NPR's 'Fresh Air' Parts Ways With David Edelstein After 'Last Tango' Rape Scene Joke

Matthew Eisman/Getty Images for Hamptons International Film Festival
David Edelstein

The film critic, who writes for New York Magazine, generated controversy with a joke on his Facebook account after the death of director Bernardo Bertolucci.

NPR's Fresh Air has parted ways with contributor David Edelstein after the film critic made a joke about the rape scene in Last Tango in Paris on his Facebook page following the death of director Bernardo Bertolucci on Monday.

In a statement Tuesday, Fresh Air said the post was "offensive and unacceptable" because of what actress Maria Schneider experienced filming the scene. Schneider said in a 2007 interview that the simulated sex scene was unscripted and that she felt bullied by Bertolucci and unsupported by her co-star Marlon Brando. "I was crying real tears," said the actress, who died in 2011.

Edelstein had captioned a photo of the scene with the line: "Even grief is better with butter." After a backlash, which included actress Martha Plimpton calling for Edelstein's firing, Edelstein said he was unaware of Schneider's comments and apologized.

Responding on Facebook, Edelstein said he now realized the joke was "grotesque" and removed it.

"I didn't remember [the scene] as a rape and I didn't know the real-life story about Maria Schneider," he wrote. "The line was callous and wrong even if it had been consensual, but given that it wasn't I'm sick at the thought of how it read and what people logically conclude about me. I have never and would never make light of rape, in fiction or in reality."

Edelstein has been a longtime Fresh Air contributor, sharing reviews of hundreds of films on the program, which is produced by WHYY in Philadelphia.

Edelstein remains a staff critic at New York Magazine. A magazine spokesperson said the publication believes Edelstein but that it's "reviewing the matter internally."