The creators of “South Park” lambasted Comedy Central Thursday for removing an episode that lampooned Scientology and Tom Cruise from the network’s repeat schedule and for blanking out the image of Muhammad during another episode.
“So there are two things we can’t do on Comedy Central: show Muhammad or Tom Cruise,” Trey Parker said during the MTV Networks portion of the Television Critics Assn. summer press tour.
Parker and Matt Stone said they had no doubt that the “Trapped in the Closet” episode was yanked as a result of Cruise’s starring this summer in “Mission: Impossible III,” the movie from Paramount, Comedy Central’s sister company.
However, a Comedy Central spokesman countered that all episodes get rotated in and out of the schedule on a regular basis and indicated that it was always the plan to restore the episode into the schedule. The episode will repeat Wednesday.
Stone added that the duo chose not to grant any media interviews at the height of the controversy several months ago.
“We didn’t do any press because we were just going to get in a pissing war with Tom Cruise, and we didn’t want to be in the same article as that guy,” he said. “But we picked the wrong guy to parody because we’re going to be asked about Tom for the next two years.”
They added that they have not been contacted by Scientology representatives but did sit down the week after the episode aired with a “very upset” Isaac Hayes, a Scientologist who portrayed the character of Chef. Hayes has since exited the show.
“We didn’t want to be hypocrites,” Parker said. “We thought it could piss Isaac off, but we had to do it for that very reason” of not being labeled hypocrites.
Regarding the decision not to air the image of Muhammad during the “Cartoon Wars” episode, the pair said it was a corporate decision that could become a slippery slope if other groups begin making threats and affecting content. They also noted that Muhammad seems to be off limits, while it is “open season” on Jesus, who happens to be a “South Park” character. (Depictions of Muhammad are strictly prohibited in Islam.)
Comedy Central president Doug Herzog admitted, “It’s tough, but I think I would say we did overreact. ... Matt and Trey enjoy a fair amount of creative freedom. History might show that we overreacted, and we will live with that.”
He added that the image probably will not be shown on the DVD version either, but “I look forward to the day when we can uncover it.”