Baldwin Responds to Gingrich

From Times staff and wire reports

Responding to House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s suggestion this week that the entertainment industry should finance the National Endowment for the Arts, actor Alec Baldwin said Friday, “The government does not ask defense contractors to give a certain percentage of their profits to the Defense Department. I find it odd that the speaker singles out one group in regard to federal funding.”

Baldwin heads an activist group called the Creative Coalition and last month he led a delegation to Capitol Hill for the annual Arts Advocacy Day. Among several sessions with lawmakers, Baldwin held what was termed a “friendly” chat with Gingrich, following which the actor expressed optimism about future federal support for the NEA.

But at a Washington press conference Thursday, Gingrich led a group of conservative lawmakers in a renewed effort to abolish federal funding for the NEA.

“If the people who come to lobby us [for arts funding] who are famous and rich would simply dedicate 1% of their gross income to an ‘American Endowment for the Arts,’ they would fund a bigger system than the National Endowment for the Arts,” said Gingrich.


“If Disney would simply donate as much to the endowment as Disney pays one executive who is leaving the company, you could finance the whole thing,” said the speaker, referring to the severance package given to former Walt Disney Co. executive Michael Ovitz, estimated to be worth $96 million.

Gingrich and his allies are calling for the abolishment of that support for the federal fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. The Clinton administration is requesting $136 million, an increase from the current year budget of $99.5 million.

Following Gingrich’s press conference, a bipartisan group of lawmakers called its own session to express support for the NEA.