Update, 2 p.m. ET February 4: Donald Trump has resigned from SAG-AFTRA. In a Thursday letter to union president Gabrielle Carteris that served as a response to his disciplinary hearing, Trump boasted about his accomplishments in media and derided the union’s policies and leadership.
“Who cares!” Trump exclaimed in reference to the impending disciplinary action against him. “I no longer wish to be associated with your union. As such, this letter is to inform you of my immediate resignation from SAG-AFTRA. You have done nothing for me.”
By tendering his resignation, Trump avoided the embarrassment of a disciplinary process that would have likely resulted in his explosion, based on the union leadership’s public distaste for the former president.
The Hollywood Reporter reported that SAG-AFTRA had only a brief comment in response to the letter: “Thank you.” Read Trump’s full letter here.
Earlier, January 19: President Donald Trump, who was impeached last week for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol, is set to be tried by the Senate after he leaves office tomorrow. And now the soon-to-be-former president has another trial planned: On Tuesday, SAG-AFTRA, the performers union he’s been a member of for three decades, began planning a hearing to consider whether Trump’s incitement of the violence at the Capitol violated the guild’s constitution (via Deadline).
The SAG-AFTRA board met Tuesday and voted to find probable cause that Trump violated its constitution for inciting the January 6 attack. The guild is also is looking into whether or not Trump is “sustaining a reckless campaign of misinformation aimed at discrediting and ultimately threatening the safety of journalists, many of whom are SAG-AFTRA members.” The matter is set to be heard by the union’s Disciplinary Committee, which will consider whether to penalize, censure, or fine Trump, or suspend or expel him from the group.
The charges were levied by national Executive Director David White at the behest of union President Gabrielle Carteris. They’re pushing for the most severe penalty: expulsion from membership.
“Donald Trump attacked the values that this union holds most sacred – democracy, truth, respect for our fellow Americans of all races and faiths, and the sanctity of the free press,” Carteris said. “There’s a straight line from his wanton disregard for the truth to the attacks on journalists perpetrated by his followers.”
Trump’s membership in SAG-AFTRA is a reminder of how he rose to prominence within the public consciousness as a mythical titan of business. He’s been a member of the union and its predecessor groups since 1989, coinciding with his appearance in the film “Ghosts Can’t Do it.” He went on to appear as himself in “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “The Nanny,” “Sex and the City” and other 90s sitcoms and films like “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”
Despite going through numerous bankruptcies, Trump cemented his reputation as a savvy businessman on “The Apprentice,” the long-running business competition reality show that debuted on NBC in 2004. Trump most recently hosted “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2015.
Deadline reported that Trump receives a $90,776 pension for the acting work he performed on SAG-covered shows and an $8,724 pension for his AFTRA-covered work. His pension won’t be effected if he’s expelled, nor would be be prevented from working in the union’s jurisdiction.
“Our most important role as a union is the protection of our members,” said White. “The unfortunate truth is, this individual’s words and actions over the past four years have presented actual harm to our broadcast journalist members. The board’s resolution addresses this effort to undermine freedom of the press and reaffirms the principles on which our democratic society rests, and which we must all work to protect and preserve.”
The union has in the past criticized Trump for his attacks on the press, but this is by far the strongest move it has taken against the president. In October 2019, the union approved a resolution in support of a “free and unencumbered press” aimed at Trump, but did not name him. The union will send a letter to Trump today to notify him of the charges. The process of expelling him could take longer than six weeks. If the committee votes to expel him, the ruling must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the national board.