Ten years ago, Mel Gibson unveiled his massively successful movie The Passion of The Christ. It came out on Ash Wednesday (February 25, 2004), but is often re-viewed on Good Friday. It had a worldwide box-office gross of over $611 million.
In our Special Report on religion coverage that year, we explored how the TV networks attacked Gibson's movie as extreme, divisive, and potentially harmful -- one CBS reporter even called it an "ecumenical suicide bomb" -- and how that differed from their fascination with theories in The DaVinci Code:
Appearing as a guest on Monday's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC, actor and comedian Martin Short lambasted several of the GOP presidential candidates, as he called Rick Santorum a "crazy Catholic," compared Michele Bachmann to the Taliban while questioning her intelligence, and suggested that Mitt Romney has sent jobs to other countries.
In the past couple of weeks, comedian George Lopez has made two noteworthy jokes during the monologue of his Lopez Tonight show on TBS with the premise that conservatives are racist. On Wednesday’s show, as he brought up President Obama’s interview recorded earlier in the day on ABC’s The View, Lopez took a swipe at right-leaning co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck as he cracked that she had "instinctively grabbed her purse and hit the imaginary door locks on her couch" when she saw Obama coming.
And on the Monday, July 12, show, Lopez portrayed the people of Arizona as racist for supporting the state’s new immigration law, as he suggested that Arizona would welcome Mel Gibson-style racism. Lopez: "Let’s see. He don’t like people of color, he don’t like Mexicans, he don’t like minorities, where can he go? Orale, Arizona!"
After acting out Gibson’s part by declaring, "I hate blacks, I don’t like Mexicans," Lopez then pretended to be an Arizona resident welcoming Gibson into the state: "Right this way."
"Hollywood may shun Mel Gibson for his anti-Semitic ravings, but the right wing in George Bush's increasingly hate-filled America won't," wrote Salon.com's Neal Gabler on August 1, 2006, four days after Mel Gibson was arrested for drunkenly spewing anti-Semitic hatred to a police officer.
Fast-forward to 2010. It's been three days since director Oliver Stone churned out similarly disturbing anti-Jewish rhetoric to the Sunday Times, and many of Gibson's most prominent critics on the left - including Salon.com - still haven't issued a word of condemnation about Stone's comments.
Similarly, the network news shows have ignored Stone's remarks, despite their wall-to-wall coverage of Gibson's reprehensible diatribe in 2006. The media blitz over Gibson's comments began the day after his arrest with ABC's World News Saturday, and continued non-stop on ABC, NBC and CBS until Aug. 4, 2006.
Joy Behar is no stranger to anti-Christian sentiments, except in her own mind.
On "The Joy Behar Show" July 15, the host railed against Christians who defended actor and director Mel Gibson in the wake of drunken anti-Semitic comments in 2006, but are silent about his recent racist and sexist comments. Moments later, however, Behar claimed she doesn't hate Christians.
Guest Rebecca Dana, a correspondent for The Daily Beast, explained to Behar that she had tried unsuccessfully to contact conservative evangelical leaders to comment on the latest controversy around Gibson, even though they had defended him for making anti-Semitic comments in 2006 around the time his "Passion of the Christ" movie was released. Dana said the impression Christians have given her is that it's acceptable to bash Jews and gays.
After Behar bashed Gibson for his racist/misogynist comments and Christians for not condemning him, guest Stephen Baldwin, a Christian actor, said people should look for ways to help him get better.
The timing of today’s announcement from the Swiss that fugitive director Roman Polanski will not face extradition to the United States coming just a couple days after we all witnessed Hollywood’s reaction to the audio tape of Mel Gibson’s raging, racist rant is fitting. What an interesting opportunity for a side-by-side look at Leftist Hollywood’s values.
It’s unlikely that anyone who’s considered a serious part of the Hollywood community will openly work with Mel Gibson again for a long, long time — if ever. WME, his agency, announced they had dropped him as a client within minutes of the release of the recording, and courtesy of the L.A. Times, the warning has already gone out making clear that anyone foolish enough to work with Gibson again will pay a heavy price:
There’s little chance he’ll land at another agency anytime soon — signing would bring down a horrible avalanche of bad PR to any agency that got within smelling distance and, more to the craven point, any agent that signs him has little hope of booking him any roles anyway since there isn’t a studio in town that will hire Gibson.
So toxic is the “Braveheart” director that the L.A. Times also “suggested” that now would be a “good time” for Tinseltowners to loudly and proudly condemn the former superstar, and a special point was made to single out his longtime friend Jodie Foster (who just finished directing a film that stars Gibson):
Today on CNN, Rick's List host Rick Sanchez was, as he likes to say, all over and drilling down on a story of major import. No, nothing about the dismal unemployment numbers we're seeing this recovery summer. Despite repeated teases on the topic, he didn't get around to it.
Sanchez was all over and drilling down on the latest Mel Gibson antics, despite pushback from his audience:
SANCHEZ: Some of you are tweeting me, in fact I'm reading these as I go telling me, why are you covering the Mel Gibson story? That's not really news. I'm thinking, it's not? Mel Gibson, one of the most renowned actors, who is very politically involved, caught on tape in the past saying things about Jews and about women?
When did Mel Gibson become very politically involved? In a 2006 Entertainment Weekly interview Gibson said, "Everyone always presumes I'm a Republican. I'm not." A check of Federal Election Commission records shows no political contributions from Mel Gibson. Years ago, he wrote a letter endorsing a candidate in the California GOP lieutenant gubernatorial race, but even then noted: "I don't often support political candidates."
The New York Times certainly doesn’t have dazzled stars in its eyes when it writes about Mel Gibson. What could have been a standard weekend-box-office-receipts piece by Brooks Barnes on Monday sounded like an attack piece:
LOS ANGELES - And the blue money just keeps rolling in.
The much-hyped return to the multiplex of Mel Gibson, whose drunken and anti-Semitic outburst in 2006 turned him into a Hollywood pariah, proved no threat to James Cameron's "Avatar," which was No. 1 at the weekend box office for the seventh weekend in a row and passed the $2 billion mark globally.
Two sentences later, Barnes added:
Heading into the weekend, box office analysts were unsure what to expect from Mr. Gibson's crime thriller "Edge of Darkness." Had moviegoers forgotten his rant and the subsequent tabloid brush fire? Many people in the movie business still harbor raw feelings about it.
Newsweek religion editor Lisa Miller, contributing to her magazine’s “20/10” list of top 10 cultural moments of the past decade, revisited the “furor surrounding...[the] alleged anti-Semitism” of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ, and concluded “the film is, in fact, anti-Semitic.” Miller also accused Gibson of making “Jesus in his own image.”
The 2004 film was number eight on Newsweek’s list of cultural moments, and the religion editor began her synopsis by rehashing another of the critics’ main charges about the movie- its apparent glorification of violence: “Mel Gibson’s pious gorefest The Passion of the Christ may not be remembered for all the controversy it courted upon its release, or for its surprise opening-weekend take of $83 million—and perhaps not even for its director’s widely mocked decision to have his actors speak only Latin and Aramaic.” Widely-mocked? How did she come to that conclusion? More than a few outlets, including the notoriously liberal NPR, noted how the movie revived interest in Aramaic, the language spoken by the Jews in the 1st century AD.
With those lines of criticism of the way, Miller moved on to the criticism which she bought the most- its supposed anti-Semitism: “Nor will The Passion be chiefly remembered for the furor surrounding its alleged anti-Semitism. (The film is, in fact, anti-Semitic. Those most thirsty for Jesus’s blood are the Jews whose brown teeth and matted hair disallow any individuality. Meanwhile, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate—who, according to history, did sentence Jesus to death—is as soulful and ambivalent as Hamlet.).”
Joy Behar, who has made anti-Catholic remarks in the past, appeared unforgiving about Mel Gibson’s past anti-Semitic slurs. Discussing the news that the actor and Oscar winning director was counseling Britney Spears, Behar expressed outrage that Britney’s mother would "allow" the pop star, who is 26, to seek help from Gibson.
Behar reminded the audience of Gibson’s now notorious anti-Semitic comments upon his DUI arrest. "The View" co-host exclaimed she would never send her daughter to an "anti-Semite." Elisabeth Hasselbeck reminded Behar that Spears is an adult whose mother no longer has that authority.