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Spike Lee, Morgan Freeman Heat Up Democrats' Battle For Black Endorsements

Director Spike Lee, in a radio ad released Tuesday endorsing Bernie Sanders says the Vermont Senator will "do the right thing" when he's in the White House.
Axel Schmidt
Director Spike Lee, in a radio ad released Tuesday endorsing Bernie Sanders says the Vermont Senator will "do the right thing" when he's in the White House.

Director Spike Lee became the latest black celebrity enter the battle of presidential endorsements ahead of this weekend's Democratic nominating contest in South Carolina. On Tuesday, the Bernie Sanders campaign released a radio ad called "Wake Up" featuring Lee.

The ad starts with Lee yelling "Waaaaake up!" a nod to the famous line towards the end of his 1988 film "School Daze."

"This is your dude Spike Lee. And I know that you know, the system is rigged. For too long we've given our votes to corporate puppets. Sold the okie doke. Ninety-nine percent of Americans were hurt by the great recession in 2008 and many are still recovering. And that's why I'm officially endorsing my brother Bernie Sanders," Lee says.

The director, who has made several films about black consciousness in America, says that Sanders will "do the right thing" when he's in the White House — that line is a reference to the title of perhaps Lee's most iconic film.

"How can we be sure? Bernie was at the March on Washington with Dr. King. He was arrested in Chicago for protesting segregation in public schools. He fought for wealth and educational equality throughout his whole career. No flippin', no floppin'. Enough talk, time for action."

Lee's support for the Vermont senator comes on the heels of another prominent Hollywood endorsement for Sanders.

This past weekend actor Danny Glover, best known for his role as Roger Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon movies of in the 1980's and '90s, stumped for Sanders in South Carolina. He told a crowd in Greenville on Sunday, "You can feel the Bern, don't you feel it?"

Not be outflanked in the battle for black voters, the Hillary Clinton campaign released its second television ad narrated by acclaimed actor Morgan Freeman, who among his numerous roles portrayed God in the 2003 film Bruce Almighty.

The most recent ad called "Stand" opens with a montage of African-Americans who have died from gun violence and while in the custody of police, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland and Dontre Hamilton.

"She says their names," Freeman says, adding later, "And makes their mothers' fight for justice her own."

The ad later focuses on Clinton calling attention to the water crisis in Flint, Mich. It also references a repeated Clinton critique of her Democratic rival — that Sanders wants to tear up President Obama's signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act. Sanders has rejected that claim.

"And [she] stands with the president against those who would undo his achievements, just like she's always stood with us," Freeman says.

Both campaigns have been fighting hard to win over African-American voters, a critical voting bloc in South Carolina's Democratic primary. During last weekend's caucuses in Nevada, Clinton won two thirds of the African American vote.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.
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