ABC’s Stossel Exposes Hollywood Hypocrisy

The Mar. 1 edition of ABC News’ 20/20 ran troubling story about double standards in the Screen Actor Guild.  The segment was by John Stossel and was entitled “Screen Actors Guild bans little actors who crossed picket line but not stars.” Excerpts from the segment’s transcript are below:

“BARBARA WALTERS, co-host: Now a true Hollywood story starring George Clooney, Elizabeth Hurley, Shaquille O’Neal and Mario Barbieri.  Who?  Well he’s the struggling actor who could have used a break, which has John Stossel saying, GIVE ME A BREAK!

JOHN STOSSEL reporting: Right, Barbara, and if this story had a typical Hollywood ending, the little guy would win.  But in real life, Mario got no break because he had to deal with the Actor’s Union. Remember that well-publicized strike by the Screen Actors Guild? . . . SAG claimed big corporations were underpaying actors.

WILLIAM DANIELS (Former President, SAG): (At rally) It’s time we received our fair share of corporate profits and astronomical CEO salaries.

SUSAN SARANDON (Actor): (At rally) The little guy is not going to roll over for corporate America.

STOSSEL: It’s all about the little guy, say the activists.

TIM ROBBINS (Actor): (At rally) And I’m here to show solidarity with them because I love them…

STOSSEL: But if they love the little guy so much, why did SAG come down so hard on Mario Barbieri? Barbieri is an actor who doesn’t even get speaking parts.  Here he’s a man who can’t get into an elevator. This fall, SAG expelled Barbieri and two other little-known actors for life because they worked during the strike.  But did you know that Tiger Woods also worked during that strike?  He made this commercial. . . . But SAG didn’t kick him out.  It didn’t kick out Shaquille O’Neal who made [a] commercial for My Boss. . . . Nor did SAG expel Elizabeth Hurley who peddled perfume during the strike.

ELIZABETH HURLEY: I didn’t know there was a strike.

STOSSEL: Hurley and the other big stars apologized to the union, were reprimanded or fined and all was forgiven.

HURLEY: I had no idea I was crossing a picket line when I did the commercial.

STOSSEL: OK. But neither did Barbieri.  He’d only auditioned for a part and he says he didn’t know it was forbidden by his union and that his shoot was about to be picketed.

DANIELS: (At rally) Our members will be waiting to picket and use creative ways to disrupt them.

STOSSEL: Barbieri ran away when he saw the protesters.

MARIO BARBIERI: I refused the job.  I never got in front of the camera.

STOSSEL: And for this they’ve thrown you out?

BARBIERI: And for this they’ve thrown me out.

STOSSEL: Isn’t it hypocritical to give slaps on the wrists to stars like Elizabeth Hurley, Shaquille O’Neal and Tiger Woods while suspending actors like Barbieri for life?

BARBIERI: I think that I was used as a scapegoat to show how they can flex their muscles.  So, they just step all over me for nothing.

STOSSEL: They all talk about how they’re doing this for the little guy.


STOSSEL: And we don’t know how many SAG members agree with their union’s decision, but actor George Clooney thought SAG was wrong. He wrote SAG this letter saying, “You cannot enforce laws based on celebrity.” Clooney offered to pay fines for the expelled actors in hopes they’d be allowed to go back to work. No deal, replied the union. They sent us a statement saying, “These individuals conveyed a message that was contrary to the goals of the Guild and Barbieri received a full and fair hearing.” But SAG wouldn’t talk to me about this though we asked them half a dozen times and they wouldn’t discuss specifics of Barbieri’s case.  It’s too bad because I really wanted to ask actress Melissa Gilbert about the union’s hypocrisy. Gilbert played the young girl on “Little House on the Prairie.” She grew up to finance and star in this abysmal film [(“Ice House”)]. . . . While doing this non-union movie violated the same rule SAG says Barbieri broke.  So was Gilbert suspended for life?  No.  She became president of SAG, the union that protects the little guy.  GIVE ME A BREAK!

WALTERS: Good for George Clooney. . . . Bad for the Screen Actors Guild.  This is a terrible story for the little guy.

STOSSEL: And I keep hearing stories like this about unions and corruption. I have to join the union to work here?  I’m kind of upset about that and this kind of thing is why I think the unions represent fewer and fewer people. It’s now down to less that 10% of the private sector workforce.

WALTERS: Well, we all belong to unions, don’t we?

JOHN MILLER, co-host: And we have to. The question is, will a story like this help Mr. Barbieri or is that cast in stone?

STOSSEL: I think it’s pretty much over.  He won’t work.

MILLER: And that’s it.

STOSSEL: And that’s it. . . . (Commercial break).”