Friday, February 28, 1997

Congressmen Spar Over 'Schindler's List' Airing

"The list is life."

The Jewish News Weekly of Northern California reports:
A debate over the television airing of "Schindler's List" erupted in the U.S. Congress this week when two Republican lawmakers sparred over its appropriateness.

Rep. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) urged public outrage to stop the networks "from polluting the minds of our children."

NBC's airing of Steven Spielberg's Oscar-winning film Sunday took network television "to an all-time low, with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity being shown in our homes," Coburn, co-chairman of the Congressional Family Caucus, said in a statement Tuesday.
Arguing against the new television rating system, which labeled the film "TV-M," for mature audiences, Coburn said Sunday's broadcast "only encourages the airing of more sex and violence.

"I cringe when I realize that there were children all across this nation watching this program. They were exposed to the violence of multiple gunshot head wounds, vile language, full frontal nudity and irresponsible sexual activity."

Coburn's statement prompted Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-N.Y.) to take the Senate floor to denounce his colleague.

"When I first received this statement, I thought it was a prank," D'Amato said.

"To equate the nudity of Holocaust victims in the concentration camp with any sexual connotation is outrageous and offensive. I am shocked and appalled that any member of Congress would make these kind of statements. I am particularly embarrassed that they were made by a member of my own party."

In a later statement, Coburn said the issue was not the quality of the movie, but whether the movie belonged on network television.

The movie "was an excellent and informative program that should not have been aired on a network."

The National Jewish Coalition, the Jewish Republican group, accused Coburn of "political grandstanding."

"Clearly on this issue, Coburn is a voice of one," Matt Brooks, NJC executive director, said, adding that NJC will make its views on this issue known directly to Coburn.

NBC, which broke Sunday evening viewership records when about 65 million Americans tuned in to see the movie, sharply criticized Coburn's comments.

"I just wonder if Congressman Coburn is aware that there was a Holocaust, that millions of people died and it's not something anybody should ever forget," NBC West Coast President Don Ohlmeyer told Variety.

Oklahoma Jews were also quick to condemn Coburn.

"We're outraged and horrified that someone who represents us in Oklahoma could have these feelings," Edie Roodman, director of the Jewish Federation in Oklahoma City, said in a telephone interview.

"To equate nudity in the Holocaust to nudity does not make sense. It proves that we have not done enough education."

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