For years, the Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors has honored one Democratic lawmaker and one Republican lawmaker as part of its annual American Spirit Awards.
A choice this year, however, is creating some waves in the organization: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
Some members and ex-members have expressed their opposition to the choice, and at least one has threatened to resign from the caucus, sources said. Their concern is that the caucus risks becoming too partisan with the selection of Cruz, a possible contender for the 2016 presidential nomination and a favorite of the conservative right, and also for Cruz’s stance on net neutrality.
After President Obama came out in favor of reclassifying the Internet as a telecommunications service, something that would give the FCC a solid legal footing to impose robust rules, Cruz tweeted, “Net Neutrality’ is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.” Cruz, who sits on the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, was greeted by a flurry of criticism from net neutrality supporters that he didn’t understand the issue.
The issue has been hotly debated among members of the caucus, which was formed in 1974 to advocate for the rights of content creators.
Norman Powell, the chairman of the caucus, said they will hold an executive committee meeting on Monday to discuss the situation and “to articulate the caucus’s position.” He said they would issue a statement following the meeting but declined further comment.
Cruz would join a list of past Republican honorees like then-Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), who attend the event and usually make comments that pertain to the entertainment industry. The caucus also balances those honorees with a Democrat to make the event bipartisan, but the organization has not yet announced who that recipient will be this year, with the choice still being finalized.
In 2014 the caucus honored Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a Republican, and Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat. Past honorees on the Democratic side have included Henry Waxman, Ed Markey and Howard Berman.
A spokeswoman for Cruz said, “Sen. Cruz is honored to be named one of the recipients of the bipartisan American Spirit Award this year and is looking forward to the ceremony this April.”
Writer-director Lionel Chetwynd, a longtime conservative who has helped organize honorees, said, “What is it about the senator from Texas being so toxic he cannot be allowed to speak to a Hollywood audience?”
Update: Comedy writer and producer Chris Bearde said he resigned from the caucus after raising concerns about its direction, but he quit the organization just before the award was offered to Cruz. Bearde said that he was concerned that giving awards to politicians drifted from the caucus’ focus on supporting young directors, writers and producers.
“What in the world has Ted Cruz ever done for the creative community in Hollywood?” said Bearde.
“He’s dead against net neutrality, and most of us are for net neutrality. It is ludicrous. …Giving Ted Cruz an American Spirit Award is like making Ted Nugent the president of the NAACP.”