Robert Downey Jr. Says ‘Forgive Mel Gibson’

Robert Downey, Jr. goes out on a limb for Mel Gibson, returning a favor.

Robert Downey, Jr. goes out on a limb for Mel Gibson, returning a favor.

Reuters (“Robert Downey, Jr. urges Hollywood: ‘Forgive Mel Gibson’“):

It was supposed to be Robert Downey Jr.’s night, but somehow Friday’s American Cinematheque Award ceremony became all about Mel Gibson.

When the evening’s honoree took to the stage at the Beverly Hills Hilton to accept his doorstop, he had a clear message for Hollywood. ”I urge you to forgive my friend his trespasses,” Downey said to loud applause. “Allow him to pursue this art without shame.”

It was Gibson who handed out the award to the “Iron Man” star. That was a choice Downey made clear he had made in part to help his friend rehabilitate his image.

Gibson has become something of an industry pariah in the wake of taped phone calls during which he had used racial slurs and threatened to beat his estranged girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva. Prior to that, Gibson was already on thin ice with Hollywood, having made anti-Semitic remarks when he was arrested in 2006 for driving under the influence. Gibson was dropped from a cameo in “Hangover 2” after cast-members rebelled, although lately Warner Brothers has made a deal with the actor-director to explore an action film about a Biblical-era Jewish rebellion against oppressors. That too has drawn angry responses from Jewish leaders.

Downey, who had well-publicized bouts with drinking and drug abuse, said that by sticking up for Gibson, he was simply returning the favor. After his imprisonment and arrests on drug charges made him unins rable and thus prevented him from being hired in Hollywood, it was Gibson who stepped up and paid his insurance bond on the 2003 film “The Singing Detective.”

“He kept a roof over my head and put food on my table,” Downey remembered. He said that all Gibson asked in return was that Downey do the same for another person who was struggling. ”It is reasonable to assume he didn’t know the next guy would be him,” Downey joked.

Given the history, taking this bold stand will only enhance Downey’s reputation. But it’s easier to forgive someone for being a drug addict and almost wasting a lot of talent than it is to forgive someone for being a drunk who spouts off misogynistic, racist remarks.

FILED UNDER: Popular Culture, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jay says:

    Or Gibson could have had sex with a 13 year old girl, fled the jurisdiction to hide out in France and collect Oscars and have people like Whoopi Goldberg to defend him by saying what he did was not “rape rape.”

  2. A voice from another precinct says:

    @Jay: My God! There are people in Hollywood who hold double standards? Who knew? We gotta get the press investigating this!

  3. john personna says:

    Rather than drugs v. alcohol I think it is a “window to the soul” thing. We worry Gibson is mean spirited – though his friends do tell us he is not.

  4. Lit3Bolt says:

    Gibson is being punished for his antisemitism. No one can deny that.

    Amusingly, the excessive retaliation against Gibson supports the idea of a Hollywood Jewish conspiracy.

    Or to put it another way, if Mel Gibson had made anti-Catholic or anti-Caucasian remarks, he would still be working. Period.

    Maybe if he converts to Scientology, all will be forgiven…

  5. Anderson says:

    “Or to put it another way, if Mel Gibson had made anti-Catholic or anti-Caucasian remarks, he would still be working. Period.”

    Because Hollywood has made sure we’ve forgotten the genocides of Catholics and Caucasians (natives of the Caucasus Mtns?) in the last century. If only we remembered those, then attacking Jews would be the same as attacking Catholics or whites.

    I mean really, the Pope’s firm denunciation of Hitler, which led to his martyrdom, the sacking of the Vatican by the SS, and the deportation of millions of Catholics to death camps — how could we have forgotten all that?

  6. Lit3Bolt says:


    Let’s not bicker and argue over who killed who…

    But I’m serious. Before we argue about what kinds of bigotry are justified or not, allow me to say that Gibson is a misogynistic, antisemitic violent asshole with a drinking problem, condemned by his own words and actions. But he’s been exiled and denied access to his art specifically because of his beliefs for years now, which is equally as odious to me as Gibson’s remarks.

    Can anyone really deny that Gibson is being punished for his antisemitism by Hollywood as a whole? The whole “you’ll never work in this town again” bit. That’s sad and troubling.

  7. Kylopod says:

    @Lit3Bolt: Please tell me some examples of actors who have made anti-Catholic or anti-white statements comparable in virulence to Gibson’s drunken tirade and maintained a Hollywood career.

  8. Fiona says:

    Perhaps being a drunken anti-Semite who (at the very best) browbeat the mother of his child by making ugly threats has turned off Mel’s audiences. Last I checked, Gibson is still making movies but far fewer people are going to see them. Rather than some Hollywood Jewish conspiracy, we’re more likely seeing the judgment of the marketplace at work.