The NPR show “Fresh Air” severed ties with a veteran film critic in the wake of blowback over a joke he made on Facebook.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the show fired longtime contributor David Edelstein, who is a staff critic at New York magazine. The controversy erupted after Edelstein posted a joke about the rape scene in “Last Tango in Paris” following the death Monday of the film’s director, Bernardo Bertolucci.
“In a statement Tuesday, ‘Fresh Air’ said the post was ‘offensive and unacceptable’ because of what actress Maria Schneider experienced filming the scene,” THR reports. “Schneider said in a 2007 interview that the simulated sex scene was unscripted and that she felt bullied by Bertolucci and unsupported by her co-star Marlon Brando. ‘I was crying real tears,’ said the actress, who died in 2011.”
Edelstein had posted a photo of the scene along with the caption: “Even grief is better with butter.”
“After a backlash, which included actress Martha Plimpton calling for Edelstein’s firing, Edelstein said he was unaware of Schneider’s comments and apologized,” THR reports. “Responding on Facebook, Edelstein said he now realized the joke was ‘grotesque’ and removed it.”
Edelstein wrote on Facebook: “I didn’t remember [the scene] as a rape and I didn’t know the real-life story about Maria Schneider. The line was callous and wrong even if it had been consensual, but given that it wasn’t I’m sick at the thought of how it read and what people logically conclude about me. I have never and would never make light of rape, in fiction or in reality.”
New York magazine indicated it was “reviewing the matter internally.”