Oscar Censorship: Anti-Semitism Query to Portman Scrubbed

The Oscar winner and Dior spokeswoman was asked about a designer's anti-Semitic remarks. The Academy kept the question off the transcript

Natalie Portman won the Oscar for Best Actress on Sunday but she could become the Academy's poster girl for censorship.

A backstage question to the actress concerning allegedly anti-Semitic remarks made by designer John Galliano was not only shut down before Portman could answer but scrubbed from the official transcript.

Here's what happened:

Soon after Academy handlers escorted Portman backstage, a reporter asked her, "You’re a spokesperson for Dior’s Miss Dior Cheri fragrance. Why are you not wearing Dior tonight? And what do you think about Dior designer John Galliano recently being suspended for alleged assault and for allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks?"

Before Portman could answer, an Academy official interrupted, saying, "We're just going to move on."

A murmur went through the assembled media in the room, but the exchange doesn't show up anywhere on the Academy's transcript, released late Sunday night.

Leslie Unger, the Academy's communications director, told TheWrap that "since the question was not being answered, the question wouldn't be included in the transcript." The question to Portman was the only unanswered question backstage during Sunday's Oscars.

Galliano has been accused of making anti-Semitic statements in France, where doing so is illegal.

A French couple made the accusation. Meanwhile a video posted on the web site of the British tabloid The Sun shows a drunk Galliano taunting patrons in a bar, and saying, “People like you would be dead,” and that “your mothers, your forefathers” would all be “gassed.” He added, “I love Hitler."  It was unclear when the video was recorded.

Galliano was suspended from Dior on Friday, and faced questions from French police on Monday.

So why not let Portman, who is Jewish, answer?

"We're trying to make sure that the entire experience for our winners — for all of our guests, but ultimately for the winners — is as pleasant and comfortable as possible," Unger said. "The focus of the evening should be about the good things in their life and their career, and if there was a question that was asked that didn't seem appropriate to the setting, that we wouldn't force a winner to be in a position to have to think about something that had no relevance to the evening."

She said the Academy expects reporters to avoid controversial questions:

"Our assumption is that people who are there covering the event are there to cover the event in the aspects of what is going on that night," she said. "Obviously the pleasant things — the noncontroversial things that relate to what they're working on next, you just had a baby, you just got married, your mother got married…

"I think there's an understanding that those things are appropriate to the occasion, and it is our expectation that people wouldn't try to Shanghai a winner having just come offstage and the joy and the pride and the excitement of the moment and be thrown on something that's completely sort of off-topic."

And she offered a little word of advice to the press:

"If we need to start issuing guidelines, we might do that. It hasn't been a problem in the past."

A spokeswoman for Portman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.