“When you’re finding these smash-and-grabs taking place at Neiman Marcus and these high-end stores, all of a sudden, people on the left are beginning to rethink their assumptions.”
At the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference, I sat down with Larry Elder, host of the Larry Elder Show on EpochTV, to discuss California’s rise in crime, from robberies to homicides, and its devolving homelessness crisis.
Jan Jekielek: Larry Elder, such a pleasure to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
Larry Elder: Jan, nice to see you. You didn’t even know I was here.
Mr. Jekielek: No, I didn’t.
Mr. Elder: I just spoke at a panel discussion. We were talking about the Biden administration and how he’s in less than one year screwed up America, both domestically, economically, and in terms of foreign policy, and you missed it. It was a mic drop.
Mr. Jekielek: No. Well, obviously this has been, let’s say a common theme at CPAC, let’s say. But let’s go a little more regional. Let’s talk about California, okay. Because you know a little bit about California, having attempted a run at Governor not too long ago.
Mr. Elder: Well, I did run, I didn’t win. “I didn’t win.” But I did run. And Jan, I had never run for office before. I ran for third grade class president. That’s my last time I ever ran for office. And people kept coming to me and asking me to run and I resisted. And a lot of people I respect, my pastor, Jack Hibbs, asked me to consider.
A woman named Jenny Sand, who I never heard of, she’s a local California activist. Everybody knew her but me, and she kept writing me. I don’t know how she got my email address. I said to my girlfriend, Nina, “Look, this woman’s just writing me. Let me just sit down for 15 minutes, have coffee with her, get her off our back.” So we agreed to have coffee. Four hours later sent me a stack of stuff there and all the strategies that she thought I could employ to win. Even though Republicans are outnumbered three to one in California, she felt that a recall election if the ball carried just right, I could win.
And then the guy that eventually became the chairman of my campaign, his name is Lionel Chetwynd, he’s a filmmaker. He did, among other things, “The Hanoi Hilton.” He did a film called “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,” where he got an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. He asked me to run. And then Dennis Prager, without whom I wouldn’t be on radio, asked me to run. So I respected all these people. And I said, “Guys, what do you think, I could do this?”
And then, Jan, I did this. I said let me ask normal people. So I asked my barber—been cutting my hair for 30 years. I thought for sure he’s going to say Larry, I’ve been at your house. I know your lifestyle. Why do you need this? And I mentioned it to him. He said, “I think you ought to run.” I was shocked he felt that way.
There’s a guy named Ed, who owns a car service, and I use it from time to time when I want to be picked up and taken somewhere, and every now and then he drives me himself. So I said, “Ed, these guys want me to run for Governor.” I thought for sure he was going to say are you nuts? Why do you need that? And he said, “Larry, do it. And save us.” He started talking about all the regulations he was having to deal with as a business person.
This may sound arrogant, Jan, but little by little I began to think, if not you, who? If not now, when? And I began to feel that I had a patriotic, a spiritual and a moral obligation to do it. To be perfectly honest, I was not impressed with the people that were running in the replacement side to replace him. And it’s a two step deal. Half of the voters plus one had to vote to recall him. And then once he’s recalled, whoever gets the most votes on the replacement side will become Governor.
So I could conceivably have won with as little as 25 percent of the total votes cast. How are the stars going to line up like that again? So I decided to do it. And so I entered the race with eight weeks left. I wasn’t trying to be strategic. I just dragged my feet. And finally, with eight weeks left, I said okay, I’m going to do it.
That turned out to be around the same time that Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003, decided to enter that recall election, which was successful. But between 2003 and 2021, a number of things have happened. There are now five percent more registered Democrats in California. There are 50 percent more registered independents in California. And even The New York Times admitted the independents in California vote Democrat. There are 33 percent fewer registered Republicans. And still, even though the battlefield had changed, I got the same percentage on the recall on the replacement side as did Arnold Schwarzenegger back in 2003. So it was an extraordinary campaign by any stretch of the imagination.
California has 58 counties. I carried on the replacement side 57. The only one I didn’t carry was San Francisco, and I lost that by a whopping 149 votes. We didn’t spend one dime on advertising or one minute campaigning there. And I got more votes, 3.5 million, than all of the other replacement candidates—there were 45 combined. In eight weeks I raised $22 million, more than all of the major rivals combined, including John Cox, who put in millions of dollars of his own money.
So, we didn’t prevail. Newsom won by the same percentage he won his election in 2018, but he had to spend 50 percent more to keep his job than he spent to get his job. So as far as I’m concerned, it was a very successful campaign and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, even though I was called by The L.A. Times, wait for it, “The black face of white supremacy.”
Another L.A. Times colonists referred to my views as “white supremacist views.” I was called by a black commentator, named Tavis Smiley, “anti-black.” And I said, “Tavis,” I’ve known him for a number of years. He’s never liked my politics, but I always thought we were okay personally. I said, “Tavis, how am I anti-black?” He said, “You’re opposed to reparations.” I said, “Most of America is opposed to reparations. Are they the anti-black? Barack Obama was opposed to reparations until a year ago. Was he anti-black then?”
The way I was treated by the media was the way I thought I would be, although it corroborated everything that I thought. As far as I’m concerned, Jan, I had four opponents, Gavin Newsom, of course, who never ever defended his record on crime, on homelessness, on the way he shut down the State while ignoring the science, denying government kids in government schools a whole year of in-person education. People are leaving California for the first time in the State’s 170 year history; brownouts, rolling brownouts and poor water management. We’re running out of water.
We’ve got a body of water next to us, called the Pacific ocean. Somehow we can’t figure this out. He never defended his record. He just said, “Stop the Republican takeover.” Obama cut a commercial for him. “Stop Republican takeover.” Elizabeth Warren, “Stop Republican takeover.” Bernie Sanders, “Stop the Republican takeover.” Nobody said this, Jan, “Gavin Newsom has done a good job for the people of California.” All they said was, “Larry Elder is a Trump Republican.”
Joe Biden flew out, campaigned for him, and said I was more Trump than Trump, whatever that means. The point is all they did was point at me and scream and say, “Trump Republican. Republican Trump, Trump Republican, Republican Trump.” And it worked.
What I’ve always said is that California has got to hit rock bottom. The definition of rock bottom is when crime comes to your neighborhood. Your neighborhood is in Hancock Park or Beverly Hills or Bellaire and Malibu, and now, unfortunately, beginning to happen. Not long ago a UCLA graduate student, who was working in a furniture store by herself, was stabbed by a homeless guy. And a few weeks before that in Beverly Hills the wife of a record mogul was murdered by somebody who broke in the house. By the way, they had security on site and he still shot and killed her, by somebody with a long criminal record who should never have been out of prison.
So now the crime is coming to the suburbs, to the very elites who spent money to stop me from doing something about the very crime that now they’re concerned about. So California is getting to that point where I believe they’re almost going to hit rock bottom. There’s a lot of voter’s remorse right now, as far as I’m concerned. So I know I spoke [for] I think almost 15 minutes nonstop, but I’m pretty passionate about my State.
Mr. Jekielek: I can see that. You were expecting that someone would call you the black face of white supremacy? That’s the part, I find that so reprehensible, that the headline would read that.
Mr. Elder: I was. On a more cosmic level, Joe Biden promised to appoint the first black female to the Supreme Court. He just made a nominee. All I know is this. When I was in law school my law professors never told me that I would interpret the law differently because I’m black, or you should interpret the law differently because you’re a female. But now this is where we are. And I know that during my race, the person that called me the black face of white supremacy was not a white male, it was a black female. The person that’s called my views white supremacist was not a white male, it was a female Latina.
So a job of a Judge, according to John Roberts, the Chief Justice, is to call balls and strikes. If I’m a black batter, should I have a black umpire calling the balls and strikes for me because I’m black? It doesn’t make any sense. We’ve gone from wanting a color blind society to one that’s a color coordinated society. And I think it’s a complete repudiation of what MLK stood for.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, I want to go back to California in a moment, but before we do that let’s talk about this woke ideology that essentially allows for such a headline to be concocted in the first place.
Mr. Elder: I didn’t tell you the sub-headline, “Larry Elder is the black face of white supremacy.” That was a headline, sub headline: “You’ve been warned.” So somebody who wants school choice is dangerous. Somebody who wants to do something about soft on crime DAs is dangerous. Somebody who wants taxes lowered is dangerous. Somebody who wants to reign in the environmental extremists that stopped construction to the point where the average price of a home in California is 175 percent more than the average price of a home in America, that makes me the black face of white supremacy. That makes my views white supremacist views, it makes me dangerous? It’s ludicrous. Can’t we have a discussion on the merits without attacking me personally? Apparently, no.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, so according to this ideology, as I’ve learned talking to all sorts of experts on this over the last three years, if you’re not subscribing to the politics of that ideology you actually are considered white supremacist. Doesn’t matter what color you are.
Mr. Elder: Candice Owens was called a white supremacist.
Mr. Jekielek: That’s right.
Mr. Elder: And she’s a black female. You’re right.
Mr. Jekielek: Basically a few people have been saying that this whole thing has peaked and now it’s coming down the other end. What do you think?
Mr. Elder: I would like to think so. Look at the recall of these three left wing school board members in San Francisco, that happened about a week or two ago. They were recalled with over 70 percent of the vote.
Mr. Jekielek: 78 percent, I think it was—unbelievable.
Mr. Elder: And in San Francisco you’re talking about six percent registered Republicans. So these were left wing people who were upset at the woke policies of these three school board members, so something is happening. And in an unguarded moment every now and then you’ll find a left wing person admit this thing has gone nuts.
Some years ago, the first and current black editor of The New York Times, his name is Dean Baquet, hired a man named Bret Stephens to write a column for The New York Times. He’s a Trump hating Republican, this is the kind of Republican that The New York Times and the Washington Post hires. But they hired him. And his first column was written about his skepticism about climate change alarmism. He wasn’t skeptical that the climate was changing. He just wasn’t sure the extent to which humans caused it. That’s all he said. Took a very moderate, modulated position on it.
And people contacted The New York Times. They were angry they hired the guy, angry at his column. Many of them canceled their subscriptions. And so a chagrined Dean Baquet was at a forum and he talked about this a few weeks after this happened. And he said, “I have learned that we,” and he caught himself, and he said, “people on the left do not want to hear thoughtful disagreement.” This is the Managing Editor of The New York Times, a black man, acknowledging, “That the left does not want to hear thoughtful disagreement.”
That to me is an incredible admission. I’ve mentioned it on my radio show many, many times, Jan. A tree fell in the forest, didn’t make any sound because no one outside the left, outside of conservative circles, is even talking about this admission by the Managing Editor of the New York Times, that the left does not want to hear thoughtful disagreement.
Mr. Jekielek: There is a house in San Francisco, I was reading about this, that sold, I think it was originally a $20 million home. It was bought and it was sold for $11 million. And I’ve been hearing all sorts of crazy stories. Presumably this is part of the reason that the recall went the way it did in that school district. But the situation that you described earlier, that the crime and these policies are coming, the chickens are coming home to roost in these places. I think San Francisco is a case in point right now. So what do you think it will take for those policies to change? Because it’s like a freight train, right?
Mr. Elder: It’s like a freight train. It requires it to come home to you. And again, the crime is now starting to come home to places like Hancock Park. That’s where the young lady from UCLA, a graduate student, was stabbed—Hancock Park. Beverly Hills is where that man broke into the house and murdered the wife of that record company mogul.
It’s one thing for homicides to go up in the inner city, as they are. And by the way, most of the victims of the increased homicide are black and brown people living in the inner city. But when you’re finding these smash and grabs taking place at Neiman Marcus and these high end stores, all of a sudden people on the left are beginning to rethink their assumptions.
I’ll give you a prime example. One of the issues when I ran was the DA in L.A. County, his name is George Gascon. He was handpicked by Gavin Newsom to become the DA of San Francisco. After he became the DA there he came down to L.A. and ran for and got elected DA of L.A. County. And he has been funded either directly or indirectly by George Soros or George Soros types.
Well, there has been a recall movement and it failed because the signatures were not gathered in time, but there’s been another recall effort. And now all of a sudden, some of the very same people that gave money to Gavin Newsom to prevent me from taking his job are now helping to fund the recall movement to recall George Gascon because crime is now coming to their neighborhoods.
So, they don’t have their kids in government schools. They have all their kids in private schools. They couldn’t care less about the fact that 75 percent of black kids in third grade in government schools, pre-pandemic, could not read at state levels of proficiency. And those levels are low because they lower them all the time so they don’t look so bad. The math scores are even worse. Half of all third graders in our government schools cannot read at state levels of proficiency. And 80 percent of the kids in government schools in California are black and brown.
So elite people don’t care about that, their kids are already in private schools. But they do care about crime when it comes to them. And so I think there is a growing feeling that California is about ready to hit rock bottom. When I was running my campaign, I used a line that California needs to hit rock bottom. And I was asked, “Elder, define rock bottom.” I said, “Rock bottom is when the homeless guy relieves himself on your front lawn, provided your front lawn is in Brentwood or Bellaire or Beverly Hills or Malibu.” And that is increasingly becoming the case.
Homelessness is everywhere in California. They’re spending more money than ever to combat it. It’s gotten worse. They’re not going about it the right way. I had a plan when I was running for office. And so the number one and number two issues now for California, crime and homelessness. And in growing numbers, people on the left are beginning to recognize it is out of control and we need to rethink our assumption. So, I don’t think we’re there yet, but we’re getting there.
Mr. Jekielek: So very briefly, around homelessness, and I’ve been also following this issue a lot. What are the false assumptions here that are causing this situation?
Mr. Elder: Let me put it this way. Unless you’re prepared to move people from public properties when the conditions “are right”, we’re having pointless conversation. When there is sufficient housing built and somebody on the streets refuses to go, you have a choice. You can say, “Well, nothing we can do.” Or we can say, “You are going to be moved. You are going to move to an area where we have built for you, whether you like it or not.” And until, and unless we have a conversation where a sufficient number of people in California say okay, you can’t tell people to move when there isn’t somewhere to put them. But there’s a Supreme Court case, and it says, “When there are sufficient homes built, you can lawfully physically remove somebody from a public area.”
A lot of people in California think it’s cruel. The video of somebody yelling and screaming when they’re being moved looks horrific, just as it looked horrific in Israel when people who were in these so-called settlements were forcibly removed when the policies changed. Unless you’re prepared to watch that and have that conversation, I got nothing for you. But when there is sufficient housing and housing can be built cheaply-
Mr. Jekielek: Is that housing, or shelters, or both?
Mr. Elder: Both. Both.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay.
Mr. Elder: Because it’s more safe. There are thousands of people who are killed every single year within the homeless population by other homeless people. It is extremely dangerous. If you are a female in a homeless community, you are going to be raped. 100 percent of them have pretty much been raped over a certain period of time, and sometimes more than once. So it’s not like we’re doing this for us, we’re also doing it for you. It’s not healthy for you. It’s not hygienic for everybody else. It’s not safe. And affordable housing can be built, should be built. And once it’s done, we have to have a conversation. Are you going to allow people to stay on the streets, even when there’s shelter for them, or will they be physically removed? Sheriff Alex Villanueva and I have had this conversation, and he said, “Larry, until and unless Californians are willing to physically remove people when there is sufficient housing for them, we’re going to have this problem.”
Mr. Jekielek: But this is a mental health and a drugs issue primarily, right? It’s not a, you got kicked out of your home issue. That’s what I understand is, again the foundational assumption that’s misunderstood.
Mr. Elder: There are some people that have lost their homes. There are some people that have lost their jobs, but most of them are mentally ill or are addicted to some sort of substance. And there’s treatment available. And after Proposition 47 came along you could now use up to three grams of meth without fear of going to jail, because you’re no longer a felon. You’ve committed a misdemeanor. And they’ll write you a ticket, and because of cashless bail you don’t have to go to jail.
So Sheriff Alex Villanueva, the Sheriff of L.A. County, told me that after Proposition 47 our toolkit now had that removed. We can no longer tell somebody who’s doing meth on the streets: either you go to rehab or you go to jail. Now they say, “Either I go to rehab or what?” And we now have no alternative. And as a result, the homeless problem after 47 got worse. And by the way, the person that drafted Proposition 47 was George Gascon.
Mr. Jekielek: Okay. The three most important things that California could do right now to affect change.
Mr. Elder: Dramatically reform CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act that has caused the price of a home in California to be 175 percent above the national average. The environmental extremists need to be reigned in. California is down almost 1 million housing units as a result of environmental laws like that. And that’s one of the primary reasons that the middle class and lower class people have left California. They cannot afford the price of a home.
Number two, school choice. The first step towards leaving poverty, think tanks on the left and on the right will tell you, is to at least finish high school, and one where you can read, write and compute at grade level.
Third thing, make sure that bad guys do the time for their crimes. We need to get rid of these soft on crime DAs, and laws, like Proposition 47—we described that. Proposition 57, which lowered a whole bunch of categories of crime into nonviolent offenses. Now because of Proposition 57, assault on a police officer is considered to be a nonviolent offense. Serial arson is a nonviolent offense. Rape of an intoxicated victim is a nonviolent offense, meaning the bad guy does not serve nearly the same kind of term he would’ve served prior to Proposition 57.
The number one job of government is to protect people and property. Make sure government does its number one job.
Mr. Jekielek: Everything you’re talking about, it seems to me like decriminalizing crime. It’s…
Mr. Elder: Well, the philosophy of people like Gavin Newsom, of Chesa Boudin up in the Bay area, and of George Gascon is people commit crimes because of social problems, because their father didn’t take them to Disneyland when they were in the third grade, because they were victims of society.
My father never knew his father. My father was kicked out of the home when he was 13. My father never spent a day in jail. If you’re raised by wolves in the jungle you should know that murder is wrong, and we should hold people responsible for that. And these soft on crime DAs don’t think that their job is to prosecute bad guys. Your job is to prosecute bad guys, not to be a sociologist. We have sociologists to do that.
Mr. Jekielek: Any final thoughts, Larry?
Mr. Elder: We’re going to take back this country. I formed, after my race, a political action committee called elderforamerica.com. I urge people to throw something in the tip jar because we’re trying to take back the House, take back the Senate, do something about these soft on crime DAs, and campaign for all of the school choice initiatives that are all over the country, and make sure that inner city parents have the same kind of choices that some of the elite people have, who claim that they care about black and brown people.
Mr. Jekielek: So you’re basically putting your money where your mouth is on the policy, not necessarily on specific candidates. It’s basically you want to push these policies that you’ve been telling me about this whole…
Mr. Elder: Absolutely. But there are some candidates in very, very important swing areas in the House and in the Senate that we want to back as well. But you’re right. It’s about school choice, about doing something about these soft on crime DAs. And we’re also campaigning against critical race theory, which I think is dividing us down racial lines.
Mr. Jekielek: Well, Larry Elder, it’s such a pleasure to have you on again. Always it is, actually.
Mr. Elder: My pleasure. Thank you. Sorry I talk so much.
Mr. Jekielek: We live in an age of censorship and disinformation where some of the most prominent voices, most important voices, aren’t actually being heard because they’re being suppressed. I invite some of these people onto the show, onto American Thought Leaders. So to stay up to date on the most recent episodes and our exclusive content you can actually sign up for our newsletter at theepochtimes.com/newsletter. Just hit the check box for American Thought Leaders.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Subscribe to the American Thought Leaders newsletter so you never miss an episode.
Follow EpochTV on social media: