Charlie Sheen: Antisemitic or Not?
In the same week when John Galliano, a head designer for Christian Dior, was fired for his antisemitism, actor Charlie Sheen in an interview with The Alex Jones Show, a syndicated radio program, has been accused of making an antisemitic remark and a supposed antisemitic text message of his surfaced in the news.
While ranting at Chuck Lorre, the creator of his hit show, Two and a Half Men, the controversial actor referred to Lorre by his Jewish-sounding Hebrew name, Haim Levine. Sheen had been bragging about how great he is at making the show a success, a credit he went out of his way to attribute solely to himself.
Considering the context—Sheen verbally attacking Lorre—his special emphasis on his Jewish name could very well be antisemitic. Among other nasty words, Sheen called Lorre a “contaminated little maggot” and later added that he “wishes him nothing but pain.”
Sheen’s defense, or rather excuse, for his remarks has him saying he’s Jewish. He told the hosts of the Access Hollywood Live show on March 4, 2011, that his mother is Jewish, which, he noted makes him Jewish. He added that he’s “proud” of being Jewish.
Sheen wouldn’t be the first Jewish celebrity accused of antisemitism. Heeb Jewish magazine displayed an antisemitic pull-quote from an interview with musician and actress (and Jewish) Courtney Love in 2009: “Every time you buy a Nirvana record, part of that money is not going to Kurt’s child, or to me, it’s going to a handful of Jew loan officers, Jew private banks, it’s going to lawyers who are also bankers . . .” Love was once married to Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain.
And Galliano may also be Jewish. According to the UK’s Daily Mail in a March 4, 2011, article entitled, “Why Galliano imploded: The fashion king is now in rehab fighting his obsession with his own Jewish roots,” a “confident of his” told the newspaper that Galliano “loved to emphasise his own Jewish ancestry.” The confident added that, “he always insisted he had Jewish blood from the Sephardi Jews who came from Spain and Portugal in the 19th century.”
Like Love and Galliano, whether or not Sheen is in fact Jewish is irrelevant to whether he’s antisemitic. He could be a self-hating Jew.
Sheen further defended his remarks as not antisemitic by telling TMZ.com that he “wanted to address the man, not the bulls**t TV persona.” He also compared his reference to Lorre’s real name with someone calling Sheen by his real, Latin-sounding name, Carlos Estevez, and him claiming that individual is anti-Latino.
Sheen does make a valid point, but his credibility is shot when you factor in his supposed antisemitic text message that read: “I must execute mark b[Mark Burg] like the stupid Jew pig he is.” Sheen’s ex-wife, in a declaration where she’s seeking a restraining order against him, claims he sent the message and that he was referring to his Jewish manager.
Sheen denied sending the message, telling TMZ.com that he has caught his ex sending texts from his phone on his behalf without his context “to cause discord.” He claims his two porn star and model lovers, who he refers to as “Goddesses,” will testify to that. So far, we have hearsay from two people with two biases. Both stories cannot be right; someone is obviously lying.
It’s hard to believe anything Sheen says, though. For instance, he claimed that he was making plans with HBO for a multi-million dollar deal, which several sources have denied—not to mention his issues with alcohol and drugs.
But Burg himself defends Sheen. For support, he lists Sheen’s ex-publicist, entertainment, litigation, and divorce attorneys who are all Jewish along with his ex-wife. His implication was that Sheen must not have a problem with Jews since he surrounds himself with them in his professional life and in his personal life, he was married to one too. (John Galliano’s attorney is also Jewish—does that make him any less antisemitic?) He also said that in his many years having known Sheen, he doesn’t “believe” he sent the text.
Interesting to note, like Burg in Sheen’s case, the particular person Galliano is accused of spewing antisemitism at defends the designer too. As well, Galliano’s attorney is Jewish like Sheen’s three attorneys.
The fact that Lorre felt he needed to change his name is another, different issue. The name change could just be something people do in Hollywood, like how Sheen changed his name too. Or his name change could have been a more serious reason because he didn’t want to be perceived as Jewish.
As it stands, it’s unclear whether Sheen is in fact antisemitic or not. But one thing is clear: Sheen has certainly lost his mind.
But a survey conducted by The Hollywood Reporter finds that an overwhelming majority, 96 percent, of his show’s viewers feel the show should go on—with Sheen in it. In addition, 26 percent of the 700 Americans polled actually view Sheen “‘much more’ or ‘somewhat more’ favorably” following his rant. If we are to consider those polled a fair representation of all the shows viewers, then that’s 15 million viewers we’re talking about.