- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

Celebrity dissent continues to foment as the anti-war elite voice their opposition to U.S. military action against Iraq.

In an interview yesterday with a Finnish TV station, singer Harry Belafonte said President Bush and his administration were "misguided … and I think they are men who are possessed of evil."

Mr. Bush is not "a man of honor," Mr. Belafonte said, adding, "I think he has a very selfish, arrogant point of view. I think he is interested in power. I think he believes his truth is the only truth."

In October, Mr. Belafonte called Secretary of State Colin L. Powell a "house slave" for supporting the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

Meanwhile, the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) has stepped forward to defend stars who also disagree with the White House.

"Some have recently suggested that well-known individuals who express 'unacceptable' views should be punished by losing their right to work," SAG said in a statement issued yesterday.

Free speech was at stake, the union stated.

"Our industry, perhaps more than any other, understands the necessity of guarding and cherishing those rights for which Americans have fought and died … even a hint of the blacklist must never again be tolerated in this nation," the SAG statement concluded.

The union was recalling a House Un-American Activities Committee investigation begun in 1947 that focused on Hollywood figures who had been members of the Communist Party.

Actor Martin Sheen, who plays fictional president Josiah Bartlet on NBC's "The West Wing" and also is spokesman for an anti-war TV spot, recently claimed his network has become "uncomfortable" with his politics.

NBC denied his charge.

Sean Penn, an actor who journeyed to Baghdad in December and met with Iraqi officials, has filed a lawsuit against Hollywood producer Steven Bing. Mr. Penn believes the producer dropped him from a future film because of the Iraq trip.

Mr. Bing filed a countersuit that claims Mr. Penn left on his own accord and was not fired for his beliefs.

But even the stars take sides against one another.

"He thinks he can solve it, that moron," comedienne Joan Rivers observed recently, referring to Mr. Penn. "This is a man who couldn't even make it work with Madonna."

Meanwhile, a 35-member, high-profile group calling themselves "concerned journalists and public advocates" are circulating their own plea to producers, reporters, publishers and editors nationwide.

The group includes former MSNBC talk show host Phil Donahue, former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, authors Gore Vidal and Studs Terkel, and journalist William Greider of the Nation. They are calling for journalists to regain "objectivity and critical questioning of official sources" when covering military action in Iraq.

The group criticized print and broadcast journalists for covering the war like a "horse race" and basing stories on government-supplied statistics.

"State controlled media comes in many garbs," they cautioned in a statement posted on the Internet at www.tompaine.com.

They also call for more coverage about "oil and the war," the potential for domestic terrorism after a strike on Iraq and the anti-war movement.

"There is an increased obligation of the news media to report the variety of dissenters … the media must not march in lock-step the moment military action begins," the statement continues.

"This is no time for relying solely on official sources and their supporters," it concludes. "Now is the time to do your duty to our democratic society."

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