Another year, another upset after a major Hollywood star was spotted socialising with President Trump and his wife Melania.
But pap shots of, say, Ellen Degeneres cosying up to George W Bush or Kanye West donning a MAGA cap are doubly powerful because the political allegiances of such celebrities are usually kept fairly quiet. However, that Vince Vaughn should be sympathetic to the right shouldn't come as a massive surprise.
The actor, who reached the peak of his powers in the Noughties with goofball romcoms such as Wedding Crashers and The Break-Up (during which, ironically, he met his most famous A-lister former beau Jennifer Aniston), has long used his profile to discuss his libertarian views on gun control, drugs and taxes.
On Monday night, Twitter was sent a-flutter after photographs and video footage showed Vaughn enthusiastically catching up with President Trump and the First Lady at a college football game in New Orleans. Vaughn was spotted shaking hands and briefly sitting next to the Trumps to engage in an animated conversation, before carrying on with his evening.
When video taken by US journalist Timothy Burke made its way to Twitter, with the caption, "I'm very sorry to have to share this video with you. All of it, every part of it", it swiftly gained thousands of views and such a polarised response it was difficult to know who was serious, who was mocking, and which side of the spectrum those involved occupied.
From disappointment to salutation, cancel culture to congratulation, Vaughn's evident comfort in supporting Trump so publicly has caused a stir.
I'm very sorry to have to share this video with you. All of it, every part of it. pic.twitter.com/ELMbDHZbZq— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) January 14, 2020
But those shocked by Vaughn's enthusiasm for Trump might be even more alarmed to discover that this is only the latest example of the actor expressing his right-wing views.
Vaughn's ascent in Hollywood was always matched with an increase in volume from the actor about his political opinions – a rarity in the entertainment industry, where stars tend to keep such matters brushed under the carpet and those that do speak tend to veer to the left.
If anything, with more of the spotlight, Vaughn has only grown bolder: in 2004, he was shut out of a conference for young Republicans in Washington DC, when he and Owen attempted to attend while filming Wedding Crashers (which conjures, admittedly, a peculiar mental image). Why? Because the gatekeepers weren't convinced that Vaughn was actually a Republican, and was trying to come in for a joke.
Things became more serious over the next decade, as Vaughn developed a budding friendship with presidential candidate Ron Paul, a man who wanted to arrest gay people for having sex. They attended barbecues together and bonded over libertarian views, with Paul's campaign chairman describing Vaughn as "a great guy who loves liberty". In 2009, the politician was invited to the premiere of Vaughn's film Couples Retreat. By 2011, Vaughn was officially campaigning for him.
Undeterred by the failure of Paul's 2012 presidential campaign, Vaughn pivoted back to media, where he buddied up with Fox News commentator Glenn Beck (famed for believing conspiracy theories such as the Boston Marathon being a kind of government cover-up) to co-produce The Pursuit of Truth, a reality television series. A kind of X Factor for documentary makers, 1500 people competed for the prize of an international distribution deal. It aired on Beck's own television network, The Blaze, in 2013 and lasted just one season.
A return to movies – namely crime-themed ones with forgettable titles such as Brawl in Cell Block 99 and Dragged Across Concrete – offered Vaughn enough profile interviews to air his own thoughts on big political issues of the day. In 2015 he told Playboy that he preferred taxation the way it was before 1913, “when locally you had sales taxes and property taxes. That seems ethical to me... the federal government looking into your books to decide what to take from you, that feels wrong.”
Also in 2015, Vaughn took to the lectern while giving a keynote address at a Libertarian conference at UCLA to explain his approach to drug legalisation: “If someone’s parents don’t have money they are going to go to prison and have a life wasted. If someone’s parents do have money, they go to rehab. You can’t really go after people that are committing real crimes – forceful crimes, violent crimes – because you are so inhabited with people that were using drugs.”
Later that year Vaughn won the attention of the NRA after expressing his support for gun possession in a profile in GQ: “I support people having a gun in public full stop, not just in your home. We don't have the right to bear arms because of burglars; we have the right to bear arms to resist the supreme power of a corrupt and abusive government. It’s not about duck hunting; it’s about the ability of the individual.”
Since then, Vaughn’s been keeping a rather lower profile. Despite landing a role in the follow-up to the much-beloved HBO anthology series True Detective, Vaughn's performance in a badly written second season didn't do his attempt at a career renaissance any favours. In 2019 he was charming as wrestling coach in Stephen Merchant's Fighting With My Family. But he has also been less outspoken about his views.
Vaughn's Trumpian handshake, then, is one of the first headlines he's won in several years. Perhaps it's the start of a whole new eyebrow-raising phase of his career.