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Italian Americans Accuse HBO of Defamation

Contact: Philip R. Piccigallo, (202) 547-2900

Italian Americans Accuse HBO of Defamation and Character Assassination

Washington, D.C., Jan. 7, 2000 - An alliance of seven leading Italian-American organizations representing an estimated 20 million Americans of Italian descent have charged HBO and its television series "The Sopranos" with "defaming and assassinating the cultural character of all Italian Americans" by distorting and misrepresenting their religion, customs, and values "in a violent and immoral context."

In a joint statement released today, the organizations said the series, which begins its second season this month, reinforces the myth that Italian Americans are prone to violence and crime by its use of authentic Italian-American customs, traditions, and values to make its characters and plots credible.

"HBO has insidiously and maliciously taken the most cherished customs and practices of Italian Americans, manipulated and distorted their applications, and used them to assassinate the cumulative character of millions of people," added John Dabbene, president of the Commission for Social Justice®.

"Thanks to this kind of stereotyping, three of four Americans believe Italian Americans are associated with crime," the statement read, citing a study commissioned by a member organization of the alliance, the Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ), the anti-defamation branch of the Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA).

The alliance statement called for more balance in the portrayal of Italian Americans on television.

The alliance members are the Coalition of Italian American Associations (CIAA), the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute, the Italian American Once Voice Committee, and Unico National, all located in the metropolitan New York area; and the Commission for Social Justice®, the National Italian American Coordinating Association (NIACA), and the National

Italian American Foundation (NIAF), all headquartered in Washington, D.C.