• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Rex Reed Defends Melissa McCarthy Remarks: 'Don't Make Me the Villain'

Melissa McCarthy Rex Reed - H 2013
Universal; Getty Images
Melissa McCarthy in "Identity Theft"; inset: Rex Reed

The critic says the controversy surrounding his review of the No. 1 comedy was "what sold the tickets."

Rex Reed has two words to describe Identity Thief star Melissa McCarthy: "completely classy."  

That magnanimous assessment stands in stark contrast to the New York Observer film critic's mean-spirited pan of McCarthy's new comedy, in which he called the actress "tractor-sized" and a "female hippo," among other insults.

STORY: Film Critic Rex Reed Calls Melissa McCarthy 'Hippo' and 'Tractor-Sized,' Faces Angry Backlash 

In his first time speaking out on the incident, Reed refused to back down from his choice of words but said McCarthy "has remained completely silent [on the controversy], and I think that's completely classy."

Talking on Monday to WOR-AM New York, Reed theorized that the outrage actually was orchestrated by "the big publicity machine called Universal Pictures" that mobilized people to attack him in their "desire to sell tickets to a bad movie."

Reed took credit, too, for Identity Thief's stellar opening-weekend take of $36.6 million, saying the controversy was "what sold the tickets."

STORY: Hollywood Slams Rex Reed for Attacking Melissa McCarthy's Weight 

Addressing the name-calling, Reed told host Mark Simone: “I object to using health issues like obesity as comedy talking points. That’s what this girl does, this Melissa Manchester," he said, confusing McCarthy's name with that of the "Don't Cry Out Loud" singer.

"I have too many friends that have died of obesity-related illnesses, heart problems and diabetes. … I have helped people try to lose weight, and I don't find this to be the subject of a lot of humor," Reed said.

Responding directly to his critics, of which there are many -- including Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, who invited Reed "to go f--- himself," and Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet, who tweeted, "Turns out Rex Reed didn't die sad and alone 10 years ago" -- Reed responded, "Don't make me a villain."

He added, "She is crying all the way to the bank!"