Jewish Journal

The ADL Is Not Amused

ADL lambastes Saturday Night Live for 'lame' satire of pop stars who spew anti-Semitism

by Tom Tugend

Posted on Dec. 23, 1999 at 7:00 pm

The Anti-Defamation League is not amused by a "Saturday Night Live" satire in which cast members, posing as pop stars, said that Jews own all the banks and that Christians have forgiven them for "killing our Lord."

And NBC has promised not to air the sketch again -- maybe.

Following widespread protests by viewers, ADL head Abraham Foxman dispatched a letter to Rosalyn Weinman, NBC's head of broadcast content policy, blasting the skit for reviving "anti-Semitic stereotypes at their worst" and called it "a lame attempt at humor."

In her response, Weinman pledged to take the offending portion out of the sketch in reruns. However, in a subsequent statement, NBC said that the entire matter is "currently under review."

Lorne Michaels, "Saturday Night Live" executive producer, also joined the fray, telling the Washington Post last week that he opposed Weinman's pledge and charging that the ADL "trivializes the important work they're supposed to be doing with this kind of nonsense."

Whichever way the decision goes, Foxman said in a phone interview, "We won't go to war with NBC and SNL, but we hope they will be more sensitive next time."

The gradually evolving brouhaha started Dec. 4, when SNL parodied an earlier CBS special, "And So This Is Christmas," with a mock promotion for an imaginary CBS show, called "And So This Is Chanukah."

Featured in the CBS Christmas special were Celine Dion, Ricky Martin, Gloria Estefan and Babyface singing carols and recalling their childhood holidays.

In the SNL Chanukah skit, cast members and guest Christina Ricci appeared as faux pop divas Dion, Britney Spears and Mariah Carey singing fake Chanukah songs.

In the next scene, the faux Dion, played by SNL regular Ana Gasteyer, said that as a child she was told that Chanukah "is a holiday celebrated by the people who own all the movie studios and the banks."

Ricci, as Britney Spears, said that at this time of the year, "We, as Christians, take time out to think about forgiving our Jewish friends for killing our Lord."

The following Monday, Foxman said, "all the lights on our switchboard lit up. So we got a transcript of the skit and felt that it had crossed the line of legitimate satire."

In his letter to NBC's Weinman, Foxman noted, "We have worked with the Vatican and others for the last 50 years to educate against this poisonous doctrine and for SNL, in a lame attempt at humor, to revive this notion is unacceptable."

At the same time, the ADL director recognized that SNL is a series designed "to poke fun at institutions and individuals in society." He added that other parts of the Chanukah sketch, while perhaps offensive, "would fall into that legitimate irreverent category."

In his counterblast last week, Michaels told the Washington Post that "what satire is supposed to do is provoke discussion."

"We are not pro-drugs, but we make jokes about drugs," Michaels said. "We're not pro-ignorance, but we make jokes about ignorance, and the only way you can do it is by showing ignorance. The idea that any discussion of these ideas is out of bounds is idiotic to me.''

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