See also: Democratic Socialists of America
Yitzak Edward Asner was born to Orthodox Jewish immigrant parents on November 15, 1929 in Kansas City, Kansas. He attended the University of Chicago and served in the U.S. Army Signal Corps from 1951-53. Asner is best known for his work as a television actor on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77) and Lou Grant (1977–82). From 1981-85, he served two terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild.
Asner has long identified himself as a socialist who wants the United States to emulate “the Scandinavian countries,” where people are “well taken care of … medicinally, economically, educationally.” A proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Asner in 2011 was asked by a reporter, “What have you always really stood for?” The actor replied, “Socialism.”
In the 1980s Asner supported the communist revolutionaries who were fighting for political supremacy in Central America, and he became a vocal critic of the Reagan administration's effort to thwart them. For instance:
Asner made plain his contempt for Reagan in a discussion about the use of taxpayer money to fund the production of obscene artwork like photographer Robert Mapplethorpe's infamous “Jim and Tom.” Said Asner: “I consider the Mapplethorpe picture—one man urinating into the mouth of another—as merely a depiction of Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down [economic] theory.”
In 1984 Asner co-sponsored the Ninth Annual Banquet of the Labor Research Association, a Communist Party USA front that worked cooperatively with the World Federation of Trade Unions, a Soviet international front.
In 1985 Asner was a key participant in the Chicago DSA's annual Eugene Debs/Norman Thomas/Michael Harrington Dinner Banquet, named in honor of three prominent American socialists. Two years later in Terre Haute, Indiana, Asner was honored for his left-wing activism at a Eugene Debs Award Banquet.
In a May 1990 fundraising letter which he wrote on behalf of DSA, Asner condemned the “arbitrary power” of capitalism and urged his readers to support the DSA goal of “fundamental redistribution of wealth and power in this country.”
Asner was an avid admirer of longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro:
A longtime opponent of capital punishment, Asner was once a member of the “International Committee to Free Geronimo Pratt,” the former Black Panther who was serving a prison sentence for murder. In October 2000 Asner testified as a character witness for cop-killer Kenneth Gay, stating that because Gay had once written a “wonderfully encouraging” play about children—a play that “highly impressed” Asner—a prison sentence would be more appropriate than execution. And over the years, Asner made many public appearances to protest the death sentence that had been issued against convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu Jamal.
In the post-9/11 era, Asner advocated for the 9-11 Visibility Project, which promoted the idea that the U.S. government knew in advance that the infamous al-Qaeda terrorist attacks were coming, yet did nothing to stop them. Similarly:
In 2002 Asner was a signatory to the highly publicized Not In Our Name “Statement of Conscience,” initiated by Revolutionary Communist Party leader C. Clark Kissinger. This document condemned not only the Bush administration's “stark new measures of repression,” but also its “unjust, immoral, illegitimate, [and] openly imperial policy towards the world.” For a list of additional signers, click here.
A harsh critic of the Bush administration's foreign policy, Asner in December 2002—three months prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq—charged that Bush officials “have keyed and geared the war machine … [to the point] that they've got to unload it someplace. Iraq is the likeliest place.”
In a 2002 television appearance, actor Ron Silver challenged Asner's assertion that the United Nations was the only authority that could legitimately stand in judgment of the world's various governments. When Silver stated that the UN was not the “imprimatur of morality,” Anser responded: “Nor are we [Americans]. Nor are we.”
In April 2004 Asner wrote a letter “to the Peace and Justice Movement” stating that “9-11 has been used to justify” such things as “endless war,” “a continual rollback in civil liberties that seems to have no end in sight,” and the rise of “an imperialist government.” “I also think,” Asner added, “that there is a strong streak of racism whenever we engage in foreign adventures. Our whole history in regime change has been of people of different color.”
During the Egyptian revolution of 2011, in which longtime president (and U.S. ally) Hosni Mubarak was toppled—setting the stage for the Muslim Brotherhood's rise to power in that country—Asner commented: “What is known is that [Mubarak] has generally been regarded as a dictator for a lot of years. The whole American policy of fostering and furthering dictators has to be questioned.”
When asked in 2011 what he thought of the conservative Tea Party movement, Asner replied: “Not much. I haven't the foggiest idea what they stand for, and the more you watch President Obama, I don't see what they have to complain about.... The Tea Party uprisings are based on ghost images such as [excessive] taxation.... We're less taxed than almost any other Western country.”
On June 19, 2013—the 60th anniversary of the executions of atomic spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg—Asner and fellow actor/anti-death penalty activist Mike Farrell marked the occasion by co-sponsoring a screening of the film Daniel at the Communist Party's Los Angeles Workers' Center. A fictionalized account of the Rosenberg case, this 1983 Sidney Lumet movie focuses on the hardships allegedly endured by the children of persecuted Communist activists. Addressing those who attended the film screening, Asner drew parallels to Stalin's infamous show trials and suggested that the Rosenberg prosecution was tainted by anti-Semitism. Further, Asner made reference to his own vocal opposition, as president of the Screen Actors' Guild, to the Reagan administration's anti-Communist policies in Central America during the 1980s.
Asner has served on the advisory board of the Rosenberg Fund for Children since at least 2003. In 2009 he was a member of the of the Independent Progressive Politics Network's advisory committee. In 2010 he was listed as an endorser of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy, an antiwar organization with socialist roots. And as of 2014 he was on the advisory board of the Harry Bridges Project, which was named in honor of the late Bay Area labor leader and secret member of the Communist Party USA's Central Committee.
For additional information on Ed Asner, click here.
 Other prominent initiators and endorsers of the NION Statement included Philip Agee, Harry Belafonte, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, John Conyers, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Falk, Thomas Gumbleton, Woody Harrelson, Corliss Lamont, Mario Obledo, Charles Rangel, Pete Seeger, Martin Sheen, Paul Sweezy, Alice Walker, Lucius Walker Jr., Maxine Waters, Quentin Young, and Howard Zinn.
 Other members of the AAUFCF included Mike Farrell, Danny Glover, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Sarandon, Pete Seeger, Martin Sheen, and Oliver Stone.
 Asner once complained to Philadelphia Magazine that there were no African Americans on the jury that convicted Mumia, but in fact there were two. And in December 1998 Asner claimed that police had performed no ballistics tests in their investigation, but this, too, was false.