An American Jewish leader said Sunday he hoped Mel Gibson’s alleged anti-Semitic remarks during a drunk-driving arrest early Friday would help Hollywood realize “the bigot in their midst” and distance themselves from the director of “The Passion of the Christ.”
Police in Los Angeles said Gibson was stopped for driving 87 miles per hour in a 45 mph zone and arrested after testing one-and-a-half times the legal limit for drunk driving. A report on the Web site TMZ.com said Gibson became belligerent and launched into a barrage of anti-Semitic statements, using a curse word to generalize about Jewish people, asking the arresting officer if he was a Jew and saying, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.”
The report alleged police at first tried to suppress the inflammatory language saying a drunk-driving arrest wasn’t worth inciting anti-Jewish sentiment during Israel’s current bombing attacks in Lebanon.
Gibson issued a statement apologizing for belligerent behavior and blamed the incident on a relapse of alcoholism, which he said he has battled all his adult life. Gibson said he “said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable,” but did not say specifically whether the words attributed to him are true.
Abraham Foxman of the American Jewish Committee termed Gibson’s apology “unremorseful and insufficient,” because it “does not go to the essence of his bigotry and his anti-Semitism.”
Foxman, a leading critic of Gibson’s 2004 blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ,” said Gibson’s alcohol-induced tirade shows his protestations during debate over his controversial film that he is a tolerant and loving person were a “sham.”
“We would hope that Hollywood now would realize the bigot in their midst and that they will distance themselves from this anti-Semite,” Foxman said.
Much criticism of Gibson’s movie detailing the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus was that it used medieval imagery implying that Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries were more complicit in his crucifixion than the Roman rulers.
Under pressure, Gibson agreed to remove a “blood curse”–an English subtitle for the script written in Latin and Aramaic translating Matthew 27:25, “His blood be on us an on our children”–which some interpret as Jews assuming eternal guilt for Jesus’ death upon themselves. But he refused to add a disclaimer saying that Jews are not responsible for killing Christ, saying to do so would send a message there is something wrong with the film.
Gibson, a Catholic, denied that either he or his film were anti-Semitic. “For me it goes against the tenets of my faith to be racist in any form,” he said. “To be anti-Semitic is a sin. It’s been condemned by one papal council after another. There are encyclicals on it. To be anti-Semitic is to be not Christian.”
By and large, evangelical Christians ignored warnings about anti-Semitism in Gibson’s film. A marketing campaign geared at Christians billed it as “perhaps the best outreach opportunity in 2,000 years.”
Morris Chapman, president and CEO of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee encouraged all Christians to pray “for the movie to be a huge commercial success, because it will be difficult for a person to see it and walk away unaffected by what has been seen and heard.”
Despite the hype, pollster George Barna said “The Passion” had relatively little lasting impact on people’s religious beliefs or practice, but Chapman’s prayer for financial success was answered.
Gibson gave $5 million of his “Passion” profits to expand a religious compound near Malibu, Calif., for an ultraconservative branch of Catholicism that rejects liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council. He also bankrolled a similar church for his father, Hutton Gibson, who has claimed that the Holocaust was “exaggerated” and mostly fiction.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.