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Mel Gibson: Christian leaders keeping quiet on leaked tapes

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Image Credit: Philippe AntonelloThe last time Mel Gibson found himself in the middle of a media firestorm — i.e. when he made sexist and antisemitic comments during his D.U.I. arrest in Malibu — Christian leaders rushed to his defense. But this time, the people who so fervently supported him and helped turn The Passion of the Christ (pictured) into the highest-grossing independent film of all time have remained silent for the most part. Such prominent Gibson defenders as James Dobson Focus on the Family (which Dobson founded, but no longer runs), and the evangelical group Promise Keepers had issued no statements regarding the five leaked recordings of Gibson purportedly ranting at his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. Following the actor’s 2006 outburst, Dobson released a statement saying, “Mel has apologized profusely for this incident, and there the matter should rest.” At the time of this posting, Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Promise Keepers had not responded to EW’s request for comment.

Only Catholic League president Bill Donohue has publicly commented on the matter, telling Yahoo’s The Upshot Blog: “He’s a good man in many respects. If he were really a deep-seated racist bigot, all the Jews and blacks who’ve worked with him would have said so.” But when reminded of what appears to be a pattern of Gibson using hateful ethnic slurs, Donohue said, “Bigotry is a problem that he has to purge. He has to pivot. But I’m more concerned with what Bill Maher and Joy Behar have to say than Mel Gibson. Maher and Behar say the most vicious things about the Catholic Church and do it with impunity. Mel gets drunk and flies off the handle and says racist things and he gets pilloried for it.” Donohue also surmised that so few Christians have expressed support for Gibson because “there’s a sense of exasperation [about his behavior]. We have to see some evidence that he’s pivoted. The ball’s in his court, but people are going to walk away at some point.”

So far, the most strident comment to emerge in Gibson’s defense has come not from the Religious Right but from conservative pundit John Derbyshire. The controversial National Review columnist said this to The Daily Beast: “Clearly, Mel’s a guy who’s deeply unhappy some of the time and finds relationships with women difficult. Still, I’d maintain that ‘a guy who’s deeply unhappy some of the time and finds relationships with women difficult’ describes a largish portion of male humanity — one in three at the very minimum. What’s the fuss?” Then he went for the kill: “These tapes are like nude photographs taken without permission. There oughta be a law. Oksana Grigorievna [sic] is a gold-digging tart.”

Additional reporting by Dave Karger.

More Mel Gibson:

A fifth Mel Gibson tape: Enough is enough

Mel Gibson tapes: Are the recordings admissible in court?

Mel Gibson and the tale of the tape: When a movie star’s flameout becomes his defining performance

Mel Gibson: Despicable he, but will his behavior keep you from buying a ticket to his movies in the future?