The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed shock at a “vulgar and hideous” remark by Joan Rivers on her E! Entertainment Television show “Fashion Police,” in which she commented on a dress worn by German-American supermodel Heidi Klum with the quip: “The last time a German looked this hot was when they were pushing Jews into the ovens.”
Aside from doubling over with laughter, neither Ms. Rivers nor any of the co-hosts responded to the remark, and no apology was offered. The segment first aired on February 25 and has since been shown at least four times on the network, and it appeared briefly on YouTube.
I was with the ADL when it blasted Seth McFarlane’s Oscar routine, especially their argument that jokes about Jewish power might offer aid and comfort to anti-Semites abroad.
But this is, if anything, an anti-German joke, a bit of anti-Nazi revenge told by an elderly Jew. Seventy years on, the fact that you can barely mention a German in a comedy context without referencing their responsibility for the Holocaust is, if anything, a testament to the success of making sure that the world never forgets.
ADL is asking the network to ”prevail upon” Rivers to “issue a formal apology,” which strikes me as a strange and chutzpadik request. How meaningful is an apology wrung out of someone by a news release and a spate of bad press (ask Dov Hikind)?
If I worked for the ADL, I might ask for a meeting with Rivers and an opportunity to discuss why the organization felt the comment was offensive. Then, were Rivers to issue an apology or comment, it would at least be meaningful — the result of a process of engagement, instead of public shaming and reputation protection.
Now all they’ll get out of Rivers is a brush-off — whoops, too late.