More than 130 actresses and #MeToo activists have signed a statement in support of SAG-AFTRA presidential candidate Matthew Modine in the wake of a joke he made at Thursday night’s town hall meeting of the union’s three leading presidential candidates.
“We deplore the politics of personal destruction” that have been waged against him on social media,” reads the statement signed by members including Ellen Barkin, Rosanna Arquette, Allison Janney and Diane Ladd. (See it in full below.)
Supporters of his two main rivals – incumbent Gabrielle Carteris and independent candidate Jane Austin – have leapt on the joke as proof that he’s a misogynist. A tape recording of the joke, however, shows that it got a big laugh, and that his critics have taken it out of the context he intended.
“Membership First thinks anti-woman jokes are okay,” tweeted a supporter of Carteris, who’s running on the Unite for Strength ticket. “Still waiting to find out if you’re also okay with racist jokes. If Modine makes such a tone-deaf ‘joke’ in public, what kind of jokes does he tell in private? Are there tapes?”
There is, indeed, a tape recording of the joke and the context in which it was told. After the laughter died down, Modine explained that his point was that he was not the only man in the race – just the only man who had been invited to participate in the town hall. Two other candidates – Abraham Justice and Queen Alljahye Searles – were not invited by the organizers at UnionWorking because they have virtually no chance of winning.
“Sorry, Abraham,” Modine can be heard saying. “I wish that Abraham and Queen would have had the opportunity to participate in this event.” [Scattered applause.] “I mean, we’re a union and we want to make sure that every voice is heard because you never know who’s going to offer some advice that you hadn’t thought of. Somebody who’s thinking outside of the box. … And so, my hat’s off to Queen and Abraham, and I wish they could be with us tonight.”
One Austin supporter tweeted: “How is this possible? A 60-year-old man proudly proclaims his sexism to a room full of SAG-AFTRA members. How can anyone support this garbage and how can you be so tone deaf Matthew Modine?”
Responding to the hate that’s been heaped upon him, one of Modine’s supporters who signed the statement of support tweeted, “Shame on you for taking his words out of context and twisting them against him.”
Tweeted another supporter: “Were you there? Because I was. And if you were not in the room, you have no frame of reference for this discussion other than slanderous memes.”
Here is the full statement from Modine’s supporters, who also include Beverly D’Angelo, Frances Fisher, Joely Fisher, Piper Perabo, Annabella Sciorra and Daphne Zuniga:
“We, the undersigned, having known, worked with, or served with Matthew Modine throughout our careers resoundingly condemn the recent social media attacks made by his political opponents in an effort to assault and malign his character following his appearance at the recent non-partisan UnionWorking ‘Presidential Town Hall’ event. His support of feminist principles and determined efforts to create workable union policies pertaining to sexual harassment within our industry, as well as his advocacy for protection of female members in Heartbeat Law states – currently ignored by our union leadership – illustrate his support for women.
“We deplore the politics of personal destruction. As a matter of political discourse, it’s acceptable to argue facts – but it is simply wrong to personally attack and impugn any opponent’s character.
“We therefore reject, out of hand, in the strongest possible terms, this ugly mischaracterization of Matthew Modine’s words by members of Unite for Strength and their political allies.”