- Film and television actor
- Supported the Communists in Central America during the Cold War
- Signatory to MoveOn.org’s “Win Without War” petition
- Signatory to the Not In Our Name “Statement of Conscience”
- Participated in numerous anti-Bush and anti-war protests organized by International ANSWER
Martin Sheen was born Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez on August 3, 1940 in Dayton, Ohio. After high school, he deliberately flunked his college entrance exam to the University of Dayton, in order to overcome his father's objection to the young man's pursuit of an acting career instead of higher education. Sheen went on to become an enormously successful film and television star, amassing a net worth of approximately $50 million. He chose his stage name in honor of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. For details about Martin Sheen's career in show business, click here.
In addition to his work in the entertainment industry, Sheen is also well known as an outspoken political and social activist. His ardor for activism was sparked in about 1959 or 1960, when he was exposed to Dorothy Day's Catholic Worker Movement in New York City. A few years later (1965), Sheen marched with Cesar Chavez's National Farm Workers Association in California.
Sheen has a long track-record of condemning U.S. foreign policies and siding with America's enemies (and their mouthpieces) in matters of international conflict. When the California-based Office Of the Americas (OOA) was founded in 1983, for instance, Sheen paid the organization’s first three months’ rent with money he had earned for his work on the TV movie Choices of the Heart, which attributed the murders of four U.S. Catholic churchwomen in El Salvador to America’s political and military intervention in that country. Sheen subsequently became an OOA executive board member.
Also in the '80s, Sheen supported the Soviet-sponsored Sandinista government of Nicaragua, a country he visited in December 1984 at the invitation of its Marxist president, Daniel Ortega. While there, Sheen donated blood to the Nicaraguan Red Cross and proclaimed: “With this donation we want to compensate symbolically the blood which Nicaraguans have spilled because of the policy of the American [Reagan] Administration.” Sheen also staged propaganda meetings with Nicaraguan women whose sons had died in combat against the U.S.-supported Contra rebels.
In October 1985 at California State University, Sheen participated in a “teach-in” where he and his fellow panel members denounced the Reagan Administration's Central American policies as “obscene,” “immoral,” and “based on official lies.” Sheen accused the U.S. of having “blood on [its] hands” because of its support for the Contras' effort to overthrow the “humane, just and democratic” Sandinista regime. And while he likened the Sandinista leaders to America's founding fathers, Sheen said, regarding the U.S. presence in Nicaragua: “We are the terrorists.”
Over the years, Sheen has been arrested more than 70 times for taking part in acts of civil disobedience. His first arrest occurred in New York City in 1986, when he protested President Reagan's proposed Strategic Defense Initiative anti-missile system.
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) have long viewed Sheen as a strong supporter of their agendas, as evidenced by the fact that in July 1992, California DSA leader Steve Tarzynski included the actor on a “List of potential major donors to DSA.”
In 1994 Sheen was an initiator of the International Peace for Cuba Appeal, an International Action Center affiliate that opposed America's economic embargo against Fidel Castro's island nation. Other prominent initiators included the Cuban Intelligence agent Philip Agee, academic Noam Chomsky, and Congressmen John Conyers and Charles Rangel.
Throughout the 1990s, Sheen held Democratic President Bill Clinton in extremely high regard, calling him “probably the brightest president of the 20th century.” By contrast, Sheen later compared Clinton's successor, George W. Bush, to “a bad comic working the crowd, a moron.”
In July 2000, Sheen was a signatory to a political ad in the New York Times calling for an immediate end to America’s economic sanctions against Iraq. The ad charged that the U.S. was responsible for “killing … over one million Iraqis, mostly children under five.” Fellow signers included such notables as Ed Asner, Joan Baez, Daniel Berrigan, Philip Berrigan, Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, William Sloane Coffin, Jr., Richard Dreyfuss, Mike Farrell, Thomas Gumbleton, Rev. James Lawson, Liam Neeson, Rosie O’Donnell, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Pete Seeger, and Howard Zinn.
That same year, Sheen signed his name to a letter titled “Appeal for Responsible Security,” which also appeared in the New York Times. “We call upon the United States government,” said the letter, “to commit itself unequivocally to negotiate the worldwide reduction and elimination of nuclear weapons, in a series of well-defined stages accompanied by increasing verification and control.” Other signers included Jimmy Carter, Marian Wright Edelman, George Soros, John Sweeney, and Ted Turner.
Eight days after the al Qaeda terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Sheen signed his name to a public statement titled “Justice not Vengeance,” which said that: (a) “a military response [by the U.S.] would not end the terror,” but rather, would inevitably “spark a cycle of escalating violence”; and (b) “the [only] way to end the violence” would be to bring the perptrators “to justice under the rule of law—not military action.” Other notable signatories included Harry Belafonte, Medea Benjamin, John Cavanagh, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Barbara Ehrenreich, Mike Farrell, Margaret Gage, Danny Glover, Randy Hayes, Michael Klare, Michael Lerner, Bonnie Raitt, Michael Ratner, Edward Said, Gloria Steinem, and Cora Weiss.
Citing “a lot of unanswered questions” about “very, very disturbing” evidence that the U.S. government itself may have brought down the #7 World Trade Center building with a controlled demolition on 9/11, Sheen has publicly declared on numerous occasions that he doubts the official story concerning the terrorist attacks of that day.
A self-proclaimed “pacifist,” Sheen in 2002 signed the Not In Our Name “Statement of Conscience” which condemned not only the Bush administration’s “stark new measures of repression,” but also its “unjust, immoral, illegitimate, [and] openly imperial policy towards the world.”
At a December 2002 press conference, Sheen joined fellow actor Mike Farrell and about a dozen others in announcing the formation of Artists United to Win Without War (AUWWW).
Prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Sheen was a signatory to MoveOn.org’s “Win Without War” petition, which stated, in part: “We support rigorous UN weapons inspections to assure Iraq’s effective disarmament.... The valid U.S. and UN objective of disarming Saddam Hussein can be achieved through legal diplomatic means. There is no need for war. Let us instead devote our resources to improving the security and well-being of people here at home and around the world.” Sheen also endorsed a very similar petition letter drafted by AUWWW and addressed to President Bush.
During the run-up to the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, Sheen participated in numerous anti-war protests organized by International ANSWER, a front group for the Marxist-Leninist Workers World Party.
In early 2004, Sheen campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. When Dean later withdrew from the race, Sheen threw his support behind John Kerry.
In 2005 Sheen endorsed the agendas of World Can’t Wait, a Revolutionary Communist Party affiliate that accused the George W. Bush “regime”—and the United States generally—of “enforc[ing] a culture of greed, bigotry, intolerance and ignorance.”
Also in 2005, Sheen held a friendly, well-publicized meeting with anti-Iraq War activist Cindy Sheehan in Crawford, Texas.
Reasoning from the premise that pollutants associated with human industrial activity contribute heavily to potentially catastrophic “global warming,” Sheen in 2007 exhorted the Bush administration to “wake up” and do more to cut greenhouse gas emissions. “We are overprivileged,” said Sheen. “We have a lot, use a lot, waste a lot.”
Sheen initially endorsed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for the 2008 presidential nomination, but when Richardson dropped out of the race, the actor switched his allegiance to Barack Obama.
A longtime advocate of releasing the so-called “Cuban 5” from prison, Sheen was a member of Actors and Artists United for the Freedom of the Cuban 5. Fellow members included luminaries like Ed Asner, Mike Farrell, Danny Glover, Bonnie Raitt, Susan Sarandon, Pete Seeger, and Oliver Stone. By Sheen's telling, the Cuban 5 were patriots who: (a) had “sought simply to protect their country from further acts of terrorism,” and (b) had “committed no crime against the United States nor posed any threat to [America's] national security.” (Click here for the facts about the actual crimes committed by this brutal Castro spy ring.)
In 2010 Sheen denounced SB-1070, a newly passed Arizona statute authorizing state police to check the immigration status of criminal suspects, as a “horrible law” that: (a) was “reflective of arrogance and ignorance and anger,” and (b) ignored “the amount of contribution that these [illegal-immigrant] families make.” Sheen revisited this theme in May 2012, when he condemned “the current wave of immigrant-bashing that seems so vogue in certain quarters across the land these days.” In particular, he impugned the “growing chorus of conservative voices” that “blame innocent immigrants for every conceivable form of wrongdoing and lawlessness without just cause, and … target them for deportation, dividing families and destroying communities.”
In October 2011, Sheen described President Barack Obama as “a very special man,” saying “I adore him, and I think he's doing a great job.” In a 2012 campaign ad on behalf of Obama's re-election bid, Sheen praised the president for having “stepped on the stage” when “our nation was in crisis on the brink of a global economic meltdown,” and for “helping America rise again”—even in the face of “cynics and partisans who stood against him not out of principle or patriotism but simply so he’d fail.”
In early 2013, Sheen joined a host of left-wing activists in urging President Obama to award, posthumously, the Presidential Medal of Freedom to the late Fred Ross Sr., a Saul Alinsky-trained radical who had mentored both Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta. Moreover, Ross had helped elect Communist Party USA affiliate Ed Roybal to the Los Angeles City Council in 1949.
Sheen parts company from left-wing orthodoxy on the matter of abortion. “I consider myself a liberal Democrat,” he says, “but I’m against abortion.” Sheen embraces the so-called “consistent life ethic,” which advocates not only against abortion, but “equally against the death penalty [and] war.”
Sheen supports the activities and agendas of numerous left-wing organizations, including such notables as Earth First!, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Catholic Democrats, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and the War Resisters League.