Trump faces new indignity: Potential expulsion from Hollywood’s biggest union

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President Trump was removed from Twitter, Facebook and even the gaming platform Twitch. Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University revoked an honorary degree in the wake of the insurgency at the Capitol. Now, Trump faces a new indignity: expulsion from Hollywood’s biggest union.

The national board of SAG-AFTRA voted to find “probable cause” that Trump violated its constitution, a step that could lead to his removal from its membership, the union said in a statement Tuesday.

The leadership met Tuesday morning to weigh charges brought by SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White at the request of President Gabrielle Carteris, as a result of Trump’s incitement of the deadly riot at the Capitol earlier this month, and for his continued verbal attacks on journalists. A disciplinary committee will hear the charges, the union said. Deadline first reported the news.


“Our most important role as a union is the protection of our members,” said White in a statement. “The unfortunate truth is, this individual’s words and actions over the past four years have presented actual harm to our broadcast journalist members.”

Besides his work on “The Apprentice” reality TV franchise, Trump has a smattering of screen credits dating back to the late 1980s, mainly for appearing as himself in shows like “Sex and the City” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”

SAG-AFTRA, which counts some 160,000 performers and broadcast journalists in its ranks, has condemned Trump’s actions after the riot that led to the deaths of five people and his vocal attacks on the media that have typified his presidency.

The union has previously spoken out against the repeated anti-press messages that have been conveyed by the Trump administration. But the Jan. 6 riot shifted what had been a movement of railing against “fake news” that the president didn’t like, to an unacceptable action in the eyes of the union.

“Donald Trump attacked the values that this union holds most sacred — democracy, truth, respect for our fellow Americans of all races and faiths, and the sanctity of the free press,” Carteris said in a statement.

Under federal labor law and the union’s constitution, disciplinary action can be taken only if the charged member is found guilty after a hearing before its disciplinary committee.


Even if he is expelled, however, Trump won’t lose the pension linked to his membership if the charges are upheld, and he can continue to work on SAG-AFTRA organized productions.

During the riot, the words “murder the press” were written on doors to the Capitol building, and news crews from the Associated Press were attacked and their equipment destroyed by members of the mob.

“Rioters, emboldened and encouraged by a sitting president and his enablers who have peddled baseless conspiracy theories, stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to subvert democracy,” the union said in a statement Jan. 7. “SAG-AFTRA is nonpartisan, representing members of all political views, but we cannot be silent as an angry, violent group attempts to rob the American people of their right to self-governance.”

The union also noted the spike in attacks on journalists in the past year.

Members can face expulsion for acts that are not considered in the best interests of the union, such as working on non-union productions. SAG-AFTRA threatened to expel members who worked on a non-union advertisement for Cadillac in January 2019, for example.

In 2009, Seymour Cassel, the star of several John Cassavetes films, had his membership in the Screen Actors Guild suspended for two years for allegedly sexually harassing female staff members. Cassel said the allegations were without basis. He died in 2019.


While the COVID-19 pandemic has shrunk crew sizes and banned crowd scenes, Hollywood’s new safety rules mean longer jobs for some background actors.

Dec. 7, 2020