Big Brother is Watching You

By Ben Ehrlich

Published August 15, 2007, issue of August 17, 2007.

CBS found itself in hot water last week. The 24-hour microphones and cameras on the network’s reality-TV show “Big Brother 8” caught contestant Amber Siyavus Tomcavage talking in whispers. “The majority of Jewish people I know, my gosh, so many are so selfish,” she said to another contestant. “So weird.” The 27-year-old Las Vegas cocktail waitress also said she was taught that one can tell who is Jewish “by their last name” and “by their nose.” The statements did not air on CBS, but appeared on both the “Big Brother” after-show feed on the Showtime channel and on the live Internet feed.

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, responded quickly and criticized CBS for its role in the incident. “What they’ve done is distributed antisemitism — which started as a private conversation — and by putting it on a reality TV show broadcast it to the world at large,” Foxman told the celebrity gossip and news Web site TMZ.com. “I want CBS to understand they are facilitating antisemitism. They should act responsibly to the community; they are legitimizing bigoted conversation.”

CBS offered a carefully worded response. “At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone,” the show’s producer said. “We certainly find the statements made by Amber Siyavus on the live Internet feed to be offensive and they will not be part of any future broadcast on the CBS television network.”



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