Jewish World Review
http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (UPI) -- The United Way in Tampa has canceled a charity event April 11 because actress Susan Sarandon -- an anti-war activist -- was the scheduled keynote speaker.
Organizers said they received about three dozen complaints about the scheduled appearance.
Sarandon, 56, is an Oscar winner, and flashed a peace sign at the Academy Awards show in Los Angeles Sunday.
The event in St. Petersburg was sponsored by the United Way's women's leadership group and meant to inspire volunteerism.
She had been asked to participate six months ago by her brother, Terry Tomalin, outdoors writer at the St. Petersburg Times.
Robin Carson, a member of the United Way Board of Directors at Tampa Bay, said when invitations went out two weeks ago, they received protests by contributors and others by phone, e-mail and letters.
They protested Sarandon's selection as speaker because of her views on the war. That led the board to believe the appearance would be divisive, Carson said.
"The focus of the whole meeting had shifted to whether or not we were creating a political platform for Susan Sarandon," Carson said. "That is not the purpose. That's not what we're about.
"We had a strong mission for that day, and we felt there was a potential that we would create divisiveness in the community, where our mission was to unite the community," Carson said.
The St. Petersburg Times Fund, the newspaper's charity operation, was the chief sponsor of the event and was going to pay Sarandon's $20,000 honorarium.
Marty Petty, executive vice president of Times Publishing Co., and a United Way board member, said the newspaper offered to continue with the plan on its own.
"We were prepared to go forward, but those closest to (Sarandon) said it would not be appropriate to ask her, and I respect that," Petty said.
He said the decision by the United Way was not likely the decision he would have made, "but it wasn't mine to make. I respect what they (United Way) do, and you know they're very important to the community.
Tomalin's wife, Tanika, was a member of the 100-member women's leadership group, but resigned after the cancellation. She accused the group of bending to the pressure by contributors.
"People have a right to believe and say what they want," she said. "For us to see this type of censorship and political pressure to control the agenda and personal opinions of what people think is just disheartening."
Sarandon was not available for comment.
Appreciate this type of reporting? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment by clicking here.