The Catholic actor Martin Sheen says he has received an avalanche of hate messages and calls for him to be sacked from his TV role, because of his support for the peace movement. The actor, who stars in the NBC TV drama 'The West Wing,' told the Los Angeles Times yesterday that while the show's staff were supportive, his network bosses are becoming nervous of his views as war against Iraq looms. Sheen, 62, has led a number of anti-war marches and spearheaded a televised advertising campaign calling on citizens to register their disapproval of a potential war against Iraq with US leaders.
Sheen said the network expressed jitters after he helped lead last week's "Virtual March on Washington," in which anti-war protesters flooded the White House and Senate with calls, e-mails and faxes. But a spokeswoman for NBC, Rebecca Marks said the network was supporting him.
She said: "Mr Sheen is acting in his capacity as a private citizen. We respect his opinion and his right to freedom of speech." Sheen said he did not particularly relish being one of the most visible faces in the anti-war movement but that it was a vocation based on principle.
The Screen Actors' Guild offered Sheen and other celebrities championing the anti-war cause strong support. Barbara Streisand, Rob Reiner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, George Clooney, Lou Reed, Massive Attack, Sheryl Crowe and many other American stars have joined Sheen's call for peace.
In a statement the guild said: "As our country again considers the possibility of war, it is the fundamental right of citizens to express their support or their fears and concerns. "While passionate disagreement is to be expected in such a debate, a disturbing trend has arisen in the dialogue.
Some have recently suggested that well-known individuals who express 'unacceptable' views should be punished by losing their right to work. This shocking development suggests that the lessons of history have, for some, fallen on deaf ears," it said, backing the constitutional right of all citizens, celebrated and unknown, to speak their minds freely, on any side of any issue.