Hollywood Divided Over Whether Mel Gibson’s Remarks After Arrest Will Cause Backlash
LOS ANGELES – A stunned Hollywood debated the future of one of its biggest stars Sunday as a sheriff’s watchdog launched an investigation into a possible cover up of a leaked report that quoted Mel Gibson unleashing a tirade of anti-Semitic remarks during a drunken driving arrest.
One media expert said Gibson irreparably damaged his career with his “crazy” behavior following his arrest by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies in Malibu early Friday. Charges of anti-Semitism were also leveled against the actor-director with the release of his 2004 blockbuster “The Passion of the Christ.”
“It’s a nuclear disaster for him,” said publicist Michael Levine, who has represented Michael Jackson and Charlton Heston, among others. “I don’t see how he can restore himself.”
The entertainment Web site TMZ posted what it said were four pages from the original arrest report, which quoted Gibson as launching an expletive-laden “barrage of anti-Semitic remarks” after he was stopped on Pacific Coast Highway.
According to the report, in addition to threatening the arresting deputy and trying to escape, Gibson said, “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” and asked the officer, James Mee, “Are you a Jew?”
The report has not been made public, but the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that it had independently verified its authenticity.
Gibson’s publicist, Alan Nierob, would not elaborate beyond a nonspecific apology Gibson issued Saturday. Sheriff’s sources also declined to comment on Gibson’s alleged remarks.
Studio executives, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, were divided on how Gibson’s behavior would affect his career. One noted that people have short memories, including filmmakers who might want to profit from Gibson’s star power.
Filmgoers, too, could overlook much if the film is perceived as worthwhile.
“Usually it comes down to the marketing of the movie and does the average person want to see the film,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracking firm Exhibitor Relations.
The Office of Independent Review, a department watchdog panel, has opened an investigation into whether authorities gave Gibson preferential treatment by covering up his alleged inflammatory comments, said its chief attorney, Mike Gennaco.
“Assuming that the report was excised, then the question is was it done for a good reason within regulations,” he said.
Gibson has filmed public service announcements for Sheriff Lee Baca’s relief committee dressed in a sheriff’s uniform.
“There is no cover-up,” Baca told the Los Angeles Times. “Our job is not to (focus) on what he said. It’s to establish his blood-alcohol level when he was driving and proceed with the case. Trying someone on rumor and innuendo is no way to run an investigation, at least one with integrity.”
Gibson said in his apology that he said “despicable” things to deputies during his arrest.
“I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable,” Gibson said.
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, called Gibson’s apology “unremorseful and insufficient.”
“It’s not a proper apology because it does not go to the essence of his bigotry and his anti-Semitism,” he said in a statement on the organization’s Web site. “We would hope that Hollywood now would realize the bigot in their midst and that they will distance themselves from this anti-Semite.”
This is not the first time Gibson has faced accusations of anti-Semitism. Gibson produced, directed and financed “Passion,” which some Jewish leaders said cast Jews as the killers of Jesus.
In a 2004 interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer, Gibson said he was not anti-Semitic.
“To be anti-Semitic is a sin,” he said. “It’s been condemned by one Papal Council after another. To be anti-Semitic is to be un-Christian, and I’m not.”
Days before “Passion” was released, Gibson’s father Hutton Gibson was quoted saying the Holocaust was mostly “fiction.” The younger Gibson has said that he will not speak against his father.
Gibson, 50, was arrested after deputies stopped his 2006 Lexus LS 430 for speeding at 2:36 a.m. Friday. Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said deputies clocked him doing 87 mph in a 45 mph zone.
A breath test indicated Gibson’s blood-alcohol level was 0.12 percent, Whitmore said. The legal limit in California is 0.08 percent.
Gibson posted $5,000 bail and was released hours later.
In his statement, Gibson also said he has struggled with alcoholism and had taken steps “to ensure my return to health.”
He won a best-director Oscar for 1995’s “Braveheart.” He also starred in the “Lethal Weapon” and “Mad Max” films, “What Women Want” and “The Man Without a Face,” among other films.
Associated Press writers Gary Gentile, Jeremiah Marquez and Solvej Schou contributed to this report from Los Angeles.