More than 100 women, including Ellen Barkin and Allison Janney, have voiced support for Matthew Modine’s campaign for SAG-AFTRA presidency, following a joke at a SAG-AFTRA meeting that some decried as misogynist.
With voting set to conclude on Aug. 28, the campaigns have featured vitriolic attacks between supporters of Modine, secretary-treasurer Jane Austin and incumbent president Gabrielle Carteris for several weeks.
The latest incident took place on Aug. 16 at a town hall meeting featuring Austin, Carteris and Modine, organized by the UnionWorking group. During the Q&A portion, Modine responded with a joke when asked why he’s the best choice by saying, “Because I’m the only man running…?”
Modine then explained that he was the only man who had been invited to participate in the town hall. Two other candidates – Abraham Justice and Queen Alljahye Searles – were not invited by the organizers.
In recent days, Carteris supporters have included altered images of Modine’s campaign ads on social media. Los Angeles board member Rob Archer tweeted, “Misogynistic jokes aren’t funny any more, Matthew.”
The Modine supporters, including Rosanna Arquette, Frances Fisher, Diane Ladd and Daphne Zuniga, said in their statement, “We, the undersigned, having known, worked with, or served with Matthew Modine throughout our careers resoundingly condemn the recent social media attacks made by his political opponents in an effort to assault and malign his character following his appearance at the recent non-partisan UnionWorking ‘Presidential Town Hall’ event.”
“His support of feminist principles and determined efforts to create workable union policies pertaining to sexual harassment within our industry, as well as his advocacy for protection of female members in Heartbeat Law states – currently ignored by our union leadership – illustrate his support for women.”
“We deplore the politics of personal destruction,” the letter added. “As a matter of political discourse, it’s acceptable to argue facts – but it is simply wrong to personally attack and impugn any opponent’s character. We therefore reject, out of hand, in the strongest possible terms, this ugly mischaracterization of Matthew Modine’s words by members of Unite for Strength and their political allies.”
The list includes more than half a dozen Harvey Weinstein accusers, including Arquette, Annabella Sciorra, Katherine Kendall, Sarah Ann Masse, Caitlin Dulany, Jessica Barth, Lauren Sivan and Lou Godbold.
In response on Monday night, the Unite For Strength faction issued this statement blasting Modine and his supporters:
“Unfortunately, Matthew Modine doesn’t seem to understand that equity and inclusion are not jokes. If indeed he was making a joke, it was tone deaf and out of step with where the rest of the membership is on these issues.:
“This is not appropriate behavior for someone who wants to represent SAG-AFTRA members as their president. And, it’s not the first time he has made misogynist and dismissive remarks about women. He recently tweeted an attack on sexual harassment survivor Chantal Cousineau, saying she was like ‘an abused animal’ who doesn’t recognize when someone is trying to help ‘free her from the trap she’s in.’ It was disturbing and he knew it was wrong. He even deleted his dehumanizing attack tweets in an effort to act like it didn’t happen.
It’s unsurprising that Membership First spent the last four days rushing to get supporters to sign a statement defending him and then rushed it out to the media. That’s what Mr. Modine does. Make a mistake, try to cover it up, have people rush to defend him. This is not a viable plan for leadership.
Mr. Modine is unfit to be president and not because he is bad at making jokes, but because he is dismissive, glib, and disrespectful of people who disagree with him. These are not the qualities SAG-AFTRA members want in their president and it’s honestly stunning that the women who signed this statement will defend his ignorant remarks, but have nothing to say about his Twitter attack on a woman who did nothing more than ask him what qualified him to be president.”