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Melissa Barrera, Susan Sarandon face backlash for comments about Middle East crisis

Melissa Barrera, left, and Susan Sarandon are among the artists who have faced consequences for their comments regarding Israel's bombardment of Gaza.
Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for SCAD aTVfest 2020, left, Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Melissa Barrera, left, and Susan Sarandon are among the artists who have faced consequences for their comments regarding Israel's bombardment of Gaza.

More artists are facing consequences for their comments about Israel's bombardment of Gaza. Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon has been dropped by her talent agency and actor Melissa Barrera has been fired from the movie Scream 7.

At a rally in New York, Sarandon told attendees, "There are a lot of people that are afraid, afraid of being Jewish at this time and are getting a taste of what it feels like to be a Muslim in this country so often subjected to violence."

A spokesperson for United Talent Agency (UTA) confirms they no longer represent Sarandon.

Melissa Barrera, who starred in two of the Scream movies, has been calling for an end to the violence on social media. According to Variety, in a now-expired Instagram story, she wrote that, "Western media only shows" the Israeli side, and, as The Hollywood Reporter noted, that Gaza is "currently being treated like a concentration camp."

"We have zero tolerance for antisemitism or the incitement of hate in any form," Scream co-producers Spyglass Media Group wrote in a statement to Variety, "including false references to genocide, ethnic cleansing, Holocaust distortion or anything that flagrantly crosses the line into hate speech."

Jenna Ortega also leaving Scream

Fanning the flames for Scream fans, it has also been announced that Barrera's co-star Jenna Ortega will not return to the franchise. Barrera and Ortega played sisters Sam and Tara Carpenter in Scream and Scream VI. Deadline reports that Ortega's departure has nothing to do with Barrera's firing.

The backlash to the Barrera backlash was swift.

"Just when audiences were becoming invested in this new story, the main driving character will be eliminated. As a big fan of hers, I'm seriously bummed," writes Travis Falligant on X (formerly Twitter).

"By wrongfully firing Melissa Barrera from Scream 7, Spyglass has no idea they've angered 2 of the loudest, most powerful groups: horror gays & Mexicans," posted @DorinaLaBruja.

"This is just so wrong in many ways," writes @jennaortegamoments on Instagram, "What happened to freedom of speech? They keep trying to silence anyone who speaks."

Scream VII director Christopher Landon responded to angry fans, writing, "Everything sucks. Stop yelling. This was not my decision to make." His X post has since been deleted.

In October, Ortega, Barrera and Sarandon were among dozens of Hollywood talent who signed an open letter to President Biden calling for a ceasefire. Other signees include Jordan Peele, America Ferrera and Jon Stewart.

Rania Batrice was part of a small collective that spearheaded the letter. She says entertainment companies are trying to "punish artists" for speaking out in support of the Palestinian cause, and "scare them into submission and silence." She's hopeful it won't work. "People will continue educating themselves," she says, and be "brave enough...to say this is humanity."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.