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Sopranos Creator Derides Protests

"The Sopranos" Creator Derides Anti-Defamation Protests

Italian-Americans should "Instruct their youth ... that gangsterism is wrong," says HBO series producer David Chase

Contact: Diane E. Crespy, (202) 547-2900

Washington, D.C., Sept. 8, 1999 - The Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ), the anti-defamation arm of the 500,000 member Order Sons of Italy in America® (OSIA), has assailed the producer and writer of the HBO series "The Sopranos," David Chase, for comments made during his recent appearance at a writers' symposium, suggesting that most persons involved in organized crime are Italian and denying responsibility for perpetuating the Italian-mob stereotype in "The Sopranos."

Chase was a featured panelist at the "Words into Pictures" symposium at the Writers Guild Foundation's conference on writing for film and television, June 4-6, 1999. Chase, when asked how he responds to Italian-American critics who say he has perpetuated a damaging stereotype, said "I don't think it has any value ... especially since if you pick up a newspaper and you see a story about organized crime, those names are Italian ... and if they're really concerned about it ... they should really be organizing some sort of grassroots neighborhood thing to get rid of those people ... and to instruct their youth and their children that gangsterism is wrong."

"The Sopranos" supervising producer and co-writer Frank Renzulli, also a panelist, said that if Italian-American gangster characters were removed from programming, there would be "no Italians on television."

CSJ President John Dabbene berated Chase and the other producers and writers of the series, saying they lack moral integrity and knowledge of the organized crime situation in the United States. "The U.S. Department of Justice has reported that less than one-tenth of one percent of Italian-Americans are involved in organized crime," Dabbene said, citing a Justice Department report. "Additionally, organized crime in this country includes many ethnicities - virtually none are immune."

CSJ Executive Director Dr. Philip R. Piccigallo added, "Chase's remarks reveal his true intentions - to sensationalize and profit personally from the wholesale glamorization and commercialization of an infinitesimal part of the Italian-American population.

"In past explanations," Piccigallo said, "Chase at least sought to mitigate the damage caused to an entire ethnic group by his series, by emphasizing that it represented merely a tiny portion of our nation's 26 million Italian-Americans. Now he believes we are cultivating and nurturing gangsters in our homes and families."

Segments of the symposium have been aired through the media. The CSJ became aware of Chase's remarks when NPR in Philadelphia included it as a news item with sound bites.

The CSJ, with the help of other Italian-American organizations, is spearheading a demonstration during the Emmy Awards on Sept. 12, in New York. Hundreds are expected to turn out to protest "The Sopranos," which has garnered 16 Emmy nominations. When the series premiered in February 1999, the CSJ immediately took action and complained about the negative stereotypical image of Italian-Americans portrayed in the series.

The Commission for Social Justice® is dedicated to ensuring equal concern, treatment, respect, freedom, and opportunity for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, age, or sex, particularly those of Italian heritage. For more information on the CSJ or the protest in New York, call 202/547-2900.