'South Park' Censorship Controversy Continues

The controversy over Comedy Central's decision to censor its show "South Park" continues to heat up. Late Thursday, the network issued a statement admitting that it did refuse to run a scene which featured a cartoon depiction of the Muslim prophet Muhammed.

"In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision," the cable channel said.

That decision has sparked howls of protest from fans and critics, making it the most-searched for term on the blog search engine Technorati (ht Michelle Malkin).

The show's executive producer, Ann Garefino, confirmed that the network censored the scene, stating that she believed it did so out of "fear" of protests or violence.

"We were happy that they didn’t try to claim that it was because of religious tolerance," Garefino said in an interview with Volokh.com.

She was not aware of any particular threats being made against the show or Comedy Central had the deleted scene aired.

Garefino also stated that a video being circulated on the internet purporting to be the uncensored scene of Muhammed handing a football helmet to a character on the Fox show "Family Guy" was, in fact, a hoax.

In the "South Park" episode, Fox executives are fearful of showing the Muhammed scene and only at the last minute decide to strike a blow for free expression. Their decision, in turn, angers Islamic terrorists who retaliate by broadcasting a cartoon of their own which ridicules Americans and features Jesus Christ and George W. Bush defacating on themselves and others. Comedy Central did not censor this scene, prompting many to wonder why it thinks ridiculing Christianity is permissible but not Islam.

This was the third time in recent months that the network has put the kibosh on its most popular show. In December, the channel refused to rerun an episode which offended many Catholics with a profane depiction of a statue of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In March, Comedy Central declined to rebroadcast an episode which made fun of scientology, allegedly at the behest of movie star Tom Cruise who is a scientologist.


Muhammed, as depicted in a 2001 episode of "South Park."

Considering the satirical nature of the show, many people were skeptical that Comedy Central had refused to show the Muhammed scene, especially since an entire episode, which repeatedly showed a cartoon image of the founder of Islam, was broadcast on many WB affiliates last month. When the episode was first aired on Comedy Central in 2001, it was entirely non-controversial, even in Europe, the birthplace of the Muhammed cartoon kerfuffle.

A spokesman for Comedy Central said the cable channel does not control the syndication of "South Park" and would not have made the decision to send the 2001 episode, called "Super Best Friends," to local stations.

UPDATE 21:08. A spokesman for Debmar-Mercury, the company which syndicates the show, confirmed that Comedy Central was not involved in deciding to distribute the episode. No local stations have ever refused to show it for any reason, she said.

Further reading/viewing:

  • The 2001 episode, "Super Best Friends," is available online. See also this summary.
  • Most of the two-part "Cartoon Wars" episode can be watched in segments at the grassroots media site YouTube. It also will air Sunday night on Comedy Central. Summaries of part one and part two are also available.
  • Michelle Malkin is collecting alternative logos for Comedy Central for chickening out.
  • Cake or Death urges everyone to contact CC and ask for an uncensored version to be run.
  • Writing at Dean's World, Dave Price asks why anyone would be offended at a non-profane depiction of Muhammed.
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013