Lt. Steve Smith, in charge of the detective bureau for the Malibu/Lost Hills station of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, confirmed to me just now that “the contents seem to be similar” between the official reports and the four pages posted by TMZ.com on the Internet alleging Mel Gibson “blurted out a barrage of anti-Semitic remarks” — “fucking Jews” and “The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world” and asking the arresting deputy “Are you a Jew?” — during his DUI arrest early Friday morning. Smith denied TMZ.com’s charge that the sheriff’s department was involved in a “cover-up” of Gibson’s alleged anti-Semitic tirade detailed in deputy Jim Mee’s first arrest report. “TMZ has learned that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s department had the initial report doctored to keep the real story under wraps,” the website claims. But Smith told me emphatically, “There’s no whitewash. I’ve seen the first report, and the supplemental report, and it looks to be the same thing as what’s on the Internet. The contents that are on the Internet are covered in both those reports.” That is the first official confirmation from the Sheriff’s station that Gibson’s alleged anti-Semitic rants are included in the official reports about his DUI arrest.
UPDATE: *Gibson issued a statement today apologizing for his drunk driving arrest and saying he has battled alcoholism throughout his life. The Oscar-winning filmmaker also apologized for what he said were “despicable” “out of control” statements “that I do not believe to be true” made to the deputies who arrested him early Friday morning on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. But though his statement seems to confirm he made the anti-Semitic slurs, it does not specifically admit them or apologize for them. And that’s going to embroil him in even more controversy, I predict. “After drinking alcohol on Thursday night, I did a number of things that were very wrong and for which I am ashamed. I drove a car when I should not have, and was stopped by the LA County Sheriffs. The arresting officer was just doing his job and I feel fortunate that I was apprehended before I caused injury to any other person. I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable. I am deeply ashamed of everything I said. Also, I take this opportunity to apologize to the deputies involved for my belligerent behavior. They have always been there for me in my community and indeed probably saved me from myself. I disgraced myself and my family with my behavior and for that I am truly sorry. I have battled with the disease of alcoholism for all of my adult life and profoundly regret my horrific relapse. I apologize for any behavior unbecoming of me in my inebriated state and have already taken necessary steps to ensure my return to health.” However, later Gibson’s statement was amended to include: “I am deeply ashamed of everything I said, and I apologize to anyone who I have offended.”*
Lt. Smith told me that it is the station’s normal procedure not to release the arrest report until it’s submitted to the District Attorney’s office for possible action. Also, according to procedure, Deputy Mee’s report, he said, was reviewed by the filing detective “to see if there’s maybe corrections or additions or elements of the crime that should have been included, or just additional information that wasn’t known at the time of the report. And then a supplementary report is generated because that’s the proper way to add information to the first report. In this case, the original report had a lot of this nuance in it: how Mr. Gibson was conducting himself and behaving. Traditionally, in a drunk-driving arrest, or any type of arrest, the deputy wants to paint a picture of what he’s dealing with at the time. And, the reason for that is it helps the detective or the D.A. to put the contact into some sort of context. The other purpose for describing the context is that it assists the deputy in remembering the incident when the court case can be four, or six, or eight months down the road.” (Deputy Mee has declined to comment about his report.)
LA County Sheriff’s Department public information officer, deputy Paul D. Schrader, also denied to me there has been any attempt to cover-up Gibson’s alleged anti-Semitic rantings. “We’re not sterilizing anything. We would not sanitize a report. We don’t edit reports.” He also denied any favors were being done for the celebrity. “Basically, Mr. Gibson was not given any preferential treatment.”
UPDATE: *The LA County Sheriff’s Department won’t confirm or deny TMZ.com’s report that Deputy Mee, the arresting officer, audiotaped the entire exchange between himself and Gibson. However, I’m told that deputies often do carry a tape recorder. Much has been made of the initial Sheriff’s account that Gibson was arrested “without incident.” But what constitutes an incident in law enforcement terms as opposed to civilian terms can be quite separate. “The shorthand is that ‘without incident’ means ‘without force,'” spokesman Steve Whitmore told me. Still another PIO spokesman, deputy Ban Nguyen, told me, “I don’t understand about a cover-up. Everything’s in the report. They could have just put him in the car and taken him home. Obviously they didn’t do that.” However, TMZ.com reports today that Mel Gibson has been stopped for reckless driving two other times in Malibu but he was allowed to leave without a ticket or arrest. Because of all the allegations, the LA County Sheriff’s Department Office of Independent Review will investigate whether Gibson received preferential treatment.*
Among the allegations within TMZ.com’s four pages, Gibson “angrily stated” that “‘My life is fucked'” and “became fixated on his notoriety and concern that the incident was going to be publicized.” The celebrity became “belligerent’ and “threatened” the deputy, saying “‘I’m going to fuck you. You’re going to regret you ever did this to me.'” Then, Gibson “blurted out a barrage of anti-Semitic remarks about ‘Fucking Jews.’ Yelled out ‘The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world.’ Then asked, ‘Are you a Jew.’ Conduct concerned and frightened me to a point. I called ahead to the station requesting a sergeant meet the arrival of my patrol car in the station parking lot…”
As soon as TMZ’s Internet pages surfaced about Gibson’s alleged anti-Semitic slurs, Hollywood’s entertainment leaders began phoning one another asking if it could possibly be true. (Already this morning, I personally spoke with several prominent players wanting to know more.) Now, with my confirmation from Lt. Smith that those pages are similar to the official Sheriff’s reports, showbiz moguls are certain to be shocked and angry. Still, to be fair, whether any person should be held responsible for what may have been under-the-influence ramblings is certainly debatable. But Gibson is a special case because his worldwide mega-hit The Passion of the Christ was criticized by some Jewish leaders as anti-Semitic, and Gibson’s father, a local religious leader, has said that the Holocaust did not happen. Hutton Gibson in statements has decried the Holocaust as “fiction” and claimed there were more Jews in Europe after World War II than before. Mel Gibson, however, has repeatedly denied his movie Passion was anti-Semitic. But the actor/director’s views about his father’s Holocaust denial have been under scrutiny. When asked by an interviewer in early 2004 whether the Holocaust happened, the actor / director / producer responded that some of his best friends ”have numbers on their arms,” then added: ”Yes, of course. Atrocities happened. War is horrible. The Second World War killed tens of millions of people. Some of them were Jews in concentration camps.” But in the same interview, Gibson said his father, Hutton Gibson, had ”never lied to me in his life,” and Holocaust scholars have cited those and other statements as evidence that he has failed to disassociate himself clearly from his father’s views. Perhaps to counter that, Gibson late last year announced he was developing a nonfiction mini-series about the Holocaust for ABC. His TV production company will base the four-hour miniseries for ABC on the self-published memoir of Flory A. Van Beek, a Dutch Jew whose gentile neighbors hid her from the Nazis but who lost several relatives in concentration camps. Gibson was not expected to act in the mini-series, nor was it certain that his name, rather than his company’s, will be publicly attached to the final product, according to The New York Times. But Quinn Taylor, ABC’s senior vice president for movies for television, told the paper at the time that the attention-getting value of having Gibson attached to a Holocaust project was a factor. ”Controversy’s publicity, and vice versa,” Taylor was quoted as saying. Now it remains to be seen whether the contents of these LA County Sheriff’s Department arrest reports will make Gibson’s Holocaust project too hot to handle for the network.
ABC’s parent company, Disney, is distributing Gibson’s latest Hollywood movie project, Apocalypto, through its Buena Vista Pictures Distribution arm. The action epic set before the Spanish conquest of Mexico and Central America about the bloody decline of the ancient Mayan civilization (filmed in their language) wrapped production earlier this year and planned for a Dec. 8 opening. In his most recent act of controversy, Gibson recently compared the fearmongering and human sacrifice of the Mayans to President George W. Bush’s political actions. Previously, the Bush administration, Christian religious leaders, and conservative politicos had embraced Gibson for making The Passion of the Christ despite the overwhelmingly negative response to the film inside Jewish circles.
Hollywood, especially its Jewish moguls, has simultaneously rejected and embraced Gibson before, during and after Passion. Right before the movie was released, several top Hollywood Jewish executives saw an anti-Semitic subtext in the religious movie and pledged privately never to work with Gibson because of it. But once Passion became a surprise hit at the box office, and rang up humongous $611 million theatrical grosses worldwide, much of the heated criticism of Gibson began to cool inside Hollywood circles. And, in some quarters, the actor / director / producer began to be hailed as a genius for tapping into the zeitgest of those spiritual moviegoers often ignored by Hollywood moviemakers.
Given today’s confirmation by the Sheriff’s Office that Gibson’s alleged anti-Semitic tirade is in his DUI arrest reports, the debate will rage anew in Hollywood and Jewish circles about Gibson’s true feelings about Jews. The actor / director / producer works closely with many Jewish VIPs in the entertainment business at talent agencies, in law firms, and at the studios. Now, with Gibson’s statement, this incident is very, very difficult to explain away.