In an interview with London’s Sunday Times, Oliver Stone discussed his upcoming documentary “The Secret History of America,” and his comments regarding Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust sparked an immediate backlash. Although he doesn’t deny the Holocaust happened, Stone has stated that “Hitler did far more damage to the Russians than the Jewish people, 25 or 30 million.” When asked why he feels that the Jewish Holocaust has been given so much more attention in the media, the Oscar-winning director blamed “Jewish domination of the media” for Hitler’s actions not being put “in context.” He went on to claim that “they (Jewish media insiders) stay on top of every comment. The most powerful lobby in Washington,” and also that “Israel has f—ed up United States foreign policy for years.”
Stone has since apologized for his statements.
These statements have drawn immediate comparison to fellow Oscar-winning director Mel Gibson’s infamous and well-publicized anti-Semitic rant following a DUI arrest in 2006. A drunn Gibson asked the police officer who pulled him over “Are you a Jew?,” and then stated that “the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.” Gibson made a public apology and gave several high-profile interviews in which he stated how ashamed he was of his comments and behavior. However, the incident was not forgotten, and has made Gibson a focus of parody ever since, especially in light of Gibson’s other notorious racist remarks against Latinos and African-Americans. In spite of positive critical reviews, his 2010 film “Edge of Darkness” had a disappointing box-office return. In the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian Associated Press attributes the film’s failure to Gibson’s scandal-ridden personal life.
Gibson is not alone; celebrities who make racist remarks often struggle with the stigma for years afterward. Michael Richards’ career was believed to be over following a racist tirade at a comedy club, also in 2006. In 2007, Richards told the Los Angeles Times that he was quitting stand-up comedy as a result of the incident, and has since remained largely out of the public eye.
However, public opinion is fickle. As Oliver Stone pointed out, context does matter. Radio “shock jock” Don Imus made inappropriate remarks toward the Rutgers University women’s basketball team that were considered both racist and sexist, and his show was subsequently canceled. Imus issued numerous public apologies and received the support of many industry supporters, and later filed a wrongful termination suit against his employer, CBS Radio. According to CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin, Imus’ contract with CBS “‘acknowledges that [Imus’] services to be rendered hereunder are of a unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial and personal character.’ How is CBS going to argue that what he said was so controversial and so offensive that it isn’t what they asked for in the contract?” Imus was re-instated shortly after.
Will Stone’s comments affect his career? Only time will tell. He has made the mandatory public apology and retracted his statements. Now, as the New York-based American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants said in a public statement, “His apology was necessary and we accept it. But whether he acted out of sincerity or as a desperate response to the moral outcry at his comments is an open question. He must be judged by his future words and deeds.” However, if “The Secret History of America” succeeds in providing “context” for Nazi atrocities, then Stone should have no trouble providing it for his own words.
Soraya Roberts, “Oliver Stone apologizes for saying ‘Jewish domination of the media’ misrepresents Hitler, Holocaust,” The New York Daily News
Associated Press, “Mel Gibson apologizes after DUI arrest,” The Today Show
Australian Associated Press, “Gibson’s career stained by controversy,” The Sydney Morning Herald
Charles McDermid, “Richards finds solace in Cambodia,” The Los Angeles Times
Ed Payne, “Imus hires attorney, will likely sue CBS,” CNN.com
Anthony Palazzo, “Filmmaker Stone Apologizes for Remark on Holocaust, Jewish Media Influence,” Bloomberg.com