News & Opinion | May 5, 2021 12:39 pm

Howard Stern Shares Some Harsh Truths on The Rock and Matthew McConaughey’s Political Ambitions

After a bid for governor of New York in the ‘90s, the radio host has some experience

Radio host Howard Stern courtside at a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden in 2018
Howard Stern at a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden in 2018.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

In June of last year, oddsmakers put Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the third most likely person to win the presidential election, despite not actually running. Then this April, the wrestler-turned-actor hinted that he’s kinda, maybe, potentially considering a bid

“In this world where The Rock succeeds,” as Libby Watson, who covers politics for The New Republic, told us last year, “I think it’s sort of a fantasy that you could have this figure who wins by being universally beloved and becomes the president that everyone can get behind.”

Howard Stern doesn’t buy that fantasy. In fact, the legendary radio host recently laid down some real talk for both Johnson and Matthew McConaughey, another celebrity with political ambitions.

“You know what it is with these guys is that they don’t understand, once you run for office, you actually have to give an opinion,” he said on his SiriusXM show on Tuesday, as reported by the New York Daily News.

Stern knows a thing or two about trying to make the transition from beloved celebrity figure into the polarizing world of politics. In 1994, he ran for governor of New York only to withdraw after refusing to disclose his personal finances. And though he hosted Donald Trump on his show many times, Stern became a vocal critic of the former president as soon as he announced his campaign. But while Stern has always been opinionated, much of the appeal for the candidacies of Johnson and McConaughey has been their refusal to wade into the most contentious political issues of the day, instead choosing a milquetoast, inoffensive middle-ground approach (although McConaughey’s favorite phrase in recent months has been “the illiberal left”).

But once you run for office, there is no middle ground, at least not one where you can appease everyone. As Stern said, once The Rock has to explicitly lay out his beliefs on abortion rights, “Oops! Suddenly people don’t like The Rock.”

“People in the military assume The Rock is pro-military,” he added. “People in the police force believe The Rock is a law and order guy. People who are Trumpy believe The Rock really secretly loves Trump. The people who are liberals are going ‘You know what? The Rock is with us.’”

We don’t know the full truth now (though Johnson did support Joe Biden in the most recent presidential election), but if either celebrity moves out of the contemplation phase and into the political arena, you can rest assured the truth will come out, and their beloved status won’t remain universal.

As Adam Chandler wrote in the fall, “One truth about career trajectories in American politics, especially in recent decades, is that they can both ignite and incinerate in virtually no time at all.”