Yes, I think the arts through the ages have given us far more liberals. I'd like to see a study going back in time, and I believe we'd find that among painters and architects and playwrights and composers, by far they have been of liberal instinct. And that's why Congress has always been denying money to the arts.
I've been to conferences where everybody was a "progressive," and two days go by and you don't hear the word "liberal." At one of them, that was my talk: How is it possible they've beaten the words "left" and "liberal" out of us?
Does it annoy your critics on the right that you're a billionaire businessman who did it in Hollywood, and by tweaking the noses of the establishment?
I didn't have money on my mind, and that's the truth. It sounds self-serving, but I was married very young and wanted my wife and children safe. One way you make them safe is financially. I remember when I had to fly to New York — in those years, we used to get to the airport early and buy airline flight insurance. The first time I woke up and realized I didn't have to do that any more, I had enough insurance — that made me feel wealthy.
You've made your share of political donations; what do you make of the Citizens United ruling?
Citizens United made us a different country. Money can buy anything now: It can buy a governor; it can buy a mayor. One of the greatest concerns about four or eight years with Romney [as president] is these lifetime appointments in the federal courts and the Supreme Court especially. What would it mean to this country? Look what it's meant so far. There's Citizens United because of this court.
People talk about the political messages in your shows. I don't know that this was your intent, but people do listen better when they're laughing.
People also laugh harder when they are interested and concerned and care. When you've got people worried about what's going to happen [to a character], then you can present a laugh to them, and the laugh is far bigger. That's why the old expression "I laughed so hard I cried." It's a very thin line. We enjoyed playing both of those elements.
Some viewers never saw Archie Bunker as a buffoon.
I've got hundreds or thousands of letters to prove it. There was never a letter that lionized Archie that didn't also criticize us. Any letter that said, "Right on, Archie," also said, "You horse's asses."
Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of "South Park," talked about Archie's influence on "60 Minutes."
To my pride and joy they said they'd wanted to do Archie, and the only way they could figure to do it was an 8-year-old, so that's where Eric Cartman came from.
What television do you watch now?
I watch "South Park"and "Family Guy," and I certainly watch"Modern Family." I think "Modern Family" is just fabulous. They've always got something on their minds and they let it go!
It sounds as if you think television is always about families.
Before "All in the Family," on CBS alone there was"The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction" and "Green Acres," and they were children of"Leave It to Beaver" and "Father Knows Best," where the biggest problem the family faced was the roast is ruined and the boss is coming to dinner. Look at what a point of view all of those shows were expressing: There were no racial problems in America; there was no divide around the world; there was nothing to worry about. If that isn't a point of view I can't imagine what is.
Do you watch Fox TV?
Oh sure, I watch Fox. I go back and forth between Fox and MSNBC. I often drive to work listening to Rush Limbaugh. If I haven't fully awakened, that will give me the kick in the ass I need.
What do Fox and Limbaugh mean to this country's politics?
When I was a little boy, I used to love traveling carnivals. The barkers, they were liars and cheats, especially the ones who asked you to pay another quarter to "come [behind] the curtain and see the hermaphrodite." I think of them when I listen to these guys. They're carnival barkers. Who could have guessed they would move from the carnival to the public mall?
firstname.lastname@example.org This interview was edited and excerpted from a taped transcript.