This post has been corrected, as detailed below.
Susan Sarandon appears to have pulled up a chair at Hank Williams Jr. and Lars Von Trier's table: The activist-actress is in a harsh spotlight after describing Pope Benedict XVI as a Nazi during a sit-down chat at the Hamptons International Film Festival on Saturday.
During an interview by actor Bob Balaban, the "Dead Man Walking" Oscar winner said she'd sent a copy of that book to the pope — clarifying that she was talking about the previous pontiff, John Paul II, "Not this Nazi one we have now." After Balaban "tut-tutted" (in the words of Newsday), the actress repeated her comment.
The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and the Anti-Defamation League were less than amused.
"Ms. Sarandon may have her differences with the Catholic Church, but that is no excuse for throwing around Nazi analogies," ADL national director Abraham H. Foxman said Monday in a statement suggesting the actress apologize to the Catholic community. "Such words are hateful, vindictive and only serve to diminish the true history and meaning of the Holocaust."
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, was a bit more blunt, telling E! News "it is very hard to find someone dumber" than Sarandon, a person he wouldn't seek an apology from because "she is ignorant and full of hatred to the Catholic Church."
The pope, born Joseph Ratzinger, grew up in Nazi Germany. This next bit is from a 2009 Los Angeles Times article:
In the 1997 biography, "Salt of the Earth," Ratzinger said he was registered against his will in the Hitler Youth by his seminary and had no connection to the group after ending his religious studies. He was later conscripted into the German army, at age 16, for what he called "relatively harmless" infantry duty from August 1943 to September 1944.
According to historical evidence, he shared his family's anti-Nazi views and never joined the Nazi party.
So back to the other guests at that name-calling table of three: Country singer Williams lost a 20-year "Monday Night Football" gig after saying on "Fox & Friends" that a golf game between House Speaker John Boehner and President Obama was a lot like Benjamin Netanyahu playing a round with Adolf Hitler. In circles Sarandon is more likely to be familiar with, "Melancholia" director Von Trier stepped in it at the Cannes Film Festival when he jokingly said, among other things, that he sort of sympathized with Hitler a bit, even though, sure, the guy had done some bad things.
Von Trier issued a statement of apology, then later issued a statement saying he would no longer make public statements. Williams sort of apologized and then sort of took it back, doubling down on the freedom-of-speech aspect of his brouhaha and writing a song about it all. Tripping him up, however: The First Amendment doesn't guarantee employment at ESPN.
Meanwhile, the American Nazi Party on Sunday issued a statement of support for the Occupy Wall Street crowd, which during its early days in Zuccotti Park earned a visit from an education-seeking Sarandon. Sarandon's resume also includes a turn in "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps," the premiere of which was attended by billionaire Warren Buffett, who thinks that rich people should pay higher taxes.
[For the record. 3:21 p.m. Oct. 18: This post originally gave Pope Benedict XVI's birth name as John Ratzinger. He was born Joseph Ratzinger. Thanks to reader Josh Marx for flagging the gaffe.]
— Christie D'Zurilla
Photo: Susan Sarandon at the Diane von Furstenberg Spring 2012 fashion show in New York City in September. Credit: Diane Bondareff / Associated Press.