Mel Gibson: In Vino Veritas
Is Mel Gibson an anti-Semite? Until his recent drunk-driving arrest, the only way to investigate that hypothesis was to study Gibson's controversial 2004 film, The Passion of the Christ, or to puzzle out why Gibson, in an interview with Peggy Noonan for Reader's Digest, declined to put any distance between himself and his father's crackpot view that the Holocaust never occurred. "[I]f someone denies the Holocaust one day and makes a film accusing Jews of Christ-killing the next day," my Slate colleague Christopher Hitchens reasoned, "I have to say that if he's not anti-Jewish then he's certainly getting there." There remained at least a theoretical possibility that this was all just a terrible misunderstanding.
That possibility no longer exists. The best case that can be made for Gibson's belief system now is that he's anti-Semitic only when he's three sheets to the wind. And really, now. Are you in the habit of declaring, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world" when you get pie-eyed? Or simply of muttering, "Fucking Jews"? Or of asking your arresting officer, "Are you a Jew?" (Here Gibson revealed an anti-Jewish bigotry so all-consuming that he couldn't even get his ethnic stereotypes straight. The Jews control international banking, Mel. It's the Irish who control the police.)
For good measure, Gibson turned on a policewoman observing his meltdown and said, "What do you think you're looking at, sugar tits?"
We know all this because TMZ.com, a celebrity-gossip site, obtained some pages of the police report for Gibson's arrest and (bless its heart) posted them online. The Los Angeles Times subsequently confirmed the pages' authenticity. Before Gibson's outbursts were made public, according to TMZ.com, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department was pressuring the arresting officer, Sheriff's Deputy James Mee, to eliminate from his report Gibson's specific remarks on the grounds that they would "incite Jewish hatred" at a time when conditions in the Middle East were "way too inflammatory." (Yes, our nation's foreign policy is apparently run by California flatfoots.) According to the LA Times, the Sheriff's civilian oversight board will now investigate whether a cover-up was attempted. Gibson, for his part, issued the following apology:
After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed. I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the L.A. County sheriff's. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person.
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. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said and I apologize to anyone who I have offended.
Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself. I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry.
I have battled the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health.
No mention here of anti-Semitism. That's a disease Gibson seems in no hurry to be cured of.
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Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.