Samantha Bee Reveals A New, Unflattering Sackler Family Exhibit
Samantha Bee slapped the Sackler name on yet another art institution.
To draw attention to Purdue Pharma’s alleged role in the opioid crisis, Bee enshrined the family behind the company in “The Sackler Museum of Stupid S—t the Sacklers Bought with Their Blood Money” on Wednesday’s “Full Frontal.”
The museum presentation is a nod to the Sacklers’ prolific arts philanthropy. In the eight-minute segment, Bee walked viewers through the modest exhibition of inane curios including a Toyota Yaris (worth the estimated $20,000 the family makes per opioid overdose death); an herb from the garden at the Hamptons weekend home of Mortimer Sackler, Jr. (the “cottage chic” abode was the subject of a spread in Vogue) grown by one of his children who, ironically, fancies himself a “self-taught student of traditional medicine”; and a ghastly cake presented to Mortimer Sackler, Sr. at a 1980s birthday party in the Egyptian-oriented Sackler Wing at the Met (the cake has Mortimer’s face grafted onto the sphinx.)
Taking shots at the Sacklers’ lavish wealth and using the phrase “blood money” to describe it – particularly in referencing the 1980s before OxyContin, their signature opioid drug, was developed – seems a tad close to anti-Semitic tropes and we could have done without that muted, if not intentional, dog whistle.
But in fairness to Bee, Jewish artist and activist Nan Goldin’s P.A.I.N. Sackler, a group that has staged numerous protests at art institutions funded by the Sacklers, has also used the phrase “blood money.” Elizabeth A. Sackler, the niece of Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, the principal owners of Purdue when OxyContin was released, supports Goldin’s organization and its mission. Bee thankfully managed to not target Elizabeth Sackler and other members of the family who are unnamed in the current lawsuits brought by Massachusetts and New York. Well, almost.
The unnamed Joss Sackler, the wife of David Sackler, who is named in the lawsuits, is mentioned and has a prominent artifact in Bee’s Sackler museum: A neon hoodie from her fashion line. As Bee tells us, Joss was reportedly livid that The New York Times mentioned the Sackler family’s role in the opioid epidemic in an article about her highlighter yellow active wear. She was quoted saying “stop talking about who the men in my life are, and review the f*cking neon hoodies.”
Joss isn’t the only Sackler who is sensitive to negative press. In the segment, Bee shows a clip from The Today Show that repots that Richard Sackler had his staff re-jigger Google Alerts for his name to make sure only “flattering stories” about him got through.
“If you’re watching my show online right now, that’s why this video is called ‘Richard Sackler Handsome Big P*nis Not a Murderer,’” Bee said.
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at [email protected]