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What did Clint Eastwood say about Chrysler bailout?

Before Clint Eastwood did the Chrysler Super Bowl commercial, the libertarian actor criticized the Chrysler bailout.

By Deepa Seetharaman / February 8, 2012

Clint Eastwood at the February 2012 opening of the Warner Bros. Theater at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington.

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

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Detroit

Before he emerged in a controversial Super Bowl ad as the gravelly voice of Chrysler's resurgence, Clint Eastwood was a critic of the government bailout that saved the U.S. automaker.

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"We shouldn't be bailing out the banks and car companies," actor, director and Academy Award winner Eastwood told the Los Angeles Times in November 2011. "If a CEO can't figure out how to make his company profitable, then he shouldn't be the CEO."

The two-minute Chrysler ad "Halftime in America" won attention for its focus on American resilience, but raised eyebrows for the way critics said it echoed one of the central themes of President Barack Obama's reelection bid.

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Eastwood, a longtime Republican who now describes himself as a libertarian, told Fox News on Monday he was "certainly not politically affiliated with Mr. Obama."

The ad was meant as a message "about job growth and the spirit of America. I think all politicians will agree with it," Eastwood said, according to a transcript on Foxnews.com.

"If Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it," the actor added.

The White House, which said it was not involved in making the ad, did say that the message highlighted the "simple fact" that Obama had rescued the U.S. auto industry.

"He was not willing to allow - did not believe it was necessary to allow - the American automobile industry to collapse and disappear," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

Eastwood's manager Leonard Hirshan said the actor has not changed his views on the auto bailout.

"He did a commercial that had nothing to do with politics," Hirshan said. "What he did was talk about America. If anything, this was a pro American commercial not a Chrysler commercial. Chrysler just sponsored what he had to say."

Chrysler has not said how much the Super Bowl ad cost or how much Eastwood was paid. A 30-second spot in this year's game televised by NBC cost $3.5 million.

In the ad, which aired during Sunday's Super Bowl football game, Eastwood, 81, gave what amounted to a pep talk to an America still mired in hard times. The ad pointed to Detroit's resurgence since the taxpayer-funded bankruptcy restructuring of both Chrysler Group LLC and General Motors Co in 2009.

"Detroit's showing us it can be done," Eastwood said. "And, what's true about them is true about all of us."

In an interview with Detroit radio station WJR, Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne emphasized the TV spot was not meant to be seen as a political statement. Rather, the ad was intended to showcase "the resilience of America."

"It has zero political content," Marchionne said Monday. "We are as apolitical as you can make us."

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