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By Samuel R. Avro on Jan 20, 2009 with no responses

Robert Redford Criticized as Racist and ‘Enemy of the Poor’

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The issue of environmentalism, energy conservation and relief to the nation’s poor all came together to form a bitter twist during a protest which criticized Redford’s environmental beliefs as linked with racism.

A group of black clergy lambasted Robert Redford for his outspoken opposition to oil and gas drilling in the Utah wilderness, terming him as an ‘enemy of the poor’.

During a protest march by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in front of a downtown theater in Salt Lake City on the eve of Redford’s Sundance Film Festival last week, the Academy award-winning actor was accused of holding down low-income Americans due to his opposition to energy development in the area, which the group claims increases their heating costs.

That opposition “hurts a lot of low-income families at the other end of the natural gas pipeline,” said CORE spokesman Niger Innis.

Redford called a government auction of oil and gas drilling rights in Utah “morally criminal” last month.

“The high energy prices we’re going to see this winter are essentially discriminatory,” said Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. of the Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., chairman of the High-Impact Leadership Coalition, a petroleum industry advocate.

The protesters were irate at the fact that the wealthy actor was involving himself in issues that don’t affect his own wallet. The clergymen even went as far as linking his environmental activism with racism.

“Robert Redford can afford to heat his 13,000-square-foot mansion in Utah no matter how high home heating prices get,” said Harry R. Jackson Jr., chairman of the High-Impact Leadership Coalition, which also participated in Wednesday’s protest. “But grandmothers on a fixed income and single mothers dependent upon public assistance count on energy production in states like Utah to continue so that their home-heating costs stay as low as possible.”

A Redford publicist, however, lashed back at the group leading the protest.

“They’ve gotten about $275,000 from Exxon oil in the last five years,” spokeswoman Joyce Deep told the Park City Record. “When anybody takes large sums of money from industry and pushes their agenda, that makes it suspect.

Oil drilling rig, Canyonlands, Utah.

Oil drilling rig, Canyonlands, Utah.

“The Bush administration on Election Day announced that they were going to open up 360,000 acres of land to oil and gas development when they thought nobody was looking,” Deep said.

Hollywood’s Sundance Kid is standing by his previous comments, she said.

“Mr. Redford stands behind his opposition to the Bush administration’s last-minute efforts to take these particular leases on public land in Utah and auction it off to private industry,” Deep said.

Extraction operations still hasn’t begun on thousands of acres where drilling permits  have already been issued, Deep said.

“[Redford] really does reject the argument that CORE puts forth, that these (new) leases have anything to do with home-heating prices this winter. It’s a fallacy to say there are not enough places to drill in the United States. They’re just not drilling.

Mr. Redford remains firmly committed to sustainable sources of clean energy to replace those which are toxic and polluting which we can’t sustain, which endanger the public health, the environment and economy for all Americans,” Deep said.