Oscar Officials Slam Presenters’ Political Plugs


Impromptu political statements by Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere and the winner of a controversial documentary at Monday’s Academy Award broadcast led to some grumbling Tuesday from the show’s organizers.

Bob Rehme, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said the organization dislikes political speeches because the program is an inappropriate place for them. But, of course, that didn’t seem to stop anybody.

“The show’s about movies, about people’s work in movies, about entertainment. It’s not supposed to be about political activities around the world (no matter) how much individually we might support any one of those causes,” he said.


Rehme said the one award expected to bring political commentary was the best feature-length documentary, given to “The Panama Deception.” But producer Barbara Trent took two minutes to do it--twice as long as winners are supposed to talk.

Oscar show producer Gil Cates was most upset by the speeches by presenters Sarandon, Robbins and Gere.

At the Governors Ball following the awards ceremony, Cates called the statements “outrageous” and added, “I wouldn’t invite them to my home, and I won’t invite them to a future show.”

In an interview Tuesday, Cates said, “For a nominee to use his or her minute to say something is probably understandable. For someone like Barbra Streisand to talk about the theme of the show as she did is understandable. (But for) someone who I invite to present an award to use that time to postulate a personal political belief I think is not only outrageous, it’s distasteful and dishonest.”

The producer went over the show’s script with each presenter, he said, and they all agreed they had no problems with what they were supposed to say.

Cates said he got wind of Robbins’ and Sarandon’s intent Monday afternoon and called their public relations representative to tell them not to do it. Still, during the presentation for best film editing, Robbins said, “In the spirit of the red ribbons being held here, we’d like to call attention to 250 Haitians (being quarantined in Cuba). . . . their crime, testing positive for the HIV virus.” Sarandon then asked government officials to admit the refugees into the United States.

Later, Gere’s comments about human rights abuses in China took Cates by surprise. “Does anyone care about Richard Gere’s comments about China? It’s arrogant,” he said.

“I know these are people of good heart,” he added. “I’m not questioning their politics and their good will, I’m questioning their taste and appropriateness.”