WGAW president Meredith Stiehm says there’s a distinction in the backlash and anger over talk show hosts like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Hudson and Bill Maher returning, and that is that only one of them is a Writers Guild member.
During a brief interview on Thursday for CNN’s The Lead With Jake Tapper, Stiehm addressed the criticism that multiple Hollywood hosts have faced as they’ve announced plans to resume production on WGA-covered shows nearly 140 days into the ongoing strike.
For the WGA leader, backlash and accusations of scabbing are different for those like Maher and SAG-AFTRA member Barrymore, who on Friday offered another, equally criticized, statement on her decision to return her self-titled daytime talk show to the air despite the AMPTP and WGA not yet having a new contract.
“There is a distinction between Bill Maher and the others because he is a Writers Guild member. The others, I believe, are SAG members, and they may have waivers to do the shows. I’m not sure. But he’s a Writers Guild member, and he’s going back to work, so yes, a lot of people are saying that’s scabbing,” she said. “There’s definitely some anger that he’s doing that.”
Stiehm went on to echo a point in response to certain hosts’ decisions to resume amid an ongoing work stoppage after hosts like Maher, and Barrymore again today, have pointed to wanting to get their lower-paid crewmembers back to work despite other shows and their workers having to remain paused.
“There are other hosts of shows that are taking care of their shows by paying for them themselves,” she told Tapper. “We’re all worried about our crews, and the ripple effect that the work stoppage has created.”
On Wednesday, Maher announced over X (the platform formerly known as Twitter), that his show Real Time would be coming back “sans writers or writing.”
“It has been five months, and it is time to bring people back to work. The writers have important issues that I sympathize with and hope they are addressed to their satisfaction, but they are not the only people with issues, problems and concerns,” he wrote. “I’m not prepared to lose an entire year and see so many below-the-line people suffer so much.”
Maher added that when the show returns, he plans to “honor the spirit of the strike by not doing a monologue” and other scripted elements like the “New Rules” segment.
Within the past week, Maher, Barrymore, The Jennifer Hudson Show and The Talk, which are all WGA-covered shows, have announced that they will begin production once again despite the work stoppage which began May 2. The Drew Barrymore Show and The Talk have already been met with pickets, with pickets for The Jennifer Hudson Show anticipated.
In a previous statement responding to Maher’s announcement, the WGA said the Real Time host’s “decision to go back on the air while his Guild is on strike is disappointing.
“If he goes forward with his plan, he needs to honor more than ‘the spirit of the strike,’” it continued. “As a WGA member, Bill Maher is obligated to follow the strike rules and not perform any writing services. It is difficult to imagine how Real Time can go forward without a violation of WGA strike rules taking place. WGA will be picketing this show.”