Should Mel Be Forgiven?

Mel Gibson speaks to the press Sept. 20, 2002, in Rome, to announce that he will start to make the controversial film "The Passion of the Christ."
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In the wake of Mel Gibson's arrest for DUI and admission of making anti-Semitic remarks to the Jewish officer arresting him, two guests Thursday on The Early Show were asked if he should be forgiven.

Gibson was charged Wednesday with misdemeanor drunken driving, having an elevated blood alcohol level and having an open container of liquor in his car. The three counts were filed by Los Angeles County prosecutors five days after Gibson was pulled over on Malibu's Pacific Coast Highway for speeding and he made anti-Semitic comments to the arresting deputy.

Syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington, founder of huffingtonpost.com squared off against The New York Times' Randy Cohen, who writes "The Ethicist" column for the Times Sunday Magazine.

"He should be forgiven and held accountable," said Huffington. "And be watched carefully to see what he does.

"He had two apologies. Apology one was basically nothing. He took accountability for nothing. Did not acknowledge the anti-Semitic remarks. Apology No. 2 was incredibly well written. I want the name and number of the PR person who wrote it.

"The question is, is he going to grow up to be the person reflected in apology two, who took full responsibility for his anti-Semitic remarks, who said that he's on a journey of recovery and recognizes this is not going to be an overnight road to convert?"

Cohen said he found Gibson's apologies "disingenuous."

"He is an anti-Semite. We know more than just his drunken rant. We know his whole history of not disassociating himself from his father's crackpot denial views."

The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm asked if you can you reform a bigot.

"Of course. This is from me at the center of everything that I believe, that everybody, every human being is capable of redemption. If we don't believe that, we give up on humanity," said Huffington.

Said Cohen: "Whether or not I forgive Mel Gibson is beside the point. What would it mean if I forgave him? He'd come around the house and play ball more? Whether or not we forgive him, he's an anti-Semite. ... If he's to not be an anti-Semite he has to actually change his thinking, and that's hard."

If convicted, Gibson faces up to six months in jail, the district attorney's office said.

The Sheriff's Department said Gibson was stopped at 2:36 a.m. Friday after being seen speeding at 87 mph in a 45-mph zone. Authorities said his blood-alcohol level tested at 0.12 percent. A California driver is legally intoxicated at 0.08 percent.

According to a law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity, the sheriff's report says Gibson told the arresting deputy: "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," and asked him, "Are you a Jew?"

Gibson has issued two public apologies since then, and his publicist, Alan Nierob, has said the actor-director-producer was in an ongoing program for alcohol abuse before the arrest and has entered another, on an outpatient basis.