Interview with Arianna Huffington
The New York Times Magazine, Jan. 19, 2003
RM: How did your TV commercials connecting S.U.V.'s to terrorism get started?
AH: After watching the drug-war ads equating taking drugs to terrorism, I wrote a column making a link between driving gas-guzzling cars like S.U.V.'s and supporting countries that fund terrorists. And at the end of this column I had what I considered a rhetorical question: would anyone be willing to pay for a people's ad campaign to jolt our leaders into reality? The next morning I woke up to a flood of over 5,000 e-mails. So I called two great friends of mine who are sort of activists in their own ways. One is Laurie David, who is an environmental activist and married to Larry David, who put the first hybrid cars on his show, ''Curb Your Enthusiasm.''
RM: I've noticed he's driving a funny car on the show, what seems like a funny car for L.A.
AH: He's a complete believer in it - in fact, he came to our press conference yesterday in his Prius.
RM: Doesn't everyone in Hollywood drive an S.U.V.? Didn't you?
AH: Yes. Absolutely. That's really the nation-divided, the city-divided element that's going on. There are S.U.V.'s everywhere.
RM: What kind of car do you drive now?
AH: I drive a hybrid Prius.
RM: Since when?
AH: I've been driving it for six, seven months. I mean, I'm a new convert. And that's why I'm not here like a holier-than-thou person. I was driving a Lincoln Navigator until November 2001.
RM: You wrote a book about the Greek gods and goddesses and their lessons for modern life. They're not really famous for their self-restraint - wouldn't they all drive S.U.V.'s?
AH: I think Hermes would definitely be driving a hybrid car. He really understood complexity and could handle it. He was the god of the underworld and the god of commerce, just to give you an idea. Zeus would probably be flying.
RM: What would Maria Callas drive? You wrote a biography of her too.
AH: Maria Callas would not drive. Prima donnas do not drive. But the best thing going on here now, people who do not drive, but use drivers, now have chauffeur-driven Priuses.
RM: Do you know what Prius means?
AH: No, I'll have to find out. It sounds vaguely naughty. With my Greek accent a lot of things sound vaguely naughty.
RM: Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Patricia Arquette are some of the people driving hybrids. Don't you worry that since celebrities are always pitching something, your effort will seem like just another ad campaign for Toyota?
AH: Basically Washington is in the pocket of Detroit, so we need all the forces we can gather, and if those forces include celebrity, fabulous. Incidentally over the last few days I am finding out there are a lot of people driving hybrids who are not publicizing it - Kirk Douglas and Richard Dreyfuss, for instance.
RM: Are you worried that your movement will be swept out of sight if we go to war with Iraq and that's what the news is all about?
AH: I don't really think so. You know, in one day, yesterday, we got more than 400,000 hits on the Web site. We're already having people signing the pledge to give up their S.U.V.'s.
RM: You have a pledge?
AH: Yes, they don't have to put their hand on the Bible and swear, but so far 4,000 people have signed up in the first two days.
RM: Can 4,000 people really scare Washington and Detroit?
AH: First of all, this is just the beginning, but secondly a very small aroused minority is all that it takes in our democracy at the moment to scare Washington. They scare very easily.
RM: You're thought of as a conservative, and you serve on the board of the Points of Light Foundation, so what do you say to your conservative friends who drive S.U.V.'s?
AH: I have reregistered as an independent - but I don't think it's a left-right issue. A lot of Republicans share this concern. But I still have a lot of friends who drive S.U.V.'s, and my personal response is not to browbeat them but to help them connect the dots. And if they still choose to drive an S.U.V., that's their choice. You know, I have a lot of my friends making wrong choices all the time.