The head of a Catholic group challenged a Fox News online column that criticizes Mel Gibson for “selectively distributing” his film “The Passion of the Christ” to avoid upscale, liberal and Jewish areas.

William Donohue, president of the Catholic League, however, insists Fox News columnist Roger Friedman has his facts all wrong.

Friedman, after detailing where he believes the movie will be shown, says Gibson “consciously created a divisive atmosphere for the presentation of his film.”

The Fox contributor said, “All this seems designed to keep ‘The Passion of the Christ’ out of neighborhoods that are considered Jewish, upscale, or liberal.”

Donahue responded:

“Roger Friedman says the movie will be shown in two Chicago theaters; in fact it will be shown in seven. He says it will not be shown in the L.A. neighborhood of Century City; in fact it will be shown at the AMC in Century City.

“He says it will not be shown in the ‘wealthier and trendier parts’ of Los Angeles; in fact it will be shown in Marina del Rey, Burbank and Santa Monica. He says it will not be shown in New York’s Upper West Side; in fact it will be shown at 86th and Broadway. He says it will be shown only in the ‘fringe areas’ of the Upper East Side; in fact it will be shown at 86th and 3rd and 64th and 2nd.

“He says it will be shown at one theater below 34th Street; in fact it will be shown at three. He says it will be hard to find in Nassau County, Long Island; in fact it will be shown in seven theaters there. He says that theater-goers will be ‘hard pressed’ to find it in ‘either the south or north shore’ of Long Island; in fact it will be shown in towns like Glen Cove and Port Washington on the north shore and Merrick and Seaford on the south shore.

“He says those who live in Westchester will also find it difficult to see the movie; in fact it will be shown in Larchmont, New Rochelle and Yonkers. And so on.”

Donahue suggested, wryly, “taking a course in Geography 101 might cure some of Friedman’s problems, but it would not be enough.”

“That’s because his forced conclusion suggests something else is at work: To say that Gibson is intentionally keeping the film away from Jews and the rich is not only flatly wrong, it smacks of malice,” he said. “We look for Fox to correct itself.”

Friedman cited the movie’s website and another website, moviefone.com, as sources for where the film will be screened.

He said the pattern for the film’s distribution, “for the most part, highlights black neighborhoods and poor neighborhoods. For example, all the Magic Johnson theatres in the country will show the movie, as will multiplexes in urban centers.”

Newmarket Films, which is distributing the movie, Friedman said, “seems to have picked a pattern that concentrates heavily on the south and the Midwest, focusing on the Bible Belt and locations where ‘The Passion of the Christ’ will meet with the least resistance.”

Friedman said his calls to Newmarket and to its public relations firm were not returned.

Noting the charges of anti-Semitism against Gibson and the film, Friedman writes: “The battle over ‘The Passion of the Christ’ is coming quickly now, and I for one am sorry that Gibson and Newmarket chose to keep it out of places where they thought the reception would be less than positive. Everyone should have the chance to see this film and decide for themselves if Gibson has done the right or wrong thing with his $25 million.”

The columnist said it will “be interesting in seeing how the annual Oscar party given by Gibson’s agent, Ed Limato, at his palatial Beverly Hills home will be received two days after the movie’s premiere. And then there are the Oscars, where Billy Crystal is no doubt thinking of clever ways to spoof the movie.”

Read WorldNetDaily’s extensive coverage of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ.”

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