Gibson links film with anti-Semitic remarks

By Steve Gorman


Saturday, October 14, 2006; 4:44 AM

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Actor Mel Gibson says his drunken, anti-Semitic outburst at police this past summer may have stemmed in part from lingering resentment he harbored over the barrage of Jewish criticism leveled at his 2004 film “The Passion of the Christ.”

In an interview aired Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Gibson also suggested that his statement to police that “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” grew out of his concerns about violence raging between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon at the time.

But the 50-year-old star told interviewer Diane Sawyer he was “ashamed” of the things he said during his July 28 arrest for driving while intoxicated.

Asked by Sawyer, “What are the Jews responsible for?,” Gibson replied, “they’re not blameless in the (Mideast) conflict,” then added: “Now when you’re loaded … the balance of how you see things comes out the wrong way.”

“Let me be real clear, here. In sobriety here, in front of you, national television … that I don’t believe that Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” Gibson told Sawyer. “I mean, that’s an outrageous, drunken statement.”

And he denied being influenced by the views of his father, Hutton Gibson, a Holocaust skeptic who has said publicly he doubts 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis.

The interview, run over two days, concluded with Gibson saying he needed to “heal myself” and to “allay the fears of others and heal them if they had any wounds from something I may have said.”

Two years ago, Gibson fought off charges of anti-Semitism surrounding his film “The Passion,” a blood-soaked portrait of Jesus’s crucifixion that Jewish leaders claimed would incite hatred and even violence toward Jews.

“I was subjected to a pretty brutal public beating,” Gibson recalled. “The film came out and, you could have heard a pin drop. Not even the crickets weren’t chirping. But the other thing I never heard was one single word of apology.

“I thought I dealt with that stuff. But the human heart can bear the scars of resentment, and it will come out when you’re overwrought and you take a few drinks,” he said.

Reaction from Jewish leaders to Gibson’s TV appearance was mixed, with some saying they felt his explanations for his conduct rang hollow.

Kenneth Jacobson, deputy national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said he was heartened by Gibson’s closing statement, and particularly touched when the actor said, “the last thing I want to be is that kind of monster.”

“But I felt that when Diane Sawyer was probing about why he did it, there was a problem because there is a thin line between explanation and excuses, and some of it came close to excuses,” Jacobson said.

Others were more skeptical.

“There is a Yiddish proverb that says that what is on the tongue of a person who is drunk is often in their consciousness when they are sober,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

Still Cooper said he was glad Gibson apologized.

“This is a person who can’t shrug the whole thing off. He should understand why what he said frightened many people.”

(Additional reporting by Arthur Spiegelman)