The Anti-Defamation League is demanding an apology from Susan Sarandon for calling Pope Benedict XVI a "Nazi" at in Sag Harbor Saturday during a Hamptons International Film Festival event.
Sarandon, being interviewed by Bob Balaban on the Bay Street stage in front of an audience for the festival's "A Conversation With" series, was discussing "Dead Man Walking." She starred as Sister Helen Prejean, who penned the book the film is based on, and won an Academy Award.
"She gave a copy of the film to the pope," Sarandon said of Sister Helen. "The last one, not this Nazi one, the one before." The audience broke out in laughter at the shock of how candidly Sarandon spoke, then clapped.
"It's a shame you're so afraid to say what you really think," Balaban joked.
"He was a Nazi Youth, I'm not talking, or making it up," Sarandon replied.
She did, however, get the name of the group wrong: Benedict XVI was a member of the Hitler Youth, a paramilitary Nazi group, but membership was mandatory for German teens during the Nazi regime.
She quickly got back on topic: "She showed the pope that his lack of being clear was being used to rationalize the death penalty and after that he issued a statement that was much more definitive before he died."
The ADL, citing news reports that quoted Sarandon, called on her to apologize to Catholics and others she may have offended.
"We hope that Susan Sarandon will have the good sense to apologize to the Catholic community and all those she may have offended with this disturbing, deeply offensive and completely uncalled for attack on the good name of Pope Benedict XVI," National Director Abraham H. Foxman was quoted as saying in an ADL statement. "Ms. Sarandon may have her differences with the Catholic Church, but that is no excuse for throwing around Nazi analogies. Such words are hateful, vindictive and only serve to diminish the true history and meaning of the Holocaust."
The Catholic League also put out a statement condemning Sarandon's words.
President Bill Donohue said she was being willfully ignorant of the fact that Pope Benedict, then called Joseph Ratzinger, was conscripted through no fault of his own. "Unlike most of the other teenagers, Ratzinger refused to go to meetings, bringing economic hardship to his family," Donohue said. "Moreover, unlike most of the others, he deserted at the first opportunity."
"Sarandon’s comment is obscene," Donohue added. "Sadly, it’s what we’ve come to expect from her."
Sarandon has yet to offer a public response to the criticism.