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SAG Officer Ousted From National Post

The Hollywood division replaces Vice President Anne-Marie Johnson with Kent McCord.

October 05, 2006|Richard Verrier | Times Staff Writer

Signaling deepening rifts within the leadership of the Screen Actors Guild, one of the union's top officers and most visible African American leaders was narrowly ousted this week.

Actress Anne-Marie Johnson was replaced late Tuesday as the union's first national vice president by actor Kent McCord, a longtime SAG activist.

The 17-16 vote by the powerful Hollywood division electing McCord marks a sharp rebuke of SAG President Alan Rosenberg. Johnson's credits include TV shows "In the Heat of the Night" and "In Living Color." She has been one of the most influential officers in the union, and became a confidante of Rosenberg's after his election last year.

Her ouster was unusual for being spearheaded by a group with which she has been closely aligned and that backed Rosenberg, who swept into office on a platform of taking a harder line in studio negotiations.

Johnson was running for her third one-year term as first national vice president of the union, which has nearly 120,000 members. Her loss stunned colleagues.

"This was a woman who carried a high profile for this union and I think did a pretty terrific job," said Paul Christie, president of the New York branch of SAG. "She didn't deserve this."

Nonetheless, her close association with Rosenberg offended some in the Hollywood faction. Rosenberg has struggled to mollify some of his former supporters with his efforts to mend fences with the New York division and other regions. Rosenberg praised Johnson's efforts to build unity and blasted the Hollywood division's vote.

"I'm devastated by it," he said. "When a black woman is doing an incredible job, you don't replace her with a white man."

Johnson said she had been given assurances that she had the backing of most Hollywood board members.

"I was completely broadsided," said Johnson, who will remain a national board member. "I'm over the anger, but the disappointment of how this is going to affect people of color and women in this union is quite dramatic."

McCord said he was unaware of any pledges made to Johnson.

"I didn't campaign for the position," said McCord, a veteran film and TV actor best known for his role as Officer James Reed in the police drama "Adam-12." "I had many, many requests to run and I consented. I feel that through my history at the union I have a voice and I wanted that voice to be heard."

McCord is a former SAG treasurer who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2003. He also is one of the architects of a faction called Membership First that currently dominates SAG politics and encouraged Rosenberg to run.

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