Born in Brooklyn, New York on April 24, 1942, Barbra Streisand is a world-famous singer, actress, director, and producer. For biographical details about her youth, her family background, and her entertainment career, click here.
In addition to her work as a performer, Streisand has long been a highly visible, outspoken advocate for, and funder of, Democratic Party candidates and left-wing causes. She also uses her Internet blog, BarbraStreisand.com, to share her views on a wide range of matters, including political and social issues.
In 1986 Streisand established and endowed the Barbra Streisand Foundation (BSF), a philanthropy through which she supports numerous organizations that share her political and social values. Margery Tabankin has been the Foundation’s executive director since 1988. Notwithstanding Streisand’s outspokenness on environmentalism and the dangers allegedly posed by fossil fuels, BSF over the years has held large amounts of stock in various oil and coal companies (including Halliburton), but not in any solar-energy or hydrogen fuel-cell developers. Similarly, Streisand’s consistent anti-war positions have not prevented her Foundation from owning shares in Honeywell and Lockheed Martin, two large defense contractors. As author Peter Schweizer notes: “Streisand is hardly ignorant of these investments. To the contrary, she has bragged to Fortune magazine that she is an astute stock-picker.”
In June 1999, Streisand signed on to a full-page USA Today ad by Handgun Control, Inc. This “Open Letter to the National Rifle Association” called for the implementation of a number of gun-control measures, including mandatory child-safety locks, background checks, and 72-hour waiting periods for all handgun purchases. Among the other notable signatories to the ad were Alec Baldwin, Cher, Walter Cronkite, Matt Damon, Ellen DeGeneres, Phil Donahue, Spike Lee, Madonna, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Robbins, Julia Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Bruce Springsteen, and Harvey Weinstein.
In October 2016, Streisand disseminated an email supporting California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom’s Proposition 63) – known as the Background Checks for Ammunition Purchases and Large-Capacity Ammunition Magazine Ban Initiative – and urging people to donate money “to defeat the National Rifle Association.”
In 2000, Streisand was a signatory to a letter asking President Bill Clinton to place a moratorium on federal death-penalty executions, on grounds that the capital punishment system was “distorted by bias and arbitrariness.” Other signers of the letter included Mary Frances Berry, Julian Bond, Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, Wade Henderson, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Rev. James Lawson, Norman Lear, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Mario Obledo, Robert Reich, George Soros, and Rev. Jim Wallis.
An ardent environmentalist, Streisand in 2002 claimed that Republicans were to blame for “poison in the water, salmonella in the food, carbon dioxide in the air, and toxic waste in the ground.”
Streisand steadfastly believes that the greenhouse gases associated with human industrial activity are major contributors to climate change and its potentially catastrophic ramifications. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina in September 2005, for instance, Streisand said that “we are in a global warming emergency state and these storms are going to become more frequent [and] more intense,” and that “for the United States not to be part of the Kyoto treaty is unforgivable.” In a piece she wrote for the Huffington Post twelve years later, Streisand said: “Fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas create heat-trapping emissions in the atmosphere, warming the planet. The oceans are warming as well — and the warmer the oceans, the stronger the storms.” Emphasizing that “climate change is real,” “ice caps are melting,” and “sea levels are rising,” Streisand exhorted her readers to pressure their representatives in Washington to “start working on clean and renewable energy, like solar and wind, that don’t pollute the atmosphere.” To further signal her commitment to environmental causes, she established a Streisand Chair on Global Climatic Change at the Environmental Defense Fund.
Notwithstanding her passionate efforts to alert the public to the dangers of climate change, Streisand typically fails to heed her own dire warnings:
In 2001, Streisand accused President George W. Bush of being “a destructive man” who was guilty of “poisoning our air and water” and “poisoning our political system as well.”
In 2002, Streisand was a signatory to a letter addressed to President Bush and drafted by Artists United to Win Without War, asserting that a U.S. attack on Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq “will harm American national interests.” “We reject the doctrine,” the letter added, “… that our country, alone, has the right to launch first-strike attacks.” Additional signers included Edward Asner, Kim Basinger, Mike Farrell, Mia Farrow, Danny Glover, Robert Greenwald, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen, Gloria Steinem, and Howard Zinn.
When the late Communist dictator of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, wanted international monitors to oversee the political elections in his country in 2004, he asked both Streisand and film producer Michael Moore to serve in that role.
Streisand has long been a great admirer of civil-rights activist Jesse Jackson, lauding him for what she describes as his courage in taking on “the hard case[s].” She also has been a strong supporter of affirmative action as a means of opening the “locked doors” of racism. In her own personal business dealings, however, Streisand plays by a very different set of rules. As Peter Schweitzer wrote in 2006: “Streisand employs a large number of people through her various production companies … [but] it’s hard to find a single case where she has hired a black employee in a senior position. In fact, out of sixty-three producers and directors she has hired for various projects since 1983, only one was black.”
In his 2006 book Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, the aforementioned Peter Schweizer documents how difficult, greedy, and miserly Streisand frequently is. Below are some excerpts from Schweizer’s book:
Streisand is a close friend of Bill and Hillary Clinton. In November 2007 she endorsed Mrs. Clinton for the following year’s presidential election, calling her “a powerful voice for change” who could help the U.S. “regain its respect within the global community.” After Mrs. Clinton failed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination in June 2008, Streisand shifted her support to Barack Obama.
In 2012 Streisand supported “Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals” (DACA), an executive action by which President Obama guaranteed that most DREAM Act-eligible individuals would be granted temporary legal status, work permits, access to certain publicly funded social services, and protection from deportation.
When the Obama administration in 2015 was engaged in negotiations on a deal designed to constrain Iran’s rapidly developing nuclear-weapons program, Streisand assured American Jews that President Obama stood “strongly with our ally Israel and in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons.” After the accord was finalized that September, the editorial board of Streisand’s blog condemned Republicans for opposing it.
In March 2020, Streisand condemned President Donald Trump for having pulled the U.S. out of the Iran accord. By Streisand’s telling, Trump had “put the security of this country, and our planet, in a precarious position by abandoning the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal. He’s a one-man weapon of mass destruction.”
In November 2015, Streisand told ABC News: “I want Hillary Clinton to be president. We need a woman president, we need compassion, we need to have a person who comes from the heart, and brain. And experience, experience counts.” At the annual Women in Entertainment breakfast in Los Angeles the following month, Streisand urged women to band together and support Mrs. Clinton. She also stated that “gender discrimination drives me crazy,” and lamented that “women are still treated as second-class citizens in the workplace and [with regard to] equal representation in Congress.” “In the last 55 years,” Streisand added, “almost all heart disease research has been done on men. Gender inequality even extends to mice in the labs: They’re all male! So even female mice are discriminated against.”
In March 2016, Streisand wrote a short essay for the Huffington Post, in which she accused political pundits and the media at large of demonstrating “outright sexism” and “sexist condescension” in their coverage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
In April 2017, Streisand suggested that a deep strain of American misogyny was at least partly responsible for Mrs. Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election: “Women are still so underestimated; it’s incredible to watch even this last election with Hillary, the kind of strong woman, the powerful woman, the educated woman, the experienced woman, being thought of as the other, or too elite, or too educated.” “Strong women have always been suspect in this country,” Streisand added.
In August 2016, just over two months before election day, Streisand vowed that she would move to Australia or Canada if Republican Donald Trump were to defeat Mrs. Clinton in the presidential election.
In September 2016, Streisand blasted Trump in a lengthy op-ed in the Huffington Post. Some excerpts:
After President Trump issued a January 2017 executive order temporarily suspending visa entry into the U.S. from seven predominantly Muslim countries where terrorism was rampant, Streisand tweeted: “I absolutely oppose this Muslim ban. But why does it effect [sic] only countries with no Trump properties? Follow the $.”
In February 2020, Streisand tweeted: “Trump is directly responsible for the hate and discrimination that is growing in this country. And for our children — This is heartbreaking!” Her tweet was in response to a recent Washington Post report about alleged incidents of young children saying things like “build the wall” and “go back to where you came from” to their nonwhite peers. But the Post article provided no statistical evidence whatsoever to back up the claim that such incidents were in fact becoming more common.
In February 2020 as well, Streisand was angered when President Trump, during his address at the National Prayer Breakfast, said of congressional Democrats who self-identified as people of faith: “They love people and sometimes they hate people. I’m sorry. I apologize. I’m trying to learn. … It’s not easy. When they impeach you for nothing and then you’re supposed to like them, it’s not easy folks, I do my best.” Streisand tweeted in response: “It would’ve been so nice to hear President Trump bring people together in bi-partisan fashion at the prayer breakfast. You know, let’s let bygones be bygones and work together to put through infrastructure, healthcare. But no, his insults and vindictiveness always shines through.”
Over the course of her entertainment career, Streisand has sold approximately 250 million records, second only to Elvis Presley. As Biography.com notes, she is “the only artist to have earned honors from all the major award institutions, including two Academy Awards, one Tony Award, five Emmys, 10 Grammys, 13 Golden Globes, a CableACE Award, the … Peabody Award, and the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award.” Streisand also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in November 2015. Nevertheless, in April 2017 she claimed that she would have won even more awards if not for the fact that some members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the entity responsible for selecting Oscar winners, “don’t want to see a woman director.”
Over the past several decades, Streisand has given a great deal of money to the campaigns of numerous political candidates, all Democrats. The donees include such notables as Neil Abercrombie, Pete Aguilar, Tammy Baldwin, Karen Bass, Cory Booker, Barbara Boxer, Sherrod Brown, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, Tammy Duckworth, Richard Durbin, Donna Edwards, John Edwards, Lane Evans, Sam Farr, Russ Feingold, Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Kirsten Gillibrand, Al Gore, Tom Harkin, Maurice Hinchey, Mazie Hirono, Mike Honda, Tim Kaine, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Patrick Leahy, John Lewis, Ted Lieu, Ben Ray Lujan, Jim McGovern, Cynthia McKinney, Patty Murray, Barack Obama, Beto O’Rourke, Nancy Pelosi, Chellie Pingree, Raul Ruiz, Ken Salazar, Bernie Sanders, Jan Schakowsky, Adam Schiff, Al Sharpton, Hilda Solis, Tom Udall, Elizabeth Warren, and Diane Watson. She also has made contributions to EMILY’S List, the Moveon.org Voter Fund, Progressive Democrats of America, and Progressive Majority.