keen to spend time with his grandson who is “eight, going on 20”.

The decision will be made by the family, he says. “The only thing that would make me get involved is what is happening in America now. There has never been a president opposed to the idea of America being a multicultural society.”

Trump, he says, “wants to replace the Statue of Liberty with a wall”.

The prospect of Springer going for the ultimate goal — president — is impossible because he was born in England, famously at Highgate tube station during the blitz. He’s very aware that his parents were only in London because of the efforts of WJR.

Last year the charity presented him with a copy of his parents’ immigration records. WJR has digitised hundreds of thousands of similar documents so families can search online for details of their history.

The impact of having the actual documents is “amazing”, says Springer, whose parents hardly spoke about their past and the murder of his grandparents in the Holocaust.

WJR, he says, “literally saved my parents’ lives”. He jokes that the organisation might have wondered if it did the right thing after seeing his controversial show, but adds: “My show is the surface. It is a circus and I am an entertainer. It’s nothing to do with real problems in the world and real problems in the past. I never do my politics on the TV show.”

His show is still aired in the US, a few years ago he had a hit with dating show Baggage, and he also voices a regular podcast. Nowadays though, he says that guests on his show are mostly talking about dating problems, "not life-changing issues."

When we meet, in a book-lined club in central London, curtains drawn against the sunshine, he jokes about the heatwave: “I live in Florida, this is like winter for me!”. But otherwise the Springer I meet is the serious one, shaped by his family history. Memorably, the BBC helped him trace the fate of his grandparents, murdered by the Nazis, for an edition of Who Do You Think You Are? 

“If we as Jews have a moral responsibility it is to fight against discrimination and prejudice against any group,” he says.

“The lesson of the Holocaust is not just what happened to Jews, but what happens if you discriminate against any person.”

This is even clearer, he says, in the light of terrorist attacks such as those in London and Manchester.

“We have to be in the front lines to make sure there is no discrimination — 98.999 per cent of Muslims just want to live their lives and love their children. But if we attack Muslims as a group, then we are inviting their young people on the fringes to be disgruntled and to sign up for extremist activities.”

Discrimination starts with jokes, he says. “When we make jokes about groups of people, we’re saying they are less than us. If kids grow up making fun of a group, then in tough times of social and economic crisis, leaders look for scapegoats. It’s not a coincidence that every dictator that comes to power does it on the back of a small group on which they place the blame.”

The response to atrocities, he says, has to be “the whole community coming together”.

Brexit, he thinks, is “not a good idea. You can’t build a wall around your country.

"What has kept the world safe for 75 years? The EU and NATO. If we start messing around with that -  everyone on their own -  we are asking for trouble."

Young people understand the dangers of Brexit, because their world is global: "Young people don't get this 'let's build a wall mentality'" he says, warning against creating "fake boundaries."

He compares it to the situation in the Middle East, after the First World War, when “a couple of guys drew these lines and started 100 years of chaos”.

How about Israel? He recognises that it’s easier to have an opinion when you don’t live there, and draws a comparison with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 when America was in “panic mode” about the Russian missiles in Cuba.

“Israel has lived in that environment for 70 years,” he says, adding that he believes a two-state solution is the only way to keep Israel democratic, free and Jewish.

“We can’t spend the next 300 years on high alert. Some people might have to move, and that’s not convenient, but it’s a price worth paying if we don’t have to fight any more.”


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