The New York Times has been unfair to Mel Gibson and his hit film The Passion of the Christ, Variety editor Peter Bart (an ex-Timesman) writes in his column.
After its release, the Times quoted the predictions of unnamed power brokers in Hollywood that Gibson would be blackballed by the film community, his career ruined.
As predictions go, the Times' entire litany could stand major "correction." Despite the fact that Frank Rich compared it to "a porn movie," by the end of its run "The Passion" could rank second only to "Titanic" as the highest-grossing movie ever made. Further, there have been no signs of anti-Semitic outbreaks tied to the film's release -- not even in places like France and Argentina.
As for Gibson, there's no indication that his viability as an actor or filmmaker has been compromised. Indeed, Hollywood reveres success, and Gibson's personal take from his film -- somewhere north of $400 million -- will surely be history's biggest. That makes Gibson not an outlaw, but a Hollywood folk hero.
It is not my intent here to indulge in Times-bashing. I spent eight very happy years on the Times staff, and I respect that paper's unique role in our journalistic establishment.
Still, the Times has vastly stepped up its coverage of pop culture and, in doing so, seems to be bending its normal rules of journalistic fairness.
The entire column is available for free via Yahoo.