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Hillary Clinton and Stephen Colbert chirp vegans when chatting about Bill’s diet

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The Hill shared a recent clip from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, in which Colbert had a chance to get some laughs with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Shot in the famous Carnegie Deli, the conversation immediately began with probing questions about her husband, former president Bill Clinton, and his vegan diet.

“I know that former President Clinton, your husband, is a vegan,” Colbert instigated. “Is he going to give you any grief on this, any friction, for eating meat?” After she responded with a short “no,” he continues, “He’s not a smug vegan?” “He’s really not,” Clinton professed.

“I think that legally makes him not a vegan,” Colbert joked, before launching in to his best impression of Bill criticizing meat-eaters: “He never says, like, ‘That sandwich had a face. That sandwich is somebody’s little baby.’ ” “He doesn’t say that,” the former first lady said. “He’s a very open-minded vegan.”

And so, the stereotype that vegans are smug, aggressive, and would condemn anyone who eats meat continue, and the backwards idea that vegans are close-minded is enforced. But remember when we said Bill Clinton should stop calling himself a vegan? This is the sort of thing we were hinting at. His choice to remove some animal products from his diet, for his health, does not make him a role model for a movement formed in ethics, or the people that are active in it. Now, it’s leading to further confusion for the general public about what it means to be vegan. 

The clip continues with Colbert talking about the Clinton’s grandkids and whether or not Bill would only give them kale chips. Hillary is proud to say that “he doesn’t [eat ice cream] but I don’t think he’d deprive his grandchild of that.”  Again, the stereotype is that all vegans eat nothing but kale, and that feeding kids vegan is somehow cruel. While it’s important to have a good humour about ourselves, the consistent mocking of vegans that is rooted in what people think vegans are like is tiresome. 

Still, the theatrics were no doubt a distraction from the fact that this interview had virtually no political agenda, and was just a chance to for voters to see a “fun” side to Hillary. With twice as many down-votes on this Youtube video than up, people might make a link between disliking Hillary and disliking played out vegan jokes.

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  • Joan Kennedy

    Hyperbole is a legitimate comedic tool. The listener is not meant to take the over-the-top comments at face value, but to take in a subtler message. Isn’t Colbert’s BFF Jon Stewart a vegan with an animal sanctuary on his land? I’m not convinced this Colbert ribbing is coming from a mean or ignorant place. Colbert specializes in the sarcastic vein of irony where what is literally said is often the precise opposite of what is actually meant. Most vegans are politically liberal, and I think with interview like this Colbert is trying to help Clinton score points with the wing of her party that thinks of her as too far right. And Clinton’s “smug vegan” comments do strike home with me. Some vegans are a lot easier for meat-eaters to get along with than are other vegans. That is not subject to debate. Militant, strident, smug, there are many terms used to describe vegans of the more in-your-face combative stripe, and everyone knows these terms apply to some vegans and not to others.

    Bill Clinton’s continued animal use is another topic altogether, and I agree that for that reason the word “vegan” is inaccurate to describe his diet. But for the overall point of this article, probably good to remember that most lifestyle vegans are young, and that most dietary vegans are more in the Warfarin age demographic.

  • Jenna MIles

    Bill clinton is not and never was vegan. He followed a plant based diet, but that is only one part of veganism. vegans also dont wear fur, leather or wool, and try to avoid products tested on animals (apart from medications, you cant avoid it then) they dont go to zoo or aquariums, etc. And when vegans come across as smug and judgemental it is because harming others isnt a personal choice.

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