Ed Asner Walks Back Actors’ Criticism of SAG-AFTRA With Apology

Ed Asner - Getty - H 2017
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The former SAG president also withdrew his name from a reiteration of the original allegations, since refuted by an accountancy report.

Former SAG president and current SAG-AFTRA national board member Ed Asner, who was the lead signatory on an April letter excoriating the union for alleged financial improprieties, has apologized “for the publicity surrounding this letter at the time of our very important negotiations” and withdrawn his name from a reiteration of the charges in published reports, the union announced Tuesday in a press release enclosing a statement from Asner.

In the statement, Asner also expressed “full confidence” in several top SAG-AFTRA officials.

Asner’s move comes a day after the union released an accounting firm’s report refuting the allegations — and comes as SAG-AFTRA is locked in down-to-the-wire negotiations with the major studios, represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Citing “outrageous rollbacks,” the union’s national board voted unanimously Sunday to send out strike authorization ballots to its members, the organization's website indicates, unless a deal is reached by Friday, when the current contract expires.

“I signed on to this letter, not knowing it would go public, to right what I was led to believe was wrong,” Asner said in the statement. “The union replied to these charges on June 25, and I have since apologized for the publicity surrounding this letter at the time of our very important negotiations, and I would like to express my surprise that after being responded to by the union, that the charges from the letter are being issued again.

“I withdraw my name from that repeated issuance of the letter,” he added. “I have full confidence in our chief negotiator David White, and our executives Duncan Crabtree-Ireland and John McGuire, as I'm sure they will do a fine job in conducting those negotiations and making progress for our union.”

The original allegations were contained in a letter from a group of dissident actors led by Asner and calling itself United Screen Artists Committee (USAC). The accounting firm, Bond Beebe, was engaged only for this specific investigation and is not the union’s regular accountants, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. It is, however, the regular accountants for the related SAG-AFTRA health plan.

As THR previously reported, the firm reviewed thousands of pages of documents and electronic records and interviewed staff, concluding “that the financial safeguards in place are equal to or better than those of other labor organizations,” according to the report’s executive summary. “The safeguards in place are appropriate and are being scrupulously followed. Neither SAG-AFTRA nor the individuals mentioned in the letter engaged in any wrongdoing or financial improprieties as alleged in the USAC letter.”

The report also rejected a litany of specific complaints and added, “USAC’s additional assertions about the misuse of members’ monies were both false and unsubstantiated.”