Melissa Gilbert to Seek SAG Presidency


Actress Melissa Gilbert announced Wednesday that she plans to run for president of the Screen Actors Guild, vowing to end the bitter infighting plaguing Hollywood's main acting union.

Best known as a star of the 1970s TV drama "Little House on the Prairie" as well as numerous TV movies, Gilbert, 37, said she wants to end the personal agendas and attacks bogging down the 98,000-member union.

"There are no sides here. We're all members of the same union," she said.

Gilbert is the third person to take steps toward running and the first high-profile one to announce. The others are Eugene Boggs and Angeltompkins.

Factionalism at SAG grew two years ago with the election of more militant forces led by actor William Daniels. They ousted the previous regime headed by actor Richard Masur after accusing the Masur group of being too soft. Supporters of both sides continue sniping at each other.

Gilbert was one of nine SAG members who signed a letter that triggered the unexpected withdrawal last week by John F. Cooke as SAG's prospective chief executive. Gilbert and the other members questioned whether Cooke could be given wide-ranging, CEO-level authority by SAG's board under the union's constitution.

After receiving the letter, Cooke withdrew from the post because he believed it clouded the authority he thought he had been given. Gilbert and others who signed the letter were criticized by Daniels, who said the letter was "inappropriate and has caused SAG to lose time, a good deal of member dues money, and badly needed executive leadership during a critical period in guild history."

Gilbert defended the letter, saying that any changes to the union's constitution should be done responsibly and with sufficient debate. She also said it is unfair to pigeonhole her as being part of any group within SAG, saying she voted independently.

Daniels declined to comment on Gilbert's announcement, reiterating through an assistant that he has yet to decide whether he will run for another two-year term.

Gilbert, who is married to actor Bruce Boxleitner, has been active on a number of SAG issues, including those involving child performers and privacy.

Ballots for SAG's election are scheduled to be mailed in October and counted by early November.

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