The Anti-Defamation League has criticized Jewish actor-comedian Richard Belzer over a satirical Nazi salute he made at a TV festival Tuesday.
ADL director Abe Foxman told TMZ.com Wednesday that, "Regardless of his explanation for his behavior, Richard Belzer's imitation of Hitler was still inappropriate and offensive." Added Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, "It's not the least bit funny, but there's no law against it. Someone who is Jewish should know better and not disregard Jewish pain and tragedy just for the sake of a joke."
Belzer, 67, made the salute and put two fingers on his upper lip to indicate a Hitler mustache after a reporter at the 52nd Monte-Carlo Television Festival, in Monaco, asked the "Law & Order: SVU" star about the Charlie Chaplin movie "The Great Dictator." Belzer appeared to be mimicking a scene from the 1940 classic, in which Chaplin plays the dual roles of an unnamed Jewish barber and a Hitler-like despot.
"My grandfather represented Israel in the UN before it was made a nation," Belzer said in a statement to TMZ that was not independently confirmed. "I'm a Jewish comedian, and there's this new thing out, it's called satire, irony and historical reference. To say that a Jew can't do that gesture as [an] homage to Chaplin's masterpiece 'The Great Dictator' is like Muslim extremists killing a cartoonist for disparaging Mohammed in his art."
Belzer's spokesman told the website Gossip Cop on Tuesday, before the ADL's remarks, that it was "ludicrous and insulting" for anyone to have taken the gesture in a serious way. The spokesman had no comment when contacted by Newsday Wednesday.