NEW YORK – A North Carolina mother of three has a simple message for anti-war celebrities like West Wing star Martin Sheen and singer Sheryl Crow: enough already!
Lori Bardsley of Summerfield, N.C., has gotten so sick of hearing entertainers sound off that she has set up Citizens Against Celebrity Pundits, a group designed to keep discussion of the issue in perspective.
"When someone like Martin Sheen or Barbra Streisand takes their money and supports something like this, it's blowing it out of proportion," Bardsley said in an interview with Fox News. "The average American would never have the resources to take the measures they've decided to take."
Bardsley has set up an online petition for people who agree they've heard enough from Hollywood celebs, and said she has collected 47,000 signatures.
Bardsley said her main gripe is that she believes stars are using the war as an excuse to criticize President Bush.
"I think they should be honest and say, 'We don't like Bush. We don't like anything he stands for,'" she said.
Bardsley said she will collect signatures for at least another month before mailing copies of the petition to the White House and some of the most outspoken celebrities, including Sheen. Supporters can also contribute money through the Web site toward the cost of a half-page ad that Bardsley plans to take out in USA Today.
"I created a place for mainstream America to speak out against Hollywood," said Bardsley.
But some say anti-war celebrities are filling a necessary void by sounding off at a time when simple opposition to the Bush administration's policy in Iraq is deemed unpatriotic by some.
"If we are to get our side of the message out, unfortunately we have to have help," said Eli Pariser, international campaigns director of MoveOn.org — one of the organizers of the Feb. 26 Virtual March on Washington. "We don't have the bully pulpit of the president on our side."
That help, he said, has come in the form of celebrities who attract press.
Along with Crow and Sheen — who plays the president on NBC's The West Wing — Janeane Garofalo, Susan Sarandon, Mike Farrell and Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst have all expressed their anti-war views.
Garofalo, for her part, told Fox News Sunday that she has long opposed military action against Iraq and that her criticism is about much more than President Bush. She said she has also protested President Bill Clinton's actions there — though no one took notice.
"The Clinton administration's Iraq policy was despicable," she said. "Nobody, really, was interested in listening to me back then."
Garofalo and several other celebs have joined the peace group Win Without War. The group helped run the Virtual March, an e-mail campaign that prompted protestors to flood the White House and Congress with what they said were hundreds of thousands of calls and faxes last Wednesday.
"We can contain Saddam Hussein without killing innocent people, diverting us from the war on terrorism and putting us all at risk," Sheen said in a television ad for the event.
But Bardsley and others are fed up with the anti-war stars because she believes their celebrity gives them a louder voice than regular folks.
"I cannot take away their freedom of speech — I'm not attempting to do that — but I think we're the silent majority," she said of those who support the administration.
Pariser countered that the star-studded sounding off has created a forum for debate.
"In a climate where people who speak out against this war are accused of being unpatriotic, having folks say, 'We love our country but we think this war is a bad idea' helps create an atmosphere where the pros and cons can really be discussed."
Not all celebrities have spoken out against war in Iraq. Former Republican senator and now-Law & Order star Fred Thompson appeared in a TV commercial last week supporting the Bush administration's position.
Whatever their opinions, others believe the rich and famous should be sensitive to American troops when they decry military action in Iraq.
"I wish celebrities would get up and say, 'Look, we support our troops' — whether or not they support the war," said Stacy Chastain-Rath of Raymore, Mo. "I think it's a slap in the face to these people brave enough to go over there and fight."