NBC Won’t Air Madonna on Cross

Times Staff Writer

Bowing to pressure from Christian advocacy groups, NBC has decided to pull a controversial mock crucifixion scene from next month’s broadcast of a Madonna concert taped last summer.

Television viewers will not see the segment in which Madonna is hanging from a cross, wearing a crown of thorns on her head and singing her 1980s hit “Live to Tell.”

“The ‘Live to Tell’ song has been revised for NBC’s broadcast special,” the network said in a statement. The Nov. 22 two-hour broadcast was taped during the singer’s “Confessions” concert at London’s Wembley Stadium.

The scene was widely criticized by Christian institutions around the world, including the Church of England, the Vatican, the Russian Orthodox Church and individual Christian groups, which saw her use of the cross as offensive and blasphemous.


But it was pressure from U.S. Christian groups that spurred calls of concern from NBC affiliates to the network. And Thursday, the decision won the groups’ applause.

“This is a great victory,” said Donald E. Wildmon, chairman of the American Family Assn. “They would have lost nearly every affiliate they had. People are fed up with NBC’s anti-Christian bigotry.”

The Mississippi-based group said it had sent out more than 750,000 e-mails from members directed at NBC Universal and Chairman Bob Wright. It had planned to approach advertisers if the network did not back down.

The Media Research Center and the Catholic League, two conservative media watchdog groups, also weighed in with a letter of protest to NBC.

NBC had also raised the ire of Christian groups with a recent decision to delete references to God in the cartoon show “VeggieTales,” which airs Saturday mornings on the network.

“It’s a fair compromise,” said Media Research Center President L. Brent Bozell. “Our position had always been to take out the scene but leave the concert. It mocks the most sacred symbol of Christianity.”

Madonna had the option of taking the concert to another network, but that probably wouldn’t have changed anything, said her spokeswoman, Liz Rosenberg. Raised Catholic, Madonna is now a follower of Kabbalah, a faith rooted in ancient Jewish mysticism.

“I know it was Madonna’s desire to have the show air in its entirety, but it didn’t work out that way,” Rosenberg said. “She is not mocking the church.

“It’s her plea to the audience to encourage them to help one another,” the spokeswoman added. “I don’t think her thoughts about Kabbalah are as ambivalent as they are about Christianity.”