December 15, 1999
Protest forces NBC to shelve "Saturday Night Live" skit
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Bowing to pressure from the Anti-Defamation League, NBC has agreed never again to air portions of a Dec. 4  "Saturday Night Live" sketch in which a faux Britney Spears refers to Jews as "having killed our Lord" Jesus Christ.
"Saturday Night Live" executive producer Lorne Michaels, however, is insisting the issue is not settled.
The brewing controversy revolves around a parody presented on "Saturday Night Live" earlier this month of CBS's recent yuletide special "And So This Is Christmas." The sketch was a mock promo hyping an imaginary CBS special called "And So This Is Chanukah." Members of the "Saturday Night Live" troupe, appearing as various pop music stars such as Ricky Martin, Lou Bega and Tori Amos, were shown singing several fake Chanukah songs.
What outraged ADL officials was a portion of the skit featuring faux representations of pop divas Spears, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey talking about their participation in the special.
In one scene, Dion (played by "Saturday Night Live" vet Ana Gasteyer) refers to Jews owning all the movie studios and banks. Most offensive to the ADL, however, was another scene in which Spears ("Saturday Night Live" guest host Christina Ricci) says Christians have forgiven Jews "for having killed our Lord."
The Dion and Spears comments "represent anti-Semitic stereotypes at their worst and which have been at the root of much suffering in our own century," ADL national director Abe Foxman [right] said in a letter sent to Roz Weinman, NBC's exec vice-president of East Coast Entertainment and broadcast content policy.
"We have worked with the Vatican and others for the last fifty years to educate against this poisonous doctrine, and for 'Saturday Night Live,' in a lame attempt at humor, to revive this notion is unacceptable," Foxman added.
According to ADL Los Angeles associate director Amy Levy, Foxman wrote to NBC on Dec. 7 after receiving numerous complaints about the sketch from across the country.
Weinman responded to Foxman's protest Friday, writing that after "having had a chance to review the material in question, we have decided that a portion of the sketch, featuring the parodies of Britney Spears, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion, was problematic, and, therefore, will be excised from all future broadcasts."
Michaels, however, isn't convinced the matter is settled.
"As far as I'm concerned, it's still under discussion," the "Saturday Night Live" exec producer said late Tuesday through a spokesman.
Michaels was unavailable for further comment, and an NBC spokesman declined to elaborate on Weinman's written remarks to Foxman.
The move by NBC represents the second time in as many years the network has "banned" an "Saturday Night Live" segment from being repeated. Last year, the network pulled forever a Robert Smigel cartoon that linked NBC owner General Electric to various conspiracy theories.
In his letter to Weinman, Foxman was careful to recognize "Saturday Night Live's" role as 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."