Anti-War Celebrities May Face Backlash

Now that the big battles of Operation Iraqi Freedom are over and Iraq is on its way to establishing a democratic government, there are questions over whether anti-war celebrities will suffer backlash for their vocal stances.

"Let's face it … they're getting an awful lot of flack for this — they had to have known that going into it," said Robert Thompson, director for Syracuse University's Center for the Study of Popular Television.

Big Hollywood names like West Wing star Martin Sheen, actress and comedian Janeane Garofalo, actor Tim Robbins and his long-time actress partner Susan Sarandon — and let's not forget country-music stars the Dixie Chicks — have been slapped with harsh criticism over the past few months for being such vocal critics of not only the war in Iraq, but of the Bush administration.

No way will this war turn out well, they said, as they served as spokesmen and women for various anti-war groups like Not in Our Name.

Their actions had repercussions then and will likely have more now.

"When those various Hollywood people were speaking out, they were getting a lot of negative response for it, they're getting negative response from it now and if they continue to do it, they will get negative response for it then," Thompson said.

ABC was flooded with calls and e-mails from viewers threatening to boycott the network and its advertisers if a sitcom featuring Garofalo went on the air.

The Dixie Chicks, who, while overseas, said they were "embarrassed" that President Bush is from their home state of Texas, may have their Lipton tea commercial shelved. A myriad of country music stations refused to play their music after the comment.

The baseball Hall of Fame canceled a 15th anniversary celebration of the film Bull Durham that was to feature co-stars Sarandon and Robbins, while the United Way of Tampa Bay canceled an event after people complained about guest star Sarandon's anti-war views.

So will these celebrities forge ahead on their anti-war path?

"These celebrities, they choose to enter a profession where they entertain the American public as a whole," said Lori Bardsley, a Summerfield, N.C., resident who set up Citizens Against Celebrity Pundits. "If they open their mouths on political issues, religious issues and moral issues, they should expect a backlash because we all have differing opinions.

"They have the right to speak freely as an American citizen but it will affect the profession they choose."

But one source familiar with the group Artists United to Win Without War, with which Robbins, Sarandon, Sheen and Garofalo are affiliated, said the stars have no plans to hide away in silence, especially since most of them have even sharper criticisms of Bush and his White House team when it comes to foreign policy.

"The anti-war movement never stopped for a minute," the source said.

At the National Press Club in Washington Tuesday, Robbins said that while he and Susan "have been listed as traitors, supporters of Saddam and other epithets," many people, including musicians and other artists, are happy that some are speaking out because they themselves had to be silent to protect their careers.

"It is time to get angry, it is time to get fierce. It doesn't take much to shift the tide … a bully can be stopped and so can a mob," he said.

Some stars promised to take it all back if the war went well. Garofalo told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly that if the Iraqis were happy with their liberation, she would bring a fruitcake and orchids to the White House and apologize to Bush.

"I would be so willing to say, 'I'm sorry,'" Garofalo said. "I hope to God that I can be made a buffoon of, that people will say, 'You were wrong. You were a fatalist.' And I will go to the White House on my knees on cut glass and say … I shouldn't have doubted you."

Sheen told Paul Bond of The Hollywood Reporter that he's "always open to the possibility that I'm wrong," but when asked if he would publicly state that maybe his anti-war rhetoric was too harsh, Sheen promised Bond a dinner where they would "see who eats who."

But no apologies have been heard yet and some say the American people are waiting.

"I don't think the American people will ever forget what they did," Bardsley said. "They put so much money and so much behind an effort that brought about the most anti-American vile sentiment we've seen in a long time … when our troops were put in harm's way."

Meanwhile, opposition to the anti-war crowd is getting louder.

Citizens United, a group behind pro-troop campaigns, sponsored "Rally for the Troops, Rally for America," an event in Washington last Saturday that drew about 20,000 participants.

Guests included Watergate-era Nixon official G. Gordon Liddy, country music superstar Aaron Tippin, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, Rep. Katherine Harris, R-Fla., former Reagan White House official Linda Chavez, former senator and actor Fred Thompson and "The Singing Cop" Danny Rodriguez. Entertainer/politico/pundit Ben Stein couldn't show up, but he sent in a video message.

"I think the American people realize just how out of touch with reality they [vocal anti-war celebrities] are and a lot of times, the celebrities don't know what they're talking about … they don't have the facts, so they kind of make these missteps," said David Bossie, president of Citizens United. "But then they get caught, and then my god, the whole world comes crashing down."

While celebrities are in a great position to rally for good causes, Bossie said, this time, it may come around to bite them where it hurts.

"Celebrities have to understand that actions have consequences," he said. "If they are willing to take those actions and are educated to what the risks are and they still feel that way, fine. I think they're really putting themselves in a position that can cause them and their careers a lot of harm."