From Hollywood's perspective, there's a cloud over Barack Obama's
inaugural. Now the question is whether the weather that day will
simply be overcast or stormy.
Obama's selection of Orange County mega-pastor and bestselling
author Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his swearing in
has hit liberal Hollywood in one of its sorest spots: the passage
of Proposition 8, California's ban on gay marriage, which Warren
strongly supported. In fact, he has compared same-sex nuptials to
approving polygamy and pedophilia.
Reaction in the entertainment industry -- where interestingly,
Warren has his own powerful ties -- has been swift, angry and
bitter. (And nothing undermines a good party quite like
disappointment and hurt.)
"Barack Obama is a very smart student of history," said longtime
celebrity publicist and gay activist Howard Bragman. "He saw that
Bill Clinton did damage to his early presidency by appearing to
pander to the gay and lesbian community. Obama has chosen a
"What he didn't realize was how much untapped energy there was in
the gay and lesbian community because of the passage of Prop. 8,"
said Bragman. "Obama didn't realize, after all the support he got
from the gay and lesbian community, we feel betrayed right now."
The passage of Proposition 8 galvanized activist Hollywood in a
way that the campaign had not.
Whether out of outrage or guilt, actors, filmmakers and other
industry types have been on the front lines of protests and calls
to overturn the proposition.
While none of the senior activists are advocating a boycott of
the inaugural, as some grass-roots voices on the Internet are,
they are calling on Obama to make some concrete gestures showing
he understands their concerns.
Democratic political consultant Chad Griffin, who this week was
named by the Advocate, America's leading gay publication, as one
of its People of the Year, thinks that it's up to Warren to let
Obama off the hook and withdraw.
"Rick Warren needs to realize that he is further dividing us at a
time when the country needs to come together," said Griffin,
whose Hollywood clientele includes Rob Reiner, Michael King and
Steve Bing. "I think he needs to gracefully step aside."
As for Obama, Griffin said: "He has a long history of standing up
for and defending equal rights. I believe and hope that calling
on Warren was just a innocent mistake by the transition team."
Warren has his own history with liberal Hollywood. He was
instrumental in encouraging support among evangelicals for the Al
Gore-inspired, Oscar-winning documentary on global warming, "An
At the film's packed, star-studded Los Angeles premiere a few
years ago, which Warren attended, the pastor (sitting a few seats
away from Sharon Stone) enthusiastically voiced support for
reducing carbon emissions and expressed outrage over official
neglect of the global warming issue. Afterward, he hugged and
congratulated one of the film's producers, Lawrence Bender, and
vowed to do whatever he could to get the word out.
And Warren delivered. Many credit his efforts with making global
warming and environmental stewardship issues in young evangelical
congregations across the country. Similarly, his own church's
work to ameliorate the suffering of HIV-positive Africans has
drawn the support of many film celebrities.
It's because of that that activists like Griffin think that an
appeal to Warren's conscience might be a way to resolve the
Griffin said he planned to ask for a meeting with the pastor to
make the case that Obama should pick someone else to do the
Meanwhile, the head of People for the American Way -- a group
founded by Norman Lear -- said she was "profoundly disappointed"
that Warren was asked to play a key role in the inauguration.
"I'm sure that Warren's supporters will portray his selection as
an appeal to unity by a president who is committed to reaching
across traditional divides," said Kathryn Kolbert.
"Others may explain it as a response to Warren inviting then-Sen.
Obama to speak on AIDS and candidate Obama to appear at a forum,
both at his church.
"But the sad truth is that this decision further elevates someone
who has in recent weeks actively promoted legalized
discrimination and denigrated the lives and relationships of
millions of Americans."