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NPR fires critic David Edelstein after ‘Last Tango’ joke

November 28, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — NPR’s “Fresh Air” has parted ways with contributor David Edelstein after the film critic made a joke about the rape scene in “Last Tango in Paris” on his Facebook page following Monday’s death of director Bernardo Bertolucci.

In a statement Tuesday, “Fresh Air” said the post was “offensive and unacceptable” because of what actress Maria Schneider experienced filming the scene. Schneider said in a 2007 interview that the simulated sex scene was unscripted and that she felt bullied by Bertolucci and unsupported by her co-star Marlon Brando. “I was crying real tears,” said Schneider, who died in 2011.

Edelstein had captioned a photo of the scene with the line: “Even grief is better with butter.” After a backlash, which included actress Martha Plimpton calling for Edelstein’s firing, Edelstein said he was unaware of Schneider’s comments and apologized.

Responding on Facebook, Edelstein said he now realized the joke was “grotesque” and removed it.

“I didn’t remember (the scene) as a rape and I didn’t know the real-life story about Maria Schneider,” wrote Edelstein. “The line was callous and wrong even if it had been consensual, but given that it wasn’t I’m sick at the thought of how it read and what people logically conclude about me. I have never and would never make light of rape, in fiction or in reality.”

He has been a longtime “Fresh Air” contributor, sharing reviews of hundreds of films on the program, which is produced by WHYY in Philadelphia.

Edelstein remains a staff critic at New York Magazine. A magazine spokesperson said the publication believes Edelstein but that it’s “reviewing the matter internally.”

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