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Fran Drescher criticized for ‘tone deaf’ promotional trip to Italy on eve of possible strike

The SAG-AFTRA president went on a weekend trip to Italy to participate in a Dolce & Gabbana promotional event amid union contract talks.

SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher has come in for criticism at a tense moment in the union’s contract talks with the major studios after she took a weekend trip to Italy to participate in a Dolce & Gabbana promotional event.

SAG-AFTRA emphasized that Drescher was still engaged in negotiations despite her international travel. A picture of Drescher posing with Kim Kardashian surfaced Monday on social media via Kardashian’s Instagram account. That sparked heated responses from actors, writers and other members of Hollywood’s creative community who are on pins and needles this week as the union and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers face a deadline of midnight PT on July 12 to hammer out a new three-year contract. Barring a deal, the union is expected to begin its first industry-wide strike since 1980.

Unlike other elected union presidents, Drescher also serves as chair of SAG-AFTRA’s contract negotiating committee. She’s worked closely with Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director and chief negotiator, on plotting the agenda and demands at a time when entertainment industry economics are shifting fast.

SAG-AFTRA late Monday defended Drescher’s decision to take the quick trip as part of her work as a longstanding “brand ambassador” for the high-end Italian fashion line.

“President Drescher is working as a brand ambassador for Dolce and Gabbana on location in Italy. This was a commitment fully known to the negotiating committee. She has been in negotiations every day either in person or via videoconference. President Drescher is managing a physically demanding schedule across three time zones, overseeing negotiations and working on location daily as well as managing her parents’ needs in [Florida]. She is returning to the States and will be on the ground in L.A. tomorrow [July 11], and will continue to chair our negotiations,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement.

Hollywood’s creative community has been on edge since May 2 when the Writers Guild of America went on strike for the first time since 2007. The image of Drescher and Kardashian kicked a hornet’s nest among industry insiders because Kardashian, who gained fame as a reality TV star, has recently entered the scripted world with a role on FX’s “American Horror Story.” And that particular show has been in the crosshairs of the WGA and its SAG-AFTRA supporters because it is one of the few to remain in production in recent weeks, after striking WGA members in New York and Los Angeles strategically forced studios to shutter productions with completed scripts to film. Striking writers did so by targeting soundstages and location shoots with picket lines to discourage Teamster and IATSE crew members from crossing them in order to get to work.

Kardashian, meanwhile, has kept her millions of social media abreast of her work on “AHS,” offering clear evidence that the show has remained in production after others were forced to fold.

Drescher’s trek to Puglia in southern Italy also drew scoffs from the management side of Hollywood’s bargaining table. “How tone deaf can one be,” quipped a senior executive at an AMPTP member studio.