Conservative media figures jumping to Mel Gibson's defense

››› ››› ROB DIETZ

Conservative media figures have jumped to the defense of Mel Gibson after he made a series of anti-Semitic remarks when he was arrested for driving under the influence.

Since news broke that director, actor, and producer Mel Gibson made a series of anti-Semitic remarks when he was arrested on July 28 for driving under the influence in Malibu, CA, several conservative media figures have jumped to Gibson's defense. Right-wing activist David Horowitz even suggested that the anger over Gibson's comments is rooted in a "hatred of Christians," while other commentators suggested that criticism of Gibson was an extension of criticism of Gibson's role in producing and directing the February 2004 film The Passion of the Christ (New Market Films).

Among the defenses mounted on behalf of Gibson:

  • On the August 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, radio host and regular Fox & Friends guest Erich "Mancow" Muller said, "I can't believe he is anti-Semitic. I can't believe The Passion of the Christ, they thought was anti-Semitic, because our hero was Jewish." Muller -- whose nationally syndicated, Chicago-based radio show was recently dropped from its home station in Chicago, but who has reportedly been hired to offer nightly commentaries on a Chicago TV station -- then stated: "I hope it's not so." Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy noted that Gibson has "apologized twice already."
  • In his August 2 column on National Review Online, John Derbyshire excused Gibson's comments because "[t]he guy was drunk, for heaven's sake. We all say and do dumb things when we are drunk." Derbyshire added: "As little as I care for Mel and his splatter-fest Brit-hating oeuvre, though, I care even less for the schoolmarmish, prissy, squealing, skirt-clutching, sissified, feminized, pansified, preening moral vanity of the vile and anti-human Political Correctness cult."
  • A press release posted on August 2 by the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND) asked ,"Where's the Compassion for Mel Gibson?" Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of BOND and a sometime-guest on Fox News, was quoted in the release as saying: "I am sorry that Mel Gibson and his family are going through this difficult period. Gibson absolutely did the right thing by offering a heartfelt apology and asking for forgiveness from the Jewish community -- he's even asked to meet with Jewish leaders. To those who will not be satisfied until Gibson is destroyed -- I say 'shame on you. Where's your humanity?' " This press release was posted earlier on freerepublic.com.
  • On the August 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Horowitz told co-host Sean Hannity that "people deserve compassion when they are in this kind of trouble." Horowitz continued: "As a Jew, I feel much more threatened by people like [former President] Jimmy Carter when Israel is facing genocidal enemies who have sworn to destroy it and kill the Jews, and Carter is out there, wagging his finger at the Israelis." Horowitz added that the anger over Gibson's comments is "all about politics" and that "a lot of the people who are jumping all over Mel Gibson see him as some kind of a conservative or as a Christian. There's a lot of hatred of Christians in this country."
  • On the August 1 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, William A. Donohue, president of the conservative Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said, "There's a lot of people who have made comments which are bigoted who are not necessarily bigots," adding that he is "concerned now about piling on." Of those who won't forgive Gibson, Donohue said: "Who gives a damn about those people?" Donohue then asked, "What kind of blood do they want out of this man?
  • As Media Matters for America noted, radio host Dennis Prager, discussing Gibson on the August 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, sought to deflect criticism of Gibson's comments by reviving discredited accusations that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) made an anti-Semitic remark more than three decades ago. During a discussion with guest host Mike Barnicle and attorney Raoul Felder, Prager said: "I came out on behalf of a person on the left. She had private remarks that were anti-Semitic and I said then, and I say now, you don't judge people by their private remarks; you judge them by their public remarks and by their actions." Prager summarized his position by saying: "Frankly, I don't care about people's hearts. I care about people's deeds. If you hate me and don't touch me, that doesn't bother me."
  • Some conservatives criticized Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham Foxman for rejecting Gibson's initial apology as "unremorseful and insufficient." In a July 31 article, NewsMax columnist James Hirsen wrote: "The ADL is apparently trying to use the incident to alter the results of its past failed effort to characterize Gibson's film 'The Passion of the Christ' as bigoted." The Catholic League's Donohue claimed in a July 31 press release that Foxman is among "some who should know better" about accepting apologies, adding: "We have quite a file on [CNN founder] Ted Turner at the Catholic League. Unlike Foxman, I have accepted every apology Turner has ever made for his anti-Catholic outbursts, all of which were made while he was sober." Donohue further claimed that the "real goal" of "Mel's enemies" is "to discredit 'The Passion of the Christ,' and that is why their propaganda machine is in full gear." After Gibson issued a second apology on August 1, Foxman accepted it, stating, "This is the apology we had sought and requested."

From the August 2 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

E.D. HILL (co-host): Hey, Mancow, let me ask you this. You know, he's clearly drunk, but these things come out. Do you think that -- that he really believed the stuff that he said, or was that, you know, some people are saying, "Ah, he's drunk, and, you know, who knows what you say?" But that -- I mean, that is just so horrendous.

MULLER: Well, I mean, I -- look, I think this is of human interest, and I'll going to say it here on TV. Many times, Brian -- kill me, Brian, if I'm talking out of school, I feel bad -- but, you know, they say that drinking is a truth serum. So many times late at night, [co-host] Brian [Kilmeade] will be drinking tequila and call me up and he'll say "I love you, Mancow. I love you."

KILMEADE: I don't say "I love you," I say "I like you a lot." I mean, don't exaggerate.

MULLER: And -- I don't know, "I got the Brokeback [Mountain] DVD, come to New York." I don't know --

KILMEADE: Right. I'm always surprised you're there.

MULLER: Is alcohol -- I can't believe he's anti-Semitic. I can't believe -- The Passion of the Christ, they thought was anti-Semitic because our hero was Jewish. His mother -- you know, all the good people were Jewish in the movie, too. So, I don't know.

HILL: Yeah, well --

MULLER: I hope it's not so.

DOOCY: He's apologized twice already.

HILL: And it's interesting, you know, all the online polls you look at, people still say, you know, they say they're disappointed but they support him, and they're going to go see his movies.

MULLER: Hey, E.D., you know what drives me nuts about this? They keep predicting this guy's failure.

HILL: It's true.

MULLER: How old is he? I mean, he's going to fail. Is it over for him? How long has this guy been a star? He's been a star as long as I can remember. Of course, sometime this guy is going to have a movie that isn't going to be the biggest thing ever, and they're going to say, "You see? You see?"

DOOCY: Good point.

HILL: We'll see. He's got a movie coming out this fall, and we'll be watching. Mancow, thanks a lot.

MULLER: We love you guys. Brian, call me.

From the August 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, featuring Horowitz, Hannity, co-host Alan Colmes and University of California-Irvine professor Mark LeVine:

COLMES: Troubled actor Mel Gibson has checked into an alcohol rehabilitation program just days after a drunken driving arrest in Malibu late Friday. The Passion of the Christ director hurled anti-Semitic slurs at arresting officers and said, quote, "Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," unquote. Gibson has since admitted making the derogatory statements and has asked the Jewish community to forgive him. We now continue with David Horowitz and Mark LeVine. David, is alcohol truth serum?

HOROWITZ: Hardly. You know, I was one of those who defended The Passion of the Christ. And I would still defend it. It is a, you know, powerful religious film. It is not anti-Semitic. Jesus is addressed as "rabbi." His disciples, of course, are Jews. Simon the Cyrenian, who carries the cross for him to Golgotha, is a Jew. And Jesus in the film says no one is responsible for his death; it was foreordained. By which he means in religious terms that we are all responsible, gentile, Jew, and Muslim alike. A man -- I am really against hanging a man for -- this is a man in deep trouble. Obviously, he's put himself in rehab. I think the judgment on Mel Gibson should be passed when he is recovered, and we'll see what he does.

[...]

HANNITY: David, he said there should be no excuse. He said -- David Horowitz. He has said there's no tolerance for anyone who makes any type of anti-Semitic remarks. He said, "I want to apologize to everyone in the Jewish community for my vitriolic and harmful words." And what he said that night when he was driving intoxicated. He said, "I want to go a step further. I want to meet with members of the Jewish community. I want to have discussions." It seems to me, you know, if somebody admits they have a problem and they were, you know, admitting to -- it was in that condition, it seems that people want to believe it because they already had an agenda about The Passion. Isn't that -- probably an obvious conclusion?

HOROWITZ: Exactly. People deserve compassion when they're in this kind of trouble. I think it would be very ungracious for people to deny it to him. As a Jew, I feel much more threatened by people like Jimmy Carter when Israel is facing genocidal enemies who have sworn to destroy it and kill the Jews, and Carter is out there, wagging his finger at the Israelis. And all these people who want a cease-fire, which will leave Hezbollah intact and in place, Hezbollah being a Nazi army in Lebanon whose rockets are aimed at Israel. So, that's how I feel.

HANNITY: Well, David I want to -- earlier, earlier --

LeVINE: If I could just jump in there --

HANNITY: Hang on a second, please, Mark.

LeVINE: Sure, sure absolutely, Sean.

HANNITY: Earlier, the issue of [Rep.] Patrick Kennedy [D-RI] was brought up. Patrick Kennedy didn't -- didn't admit what his fault was. And that was part of the problem. We weren't getting the truth out. What it seems to me, David Horowitz, is that in this day and age, when people really mess up, and if they really take responsibility and they really, honestly, and truly apologize, we seem to be unforgiving in a lot of ways. Don't you agree, David Horowitz?

HOROWITZ: Well, I think this is all about politics. I think that a lot of the people who are jumping all over Mel Gibson see him as some kind of a conservative or as a Christian. There's a lot of hatred of Christians in this country. And one of the reasons I defended the film was that Christians have a right to their gospel.

From the August 1 edition of MSNBC's Scarborough Country, featuring host Joe Scarborough, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington:

SCARBOROUGH: Let me bring in William Donohue and talk about that apology. Bill Donohue, I was somebody who -- last year, when [New York Times columnist] Frank Rich was saying Gibson was an anti-Semite and others were saying Gibson was an anti-Semite -- you and I were attacking them, saying they didn't know Mel Gibson's heart. But now, it's a little bit easier to read Mel Gibson's heart. I mean, the guy seems like he's an anti-Semite, right?

DONOHUE: Oh, I don't know if you can say that. I mean, clearly, what he said was bigoted and anti-Semitic.

SCARBOROUGH: "F-ing Jews"? I mean, how can you not say that? He's going around -- I mean, he gets pulled over for drunk driving, and he starts ranting about Jews being responsible for starting all the wars?

DONOHUE: No, no, no, right. Right, right, right.

SCARBOROUGH: That sounds anti-Semitic to me.

DONOHUE: No, no. Well, there's a difference between -- did he make an anti-Semitic comment? Obviously, he did. It was irresponsible, it was vituperative, and he's apologized for it, as he should apologize for it. There's a lot of people who have made comments which are bigoted who are not necessarily bigots. I myself have said that there's nobody in the U.S. Senate who was a bigot against Catholics. However, I have pointed out numerous bigoted comments made by people, like Senator [Charles] Schumer [D-NY], for example, and I know, for example, that I have accepted the apology of people like [radio hosts] Opie and Anthony for their lousy little sex stunt act in St. Patrick's Cathedral. I welcomed them back, was their first guest on their CBS show because they apologized.

SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask you this, though, Bill Donohue.

DONOHUE: Yes.

SCARBOROUGH: If you had a couple of beers and were pulled over by the police, would you start ranting about "F-ing Jews"?

DONOHUE: No.

SCARBOROUGH: So I mean -- so again, I don't think this is just -- it doesn't seem to just be a reckless mistake by a drunk, it seems to be -- unfortunately, it seems to be a glimpse into this man's soul, does it not?

DONOHUE: Well, you know, you want to make that determination, that's fine. All I'm saying is this --

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I don't think it's hard to make that determination.

DONOHUE: No, no, no. Look -- you know what? You know what I'm concerned about right now? He has been -- this is the most contrite statement I have ever seen in my life. Instead of the type that we normally get at the Catholic League -- if you're offended, that's too bad, you know, we regret it. The fact of the matter is, I am concerned now about piling on.

Hollywood has a real problem of anti-Catholicism. It's in the movie industry, all right? Do we need to go through this one more time? I'm so interested that the sensitivity mavens now are so concerned about anti-Semitism, as they should be. And they should have hammered Mel Gibson. But are we just going to leave this on the table, now that there's another problem in Hollywood? How about if they clean up their act toward Catholics?

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: Rabbi, we're going to talk about that in the next block. But Bill Donohue and Arianna Huffington, I want to give you all the last word, Bill Donohue, will Hollywood forgive Mel Gibson?

DONOHUE: There'll be a small circle of vindictive people who have hated him because of his movie who won't forgive him. And who gives a damn about those people? Most Americans in Hollywood and everyplace else are forgiving people. And the onus is on those people now who say, "I didn't get enough." What kind of blood do they want out of this man?

From the August 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

PRAGER: Well, let me tell you, I wrote a piece in The Wall Street Journal a few years ago entitled "Hillary Clinton is no anti-Semite." I came out on behalf of a person on the left. She had private remarks that were anti-Semitic, and I said then, and I say now, you don't judge people by their private remarks; you judge them by their public remarks and by their actions. If we start judging --

BARNICLE: What sense does that --

FELDER: You know, and I -- and I naively thought private remarks reveal more about the people --

BARNICLE: Yeah.

FELDER: -- than what they say in a scripted public appearance. And this is what happened here. This is what -- this man's heart has hatred towards the Jewish race.

PRAGER: That's right, that's right except -- that's right --

FELDER: He said we caused people -- all the wars -- we're responsible for millions of people getting killed, and I don't know, Dennis, how you could just say, "Well, maybe he converted."

BARNICLE: Dennis, aren't you basically excusing hypocrisy if it is your view that private remarks, you know, they're OK, but public remarks, you can be forgiven?

PRAGER: I don't judge -- Richard Nixon, to take another Jewish example, Richard Nixon --

FELDER: He's Jewish? I didn't know that. We've got enough troubles without him.

PRAGER: No, the example is Jewish, not Nixon, I'm sure you understood that. The example is that Richard Nixon spoke anti-Semitic things in the White House privately, and he saved Israel's life in the 1973 war. That's a lot more important to me than if he had spoken nicely privately and then stabbed Israel in the back when it needed him. That's the way I judge people.

FELDER: But how can you equate a movie star with a politician who has to answer to an electorate -- please, let me finish --

PRAGER: You asked me -- you asked me, I answered your question.

FELDER: -- that has the power to do things. This man doesn't have any power to help Israel.

PRAGER: I answered your question on why it is that I don't take private remarks is the indication of a man. I didn't compare Nixon and his power to Gibson and his power. I answered your question.

[...]

PRAGER: Frankly, I don't care about people's hearts. I care about people's deeds. If you hate me and don't touch me, that doesn't bother me. If you love me and kill me like some spouses do to their spouses, then what's in their heart really isn't important. God judges hearts; men judge actions.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.