ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The United Way of Tampa Bay has canceled an upcoming event featuring actress Susan Sarandon after getting three dozen complaints about her opposition to the war in Iraq.
The 56-year-old Academy Award winner was to be the keynote speaker at the April 11 event designed to inspire volunteerism in the community. Her brother, Terry Tomalin, outdoors writer at the St. Petersburg Times, asked her to participate in the event six months ago.
But when invitations went out about two weeks ago, the United Way received phone calls, e-mails and letters from donors and other criticizing Sarandon's selection as a speaker because of her anti-war views. Robin Carson, chairwoman of the United Way of Tampa Bay board of directors, said the event had the potential to become "divisive."
"The focus of our whole meeting had shifted to whether or not we were creating a political platform for Susan Sarandon," Carson said. "That is not our purpose. That's not what we're about."
Sarandon was to be the featured speaker at the event's $75-a-plate luncheon in Tampa to talk about the role of women as leaders and contributors. Proceeds of the event were to go to the United Way.
Sarandon, known for such films as Thelma and Louise and Dead Man Walking, was on vacation in Mexico and could not be reached for comment. Her agency did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment.