The American Sniper controversy continued this week, with the latest battle pitting actor Gary Sinise against former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.
On Friday night, Dean, 66, appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher and said during a panel discussion that people who go to see the Oscar-nominated Clint Eastwood film are “very angry.”
“There’s a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry, and this guy basically says ‘I’m gonna fight on your side,’ ” Dean said, referring to title character and late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who is portrayed by Bradley Cooper.
“I bet you if you looked at a cross-section of the Tea Party and the people who go see this movie, there’s a lot of intersection,” Dean, a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, continued.
Sinise, 59, responded to Dean’s comments Monday, posting an open letter on his WhoSay page and linking to it on Facebook and Twitter. (His Gary Sinise Foundation supports troops, veterans and their families.)
“I saw American Sniper and would not consider myself to be an angry person. You certainly have a right to make stupid blanket statements, suggesting that all people who see this film are angry, but how is that helpful sir?” the CSI: New York star said in the now viral message.
“Chris Kyle’s story deserved to be told,” Sinise added. “It tells a story of the stress that multiple deployments have on one military family, a family representative of thousands of military families. It helps to communicate the toll that the war on terror has taken on our defenders. Defenders and families who need our support.”
Sinise, who memorably played Vietnam vet Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, again addressed the anger at the end of his message: “I will admit that perhaps somewhere among the masses of people who are going to see the film there may be a few that might have some anger or have been angry at some point in their lives, but, with all due respect, what the hell are you talking about?”
Sinise is not the only public figure to defend the film. Sarah Palin has passionately defended Kyle following seemingly disparaging Tweets from filmmaker Michael Moore. The Palin family befriended Kyle before his death in February 2013.
Actor Dean Cain also spoke to PEOPLE about his friend Kyle, saying all the attention surrounding the film would have made him supremely uncomfortable.
“It would be absolutely and completely surreal and strange to him,” Cain told PEOPLE. “And he’d probably want to go fishing. I’m not kidding. He’d go horseback riding. He’d want to do anything but be in the public eye.”