Backing down on a promise to a prominent Jewish group, NBC announced Monday that it would repeat its broadcast of a "Saturday Night Live" spoof in which an actress says Christians have forgiven Jews "for having killed our Lord."
The country's leading TV network said it decided on the basis of "overwhelmingly" favorable viewer response that the sketch was acceptable to air again without changes, contrary to a pledge earlier this month never to broadcast the material in the future.
The Dec. 4 "SNL" segment will go into the normal rerun rotation without change, but no date has been set for the repeat, NBC spokeswoman Shirley Powell said.
The Anti-Defamation League had complained that the sketch, though intended as parody, was offensive because it presented "anti-Semitic stereotypes at their worst."
League national director Abe Foxman told Reuters on Monday that he respected the right of NBC and the show's producers to disagree, "but to couch (their decision) in viewer opinion, that's a lot of baloney."
NBC promised Foxman in a Dec. 10 letter that material in question from an "SNL" sketch titled "And So This Is Hanukkah" -- a takeoff on the recent CBS holiday special "And So This Is Christmas" -- would be "excised from all future broadcasts."
But the network said last week that the letter from NBC Executive Vice President Rosalyn Weinman was "premature" and that NBC executives were revisiting the issue after the show's executive producer, Lorne Michaels, objected.
On Monday, the network issued a statement that it was reversing Weinman's decision.
"We have reviewed the viewer response to the 'SNL' sketch and have decided that it will air again unedited," the network said. "Today's environment makes our judgment calls in these situations increasingly difficult because we must find a balance between being politically correct and being funny in a non-hurtful way."
In this case, the statement went on, "we have heard directly from the viewers of the show that they overwhelmingly felt that this sketch was a typical parody and was in the boundaries of the show's humor. We regret if the material offended anyone."
Foxman said he found NBC's statement insincere because "when when we first reached out to NBC, they said no one had complained. So you can't have it both ways. And you know what, it was politically incorrect, it wasn't funny, and it was hurtful."
The comedy sketch in question featured members of the "SNL" troupe lampooning various pop stars, including Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Ricky Martin, Lou Bega and Mariah Carey.
What the league objected to was a scene in which "SNL" veteran Ana Gasteyer, appearing as Dion, referred to Jews as controlling movie studios and banks, and guest host Christina Ricci, portraying Spears, said Christians have forgiven Jews "for having killed our Lord."
She said "a lot of the decision" to reverse Weinman's previous stance "rested with her," after discussions with Michaels as well as with NBC Entertainment President Garth Ancier and NBC West Coast chief Scott Sassa.