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NPR’s ‘Fresh Air’ Fires Film Critic David Edelstein Over ‘Last Tango in Paris’ Rape Joke

NPR’s “Fresh Air” program has ended its association with David Edelstein following the film critic’s controversial joke about the “Last Tango in Paris” rape scene in the wake of director Bernardo Bertolucci’s death.

In a Facebook post, Edelstein posted an image of the rape scene with the caption, “Even grief is better with butter,” referencing Marlon Brando’s character use of butter as a lubricant. Many, including actress Martha Plimpton, demanded that Edelstein be fired.

“All day I’ve avoided noting [Bertolucci’s] death precisely because of this moment in which a sexual assault of an actress was intentionally captured on film. And this a–hole makes it into this joke,” Plimpton wrote.

“Fresh Air,” which is produced by WHYY in Philadelphia, issued a statement on Tuesday, saying the post was “offensive and unacceptable,” particularly given actress Maria Schneider’s claim that she wasn’t told about the simulated sex scene beforehand and it caused her to “cry real tears.” Schneider died in 2011 at age 58.

“The post does not meet the standards that we expect from Fresh Air contributors,” the statement continues. “We have decided to end Fresh Air’s association with him, and have informed David accordingly.”

Edelstein has deleted the post and said he “was not aware of” Schneider’s experience on “Last Tango in Paris.” “I now realize the joke was in poor taste and have removed it, and apologize for the remark,” he wrote.

Earlier this month, Edelstein garnered ire for his review of the movie “Green Book,” starring Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen. “The movie taps into a kind of nostalgia for when everything — even racism — seemed simpler,” Edelstein wrote. He later apologized and updated the review, saying he didn’t mean to imply that he was nostalgic for an era when racism was more “pervasive and deadly than it is today.”

Edelstein has also contributed to “CBS Sunday Morning” and New York Magazine.

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