Mel Gibson vs. Michael Richards at the Los Angeles Times
We all know about actor Michael Richards' racial epithets at last Friday night's performance at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles. But yesterday, this exclusive TMZ.com article revealed that the three-time Emmy-award-winning actor had also hurled anti-Semitic slurs at the Improv comedy club in April of this year. According to the piece, Richards yelled at an audience member, "You f***ing Jew. You people are the cause of Jesus dying." And here's the kicker: Richards' own representative has confirmed that this actually happened. (He said it was part of Richards' act.)
So how did the Los Angeles Times cover this latest revelation in today's paper (Thursday, November 23, 2006)? They didn't. In fact, the name "Michael Richards" appears nowhere in today's edition. Compared to the Mel Gibson episode from July, the Times is treating the angry slurs by Michael Richards much differently. Here's the rundown:
Between July 29 and August 9, 2006 (12 days), the Times published no less than 21 articles and commentaries related to Mel Gibson's DUI arrest and anti-Semitic outburst. (We're not including letters to the editor, either.) Four of these articles were prominently placed on the front page of the newspaper. Here is a list of some of the pieces that the Times published:
"Did Gibson Get a Break After Arrest?" July 30, 2006, page A1, 1554 words.
"Gibson's Newest 'Lethal Weapon' -- His Mouth," commentary by Steve Lopez, July 31, 2006, page B1, 955 words.
"Sheriff's Office Debated Gibson's Arrest Report," August 1, 2006, page A1, 2044 words.
"Critics Find Voice in Gibson Drama," August 1, 2006, page C1, 1049 words.
"Motive Behind Gibson Report Probed," August 2, 2006, page B1, 1198 words.
"Why D.A. Decided on Gibson DUI," August 3, 2006, page A1, 1295 words.
"Bigoted Gibson Admirers Sound Off," another commentary by Steve Lopez, August 3, 2006, page B1, 576 words.
"They Didn't See This in Gibson's Script," August 4, 2006, page A1, 2976 words.
"Clues dismissed in time of 'Passion'," by Tim Rutten, August 5, 2006, page E1, 1263 words. (This column was especially vitriolic and ugly; we confronted Rutten's bigotry in this post. And, fortunately, a Times reader nailed Rutten for his blatant anti-Catholicism; read about that here.)
In addition to yesterday's report that Richards had hurled anti-Semitic slurs back in April, there was the news that the two black men who were the objects of Richards' Friday attack have hired civil-rights attorney Gloria Allred. Yet neither of these stories appear in the paper today. Why?
The Times' slim coverage of the Richards' episode has also failed to answer several common questions:
What has been the reaction from activists in the community? (Lots of local media covered a press conference that was held on Monday November 20, 2006, at the Laugh Factory. Yet the only words about that conference in the Times come from a brief AP wire story (215 words) that the paper published in its "Quick Takes" section on page E3 of its entertainment-centered "Calendar" section. (A whopping 44 words are about the conference itself, and not a single activist is quoted.))
Following his racist tirade on Friday, why did the Laugh Factory allow Richards to return to perform at the club the next night?
Several reports (such as this one) have said that Richards said that he would apologize at the club on Saturday. However, no on-stage apology was issued. What did the Laugh Factory club do about this on Saturday and Sunday?
Why did the Laugh Factory wait until after a video of Richards' performance was made public to ban him from the club?
The coverage of Richards' episode in the Times has been pretty skimpy. In addition the small "Quick Takes" piece, the Times reported Richards' apology in this brief article on the bottom of page B3 on Tuesday. Then yesterday (Wednesday), last Friday's episode was written about in two tame pieces. Opinion writer Erin Aubry Kaplan authored the feeble "The O.J.-Kramer discrepancy," in which she actually wrote that she's an "O.J. neutralist," meaning that "to this day, I'm not sure whether he [killed Ron and Nicole]"(!). Then there was Paul Brownfield's timid "Backlash of the 'Borat' effect," in which he wrote about how the audience at David Letterman's Late Show appeared unaware about what was going in during Richards' on-air apology on Monday night.
Why the disparity is coverage? It seems pretty clear that the Times saw that they could use Mel Gibson's episode to further a personal attack against Gibson. They openly sought to connect Mel's tirade to his Passion of the Christ film. They used the episode to baselessly tar the Christian faith that Gibson openly professes. (See this post.) In doing this, the Times advanced the anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, and anti-conservative tone that pervades its paper. (We've posted about this in a number of places, including here and here.) The Times cannot advance any such agenda with Michael Richards, so one could readily conclude that the paper's attitude is, "Why bother? Why make a Hollywood star look worse than he has to?"
Uneven coverage? Absolutely.