- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2003

TAMPA, Fla. The United Way of Tampa Bay has canceled a fund-raising appearance by Susan Sarandon after receiving nearly 40 complaints about the outspoken actress' anti-war campaigning.
"We have decided to cancel the entire event rather than schedule a new speaker," said a United Way spokeswoman. She declined to comment further.
Sensitivity, not complaints, forced the cancellation of the daylong event scheduled for April 11, organizers said.
"With the rapidly changing world events and the bay area's special sensitivity to those events, the focus of the Lead the Way program board leadership training and development was becoming diluted by a shift to political points of view.
"United Way of Tampa Bay has enormous respect for the diversity of ideas and the principles of free speech. … Through circumstances beyond our control, this event began to divide our community. The prudent course of action is to cancel the event."
Louis Spiegel III, a two-tour veteran of Vietnam, opposed Miss Sarandon's appearance.
"I wrote a letter to the United Way because I want to show support for our troops, and it was completely inappropriate for her to speak," Mr. Spiegel said.
He said his disagreement with the choice of Miss Sarandon stemmed from her "un-American" comments that he said began last fall as the United States began to lay out its mission in Iraq.
"If this were the right kind of event, I would have contributed," said Mr. Spiegel, who is vice president of Itasca Construction Associates, a national firm. "But not with her there." He said his views do not necessarily reflect his company's position.
Miss Sarandon was asked to participate six months ago by her brother, Terry Tomalin, outdoors writer at the St. Petersburg Times. The event was sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times Fund, a tax-exempt arm of the newspaper.
Admission was to be $200 for the entire day or $75 to attend a lunch at which Miss Sarandon was to speak. Her speaking fee of $20,000 was to be paid by the St. Petersburg Times Fund with the proceeds going to the local United Way.
"The [cancellation] was a decision that we do not support," said Anthea Penrose, a spokeswoman for the fund. "It was all such a great idea to begin with."
The cancellation also led to the resignation of at least one United Way board member, Marty Petty, executive vice president of Times Publishing Co., which publishes the St. Petersburg Times.
Miss Sarandon's outspokenness on the Iraq war has earned her scorn in the conservative community and some even in liberal circles. She has addressed several anti-war rallies and been a vociferous critic of the Bush administration.
A spokeswoman for Miss Sarandon said the actress was traveling and could not be reached. Local chapters of the United Way 1,400 across the United States are operated independently, said Phil Jones, a spokesman for the national headquarters in Virginia.
"The prudent thing to do was to cancel the event," Mr. Jones said. "As much as we appreciate diversity and freedom of speech, we see ourselves as more of a convener, and we do have relationships with a wide variety of interests."

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