“The interview caused a firestorm.”
Roger Friedman, a film critic and columnist who I have followed for years since his tenure at Fox News, has written about a 1983 interview by actor Robert Mitchum in which he made some controversial comments about Jews and the Holocaust. The New York Film Festival is honoring Mitchum with a retrospective, and Roger ain’t happy about it.
It’s obviously a touchy subject. However, Friedman is a bit sensitive on the subject, overly so in my opinion. Previously he has targeted the likes of Gary Oldman and Mel Gibson, whose drunken rants made him a pariah in Hollywood circles for years.
I am no Holocaust denier. It happened. And millions were murdered, and not just Jews.
Yet, castigating those who make strange, inaccurate comments such as Mitchum, who is dead and can’t defend himself and who lived in a different, other worldly time, I think is unfair.
How his views from one interview tarnish his acting career is beyond me. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was drunk at the time. That doesn’t excuse his comments either. But in all things we must be balanced. We must have perspective.
The outrage culture fostered by self-annointed radicals wanting to police the thoughts of others is not something to join and encourage. I wish Roger had not. His crusade against perceived antisemites is an oddity to his otherwise excellent reportage.
It’s important to defend comments we may find offensive, even those regarding the Holocaust. I am a free speech absolutist. It is the cornerstone of freedom.
Like Roger, I have a personal beef with Hitler and the Nazis. They destroyed the culture and nation of many of my ancestors. I will never forgive them for the damage they inflicted on countless millions, including the German people.
Many of those murdered in the camps were Germans, including many Jews. And the eastern parts of Germany, including most of Pomerania which my great grandparents left more than half a century earlier thankfully, were lost forever because of Soviet diplomatic and military dominance.
It is best to forgive any transgressions of our forebears, particularly comments and not actions. They, like us, made many mistakes.
Throughout his career Mitchum had given some peculiar interviews. One of my favorites is him talking with Dick Cavett.
Mitchum did issue an apology after his comments created a furor, a precursor of what was to come, with the near constant demands for apologies in our modern age.