Gibson Arrest a New Chapter in Long Struggle

ByABC News via logo
July 30, 2006, 9:16 AM

July 31, 2006 — -- Mel Gibson has attributed his victory over addiction in part to the religious faith that inspired the movie "The Passion of the Christ," which many critics said was anti-Semitic.

After his arrest for drunken driving Friday -- and an anti-Semitic tirade he allegedly made at officers during the incident -- Gibson may have to prove that he is clean and sober and that he is not racist.

Gibson is staving off accusations of anti-Semitism following an arrest on the suspicion of DUI on Friday. He has been dogged by similar allegations since 2004's "The Passion of the Christ," which many critics in the Jewish community called anti-Semitic.

The entertainment news Web site TMZ says it obtained four pages of Gibson's original arrest report.

According to the report, Gibson went on an anti-Semitic, expletive-laden tirade, where he allegedly threatened the arresting officer and tried to escape arrest.

During his arrest, he reportedly said, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," and asked arresting officer James Mee "Are you a Jew?"

Gibson has acknowledged some wrongdoing and apologized, saying in a statement: "[I] said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable."

"I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable," he said. "I am deeply ashamed of everything I said."

Still, Gibson's apology rang hollow to some critics.

"I think we deserve better," said Abraham Fox, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League." I think we deserve [for] him to stand up like a man and say, 'These are things that I said. I apologize for them. They are, in fact, despicable, and I will do everything I can to learn and atone for them.'"

Abraham said the actor-director's true nature had come through, even in his inebriated state.

"All his protestations during 'The Passion of the Christ' controversy -- that he respects everybody, loves everybody, and cares about everybody, Christians and Jews. It was just a sham," he said. "For in his heart, and in his mind, he's a bigot. He's an anti-Semite."

Gibson, some observers say, should enter a rehabilitation program and come out genuinely changed. That is the only way he can erase the stigma of being an alleged bigot.

"He needs to get into some kind of alcohol and psych treatment program, and come out a visibly changed man and not repeat his previous behavior," said crisis management expert Jonathan Bernstein. "People judge us by our actions, not by what we say."

In 2004, Gibson acknowledged that he had battled addiction and spoke with ABC News' Diane Sawyer about "The Passion of the Christ" and his struggle.

He told Sawyer that he had hit bottom about 15 years ago.

"I just didn't want to go on," he said.

"Everyone's got something," he said. "I would get addicted to anything, anything at all. OK? Doesn't matter what it is. Drugs, booze, anything. You name it -- coffee, cigarettes, anything. All right? I'm just one of these guys who is like that. That's my flaw."

At his lowest, Gibson said he considered jumping out a window.

"I was looking down thinking, 'Man, this is just easier this way,'" he said in 2004. "You have to be mad, you have to be insane, to despair in that way. But that is the height of spiritual bankruptcy. There's nothing left."

That "spiritual bankruptcy" led him to re-examine Christianity, and ultimately to create "The Passion of the Christ," but it appears that his struggle is not yet over.

Psychologist Drew Pinsky said he thought that Gibson had made so many films about suffering because addiction made him suffer each day.

"A lot of people don't realize addiction is a biological disorder of the reward system in the brain," he said.

"Shame is one of the profound feelings that people with addiction have. And when they find they transcend an experience in spirituality and they find connection with sober peers, they're accepted and the shame tends to lift."

Gibson, the father of seven, said to ABC News that his wife Robin of 26 years had stood by him through his battle with addiction.

"She's the best friend I've ever had," he said. "She's just great. And would be there completely, 100 percent, 110 percent. And to put up with me, that's already a tall order. So, hey, I'll spend the rest of my life giving her medals, more precious than jewels."

Now, Gibson will once again try to overcome his addiction.

"You know, I'm not a done deal. I'm a work in progress," Gibson said in 2004. "And I'm extremely flawed. And I better continue to think that way, too, because -- because it's the truth."

After Gibson's arrest, some critics wondered whether Los Angeles police initially tried to cover up Gibson's arrest and behavior.

"The deputy who made the arrest came in with an eight-page report," said managing editor Harvey Levin.

"And ultimately his superiors looked at it and said -- 'You've got to rewrite this report. It's too inflammatory. There's a lot of tension now with the Israelis, and Mel Gibson did "Passion of the Christ," and we don't want to inflame the Jews around here over a drunk driving arrest.' So they ordered him to rewrite the report, taking out all of this incendiary information that the officer had written down."

Levin did not tell ABC News how TMZ had obtained the report.

Ironically, Gibson has used his star power to help the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department in the past.

He even made a promotional video on behalf of one of its causes.

Sheriff's officials say that the DUI investigation is continuing, and that an internal investigation may be started.

A sheriff's official said Gibson was stopped at 2:30 a.m. on Friday for driving 87 mph in a 45 mph zone not far from his Malibu, Calif., home. The sheriff's office insists that Gibson was treated like everyone else and that his arrest occurred "without incident."

"When I say there was no incident," said Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the sheriff's department, "yes, as far as we can tell, as far as what we know, facts substantiated by facts, that there was no use of force."