Actor Martin Sheen defended the rights of Hollywood anti-war activists to express their views, in an opinion piece published Mar. 17 in The Los Angeles Times, titled “A celebrity, but first a citizen.”

“Whether celebrity or diplomat, cabdriver or student, all deserve a turn at the podium,” Sheen wrote. He criticized those he said were trying to disparage his and other Hollywood activists’ views “solely due to our celebrity status.”

The actor, who plays the president on NBC’s “The West Wing,” said celebrity activists carry added responsibility because their statements are likely to receive press coverage. “As a result, we are often called to give voice to the voiceless and a presence to the marginalized,” Sheen wrote.

Sheen recently said top NBC executives had let him know they were uncomfortable with his vocal opposition to war with Iraq.