The officers of the Writers Guild of America East released a letter to members on Monday in which they condemned antisemitism and Islamophobia, explaining that they chose not to release a statement on the Israel-Hamas conflict to protect the organization’s many journalist members. The East Coast branch of the WGA represents a far higher number of journalists than the West Coast branch of the organization.
We hope you are holding up in these difficult times. A number of you have reached out to us in recent weeks about whether or not the WGA East would make a public statement about Israel and Gaza. We want to explain why we have not.
A little over a year ago, the WGA East went through a referendum to find a path forward as a Guild that was now 40% journalists. In doing so, we in leadership agreed to move away from public statements that did not directly involve our Guild, our industries or the labor movement. Such statements hindered journalist members’ work, and divided rather than united us. Since the referendum, we have made two such statements, both about the protection of reporters.
We realize this will strike some of you as inadequate. We also realize that our own personal sentiments about the atrocities in Israel committed by Hamas on October 7 and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza will not suffice. Representing a diversity of workers means our union is strong enough to hold many different views. However, we want to be clear: there is no place in this Guild — none at all — for antisemitism or Islamophobia.
The letter was signed by guild president Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, VP of streaming Erica Saleh, VP of online media Sara David, VP of broadcast and cable Kathy McGee and secretary-treasurer Chris Kyle.
Opinions were split on the picket lines outside of Paramount in Los Angeles on Monday as well, prior to the release of the WGAE statement.
Several WGA members opted not to comment, but “Reservation Dogs” writer Tommy Pico told TheWrap he didn’t think the guild needed to issue a statement on the Middle East conflict.
He obliquely referred to celebrities such as Sarah Silverman and CAA agent Maha Dakhil, who have had to walk back sentiments voiced on social media. “The people who I want to hear weigh in on those kinds of issues are ones who are well-versed in the most complicated geopolitical conflict on the planet right now. I don’t need SAG or celebrities [weighing in],” Pico said, adding that he is not on social media himself.
However, pre-WGA writer Jesse Pasternack told TheWrap he was in favor of the guild issuing a public message: “There’s been a massive loss of life in the Middle East and I feel like a lot of people are understandably upset about it.”