* 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. His mother’s family had connections to the Irish Republican Army, and his father was a factory worker who had immigrated to the U.S. from Spain.
After high school, Estévez deliberately flunked his college entrance exam to the University of Dayton, in order to overcome his father’s objection to the young man’s desire to pursue an acting career instead of higher education.
Adopting the stage name “Sheen” as an homage to Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, whom he greatly admired, Martin Sheen went on to become an enormously successful film and television star. He became famous for his roles in such films as The Final Countdown (1980), Gandhi (1982), That Championship Season (1982), Firestarter (1984), Wall Street (1987), JFK (1991), and The American President (1995). He also gained acclaim for his work in television productions like The Missiles of October (1974), Blind Ambition (1979), Kennedy (1983), and The West Wing, a political drama that was broadcast on NBC from 1999-2006. For more details about Sheen’s career in show business, click here.
Aside from 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 first exposed to Dorothy Day’s Catholic Worker Movement in New York City. A few years later (in 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 cast the murders of four U.S. Catholic churchwomen in El Salvador as payback for 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 as part of a December 1984 Witness for Peace delegation at the invitation of the Marxist President Daniel Ortega. At the end of that trip, Sheen praised the Ortega government and said at a news conference in the capital city of Managua: “It’s been an extraordinary experience. We’ve talked to many government ministers and people, and it is clear and gratifying that this is a government of the people.” Noting also that he had spoken with a group of Nicaraguan “mothers of heroes and martyrs” whose sons had died in combat against the U.S.-supported Contra rebels, Sheen further stated: “That was the most moving experience of the trip. They asked us to pray with them and send a message to President Reagan that they forgive him if he would stop the intervention that is taking their sons and daughters.” During his stay in Nicaragua as well, 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.”
In October 1985 at California State University, Sheen participated in a “teach-in” where he and his fellow panel members characterized 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.”
Sheen has been critical of Israel’s political leadership since the 1980s. Some examples:
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 missile-defense system, the Strategic Defense Initiative. “That arrest was one of the happiest moments of my life,” Sheen would later say in a 2003 interview.
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 Peace for Cuba International 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.
A longtime advocate of having the U.S. release from prison the brutal Fidel Castro spy ring known as the “Cuban 5,” 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 had: (a) “sought simply to protect their country from further acts of terrorism,” and (b) “committed no crime against the United States nor posed any threat to [America’s] national security.”
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 likewise 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, the loss of innocent lives, and new acts of terrorism”; 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-identified “pacifist,” Sheen in 2002 signed the Not In Our Name “Statement of Conscience,” a Revolutionary Communist Party initiative that 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.”
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.”
Sheen is an environmentalist who joined with such organizations as the Earth Island Institute and the Rainforest Action Network in supporting the Heritage Tree Preservation Act of 2002, which sought to ban all logging in old-growth forests.
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. “I think we’re over-privileged,” said Sheen. “We have a lot, we use and we waste a lot, and we don’t think about the needs and concerns of anyone else. We have to begin to focus on the needs of the Third World now.”
In 2019-2020, Sheen supported the weekly “Fire Drill Friday” rallies that actress Jane Fonda led in Washington, D.C. to draw attention to what she portrayed as the climate crisis which was being caused by the excesses and abuses of fossil-fuel energy companies like ExxonMobil. Indeed, Sheen personally participated in at least one such gathering in January 2020, when he told the assembled crowd: “This woman [Fonda] has been one of my heroes nearly all of my adult life. And clearly the world will be saved by women. Thank God they outnumber us men […] We are called to find something in our lives worth fighting for. Something that unites the will of the spirit with the work of the flesh, something that can help us lift up this nation and all its people to that place where the heart is without fear and the head is held high.” And, addressing some of his remarks to God directly, Sheen continued: “Where knowledge is free, where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls, where words come out from the depths of truth and tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection, where a clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit. Where the mind is led forward by thee, and the ever widening thought and action into that Heaven of freedom, dear father, let our dear country awake!”
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 a 2003 interview with The Progressive, Sheen was asked to “assess the Bush Administration.” He replied: “In order to understand this Administration it is helpful to have a background in [Alcoholics Anonymous’s] Twelve Step, because it is real clear to those of us who understand the Twelve Step program that these are very dysfunctional times. We live in a very dysfunctional society, and this is a very, very dysfunctional Administration. The proven way for this Administration to keep power is to keep us all in fear. As long as we are afraid of the unknown and afraid of each other, he, or anyone like him, can rule. It’s like they will take responsibility for protecting us. It’s when we take back the responsibility for protecting ourselves that they get scared. I am amazed by the level of arrogance within the Administration.”
In that same 2003 interview, Sheen was asked, “Which politicians do you admire?” He answered: “I don’t really have a great deal of confidence in politics or politicians, but there are certain elected officials that I admire very much, such as Dennis Kucinich from Ohio, Barbara Lee, Congresswoman from Oakland, Howard Dean, who I’m supporting for President.”
In 2003 Sheen endorsed a statement condemning the Smithsonian Institution’s plan to exhibit the Enola Gay, the B-29 Superfortress used in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. He and his fellow 250+ signers — among whom were Noam Chomsky, Norman Lear, and Oliver Stone — were opposed to the aircraft being regarded in a “celebratory” manner.
Sheen initially endorsed New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Said Sheen in December 2007: “Bill Richardson has the proven record of success and the real-world experience that this country needs in our next President: he is ready for prime time. In this, the most important presidential election of our time, with so much on the line, I believe that Bill Richardson is the only one who can create the change that we so desperately need to restore America’s standing in the world and to get our country back on the right path at home.” But when Richardson dropped out of the race, the actor switched his allegiance to Barack Obama.
On December 1, 2007, Sheen was a featured guest at an ACLU Dinner at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn, Michigan.
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.” “These arrogant voices need to be reminded that arrogance is ignorance matured,” Sheen added, “and that we continue to be a nation of immigrants.”
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.
In an August 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter (THR), Sheen was asked whether he considered himself “a big supporter” of Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who was running against Republican Donald Trump. The actor answered: “I am, yes…. She has some common sense. I’m not saying she’s mistake-free. Who is? I mean, she’s a human being. She’s been in public life for 30 years. She’s made a few mistakes. Is anybody talking about George Bush and the 30,000 emails he destroyed about the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and all of that nonsense, and how Great Britain came in, and all the other allies knowing full well that it was bogus? So, please, if you want to talk about how much her mistakes have cost us, none in human lives — and please don’t mention Benghazi. That’s a lot of crap. She was not controlling that situation. It was a military situation. And that’s run by the Pentagon or the CIA or both. She’s under orders.”
In that same August 2016 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sheen characterized “Don Trump” as a “scary” individual and “an empty-headed moron” who “has absolutely nothing to offer us” and “has to be [held] responsible for the damage he’s already done.” When asked to explain what damage Trump, who was “just a private citizen so far,” had allegedly done, Sheen replied: “Oh, come on. There’s nothing private about this guy. Don Trump has been around for a very long time. He’s a very self-centered promoter. I think that says it.”
On December 14, 2016 — slightly more than a month after Trump had defeated Mrs. Clinton in the presidential election — Sheen and a number of fellow Hollywood celebrities produced a video public-service announcement exhorting Republican electors in the Electoral College to be “American heroes” by disregarding their states’ voting results and denying Trump the presidency when filing their official ballots on December 19. To prevent Trump from accruing the 270 electoral votes required for victory, a total of 37 so-called “faithless” electors would be needed. Said Sheen at the start of the video: “Republican members of the Electoral College, this message is for you. As you know, our Founding Fathers built the Electoral College to safeguard the American people from the dangers of a demagogue, and to ensure that the presidency only goes to someone who is to an ’eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.’” “By voting your conscience,” said Richard Schiff, who played the role of White House communications director Toby Ziegler on The West Wing, “you and other brave Republican electors can give the House of Representatives the option to select a qualified candidate for the presidency.” The video ended with the celebrities in unison imploring the electors to perform this “service to the American people.”
In June 2017, Sheen composed a fundraising email titled “Disgusted” on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “My time playing the president on The West Wing taught me what Washington should be like,” said the email. “And right now, with the Republicans in control, it’s far from what we, as Americans, deserve.”
Speaking to reporters at the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills in the summer of 2017, Sheen referred to President Trump as “that dark force” who had been elected to the White House by voters in “The Land of Lunatics.”
In late October 2020 — just days before the presidential election between incumbent Donald Trump and Democrat challenger Joe Biden — Sheen and some of his former West Wing cast mates released a video in which each of them proudly stated that they would be voting “for a guy named Joe.”
In early 2021, Sheen and a number of fellow left-wing celebrities like Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Sam Elliott, openly supported The Lincoln Project, an alliance of nominal Republicans devoted to discrediting and smearing former President Trump.
In a June 2021 interview, Sheen angrily condemned former President Trump and his supporters, blaming them for the deepened political divisions in the United States. A noteworthy excerpt:
“We’re stuck with the lie in the throat, and I think we’ve got to clear our throats and see through this fog of deception, divisiveness. I think we’ve forgotten something that is a deep part of our humanity, and that is we serve ourselves best when we serve others first. I think we’ve got that reversed. We have lacked leadership until very recently. I don’t mind saying that I’m a very liberal lifelong Democrat. I grew up in a country that Republicans were equally admired, and their thoughts and service [were] equally embraced. You know. Eisenhower was our president and Truman followed him, and then it’s gone from Democrat to Republican but there wasn’t a sense of selfishness or power or dishonesty. And this has been a colossal error in our character, this Trump administration and the fact that he will not man up and step forward and say that he has lied about it and that he has used it, and he’s hurt the country and all of his followers. The worst part of it is that so many good people have followed this bad man, and he’s a hustler and he has absolutely no one that he’s concerned about except himself, and if we don’t see that and see through his selfishness and greed and anger. He [Donald Trump] has led the country in such a desperate way, of selfishness and lies, and we’ve got to shake this guy off. This guy does not deserve that much attention. He deserves a lot of pity, and we’ve got to call this bum out to be what he is. To stand up, be a man, and say it’s all a lie, and show some respect and love for the country.”
In 2017 as well, Sheen produced and narrated a documentary television series titled Hard Evidence: O.J. [Simpson] Is Innocent, a project based on the investigative work of private investigator William Dear, who authored the 2012 book O.J. Is Innocent and I Can Prove It.
In October 2022, Sheen participated in a pro-Democrat virtual fundraiser featuring cast members from two former television series, The West Wing (NBC, 1999-2006) and Veep (HBO, 2012-2019). This venture raised some $700,000 to help Wisconsin Democrats defeat their Republican opponents in the state’s upcoming midterm elections, with a particular emphasis placed on the need to protect abortion rights.
Stance on Abortion
He embraces the so-called “consistent life ethic,” which advocates not only against abortion, but “equally against the death penalty or war — anywhere people are sacrificed for some end justifying a means.” “I don’t think abortion is a good idea,” the actor said in a 2003 interview. “I personally am opposed to abortion, but I will not judge anybody else’s right in that regard because I am not a woman and I could never face the actual reality of it.”
Ties to Leftwing Organizations
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.
Political Donations to Democrats
Sheen’s Massive Wealth
Sheen currently has a net worth of approximately $60 million.
Sheen is married to Janet Elizabeth Estévez, known professionally as Janet Sheen and Janet Templeton. The couple has four children, all of whom are actors by profession: Emilio Estévez, Ramón Estévez, Renée Estévez, and Charlie Sheen.