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Endorsements have emerged as the latest battleground in the bitter SAG presidential election between Melissa Gilbert and Valerie Harper.

The lobbying from Gilbert allies became so contentious this week that Harper’s Web site took down its endorsement list and put up a “vitriolic” email sent by former SAG prexy Richard Masur to an unidentified Harper endorser. Masur, who has maintained a low profile within SAG since being voted out in 1999, said of Harper:

“I have known Valerie for over 25 years and have never thought of her as a leader in any way.”

“Val has been making constant inane comments in the press.”

“She constantly denied any knowledge of what was going on in the campaign.”

Harper said Masur’s attacks amounted to character assassination and added that he had reneged on a pledge not to become involved in Gilbert’s campaign and that he had given out Harper’s private fax number. “It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Richard has advised Melissa to approach the Dept. of Labor in hopes of stopping the new election,” she added.

Masur maintained he has not asked anyone to switch endorsements, but merely raised the question to five Harper supporters whether they were still endorsing her. He also said he is only involved in consulting to Gilbert but gave her no advice on approaching the feds and disputed Harper’s claim of multiple emails, contending he had sent out only one.

Harper also announced Wednesday an endorsement from former SAG prexy Ed Asner.