Robin Williams refused to apologize for jokes he made about priests and pedophiles that has the Catholic Church “up in arms.”
“They should have been up in arms basically after the Children’s Crusade,” Williams told TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira on the plaza outside the TODAY studios.
He had made the jokes earlier this week on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, where he was appearing to promote his new movie, “License to Wed,” in which he plays an Episcopal priest in Chicago who runs a unique marriage preparation course.
Williams pretended to be playing a shell game with a cup, and provided the running commentary: “Here we go. Find the priest, find the pedophile. Find the priest, find the pedophile. Here you go right now. Move ‘em around, move ‘em around. Oh, you found the pedophile.”
Leading the response to Williams’s remark was Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, who said, “Isaiah Washington lashes out at one gay person in private, and he is banished from ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ Robin Williams lashes out against all priests in public, and he suffers no consequence.”
“Do you worry about offending people?” Vieira asked Williams.
“All the time,” he said. “But it’s my job as a comic sometimes to keep going. It you read it, it’s not like it didn’t exist,” he said of the sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic church.
Williams had riffed on priests abusing children. “Their defense was that 40 percent of the victims were under 14 years of age,” he said. “Oh, thank you. That makes it OK, then. Because I was using the word ‘children’ — 14 and under — and the rest were certainly illegal, but that’s OK.”
Vieira asked him if he cares that he offended people.
Williams started to say that he does care, then said, “No. You can’t ignore it. If you do, then why live in this world?”
Williams appeared on a busy news day that had already featured stories about the release of Paris Hilton from jail, the possible connection of steroids to the murder-suicide of wrestler Chris Benoit and his family, and Elizabeth Edwards’ feud with columnist Ann Coulter.
“Steroids and Ann Coulter — kind of redundant,” Williams quipped.
He described his movie character, Reverend Frank, as a “hands-on” minister. “He’s got a marriage preparation course. The first tenet of the course is to write your own vows. The second tenet: no sex before marriage.”
Williams himself has been married twice, first to Valerie Velardi, from 1978 to 1988 and then to Marsha Garces, with whom he recently celebrated his 18th anniversary.
He said he and Garces did write their own vows, but didn’t observe the “before marriage” rule. Asked the secret of the success of the marriage, he said, “My wife knows the secret and won’t tell me. The secret is having a good woman.
“Behind every great man is a great behind, and it’s hers.”
Many years ago, Williams underwent rehab for cocaine usage. Almost a year ago, he came out of treatment for alcoholism. By coincidence, one of the segments scheduled after his appearance dealt with alcohol.
“I’m out of rehab on the day you’re doing a rum tasting,” he told Vieira. “Thank you.
“I came out of rehab, I had to do a show in Las Vegas,” he said, “which was like being an Amish person at a computer convention or a hemophiliac going, ‘Let’s look at all the knives!’ Alcohol is everywhere. As an alcoholic, you realize it’s not your friend, and Britney, it’s not your friend, either.”