Popular NBC police drama “Law & Order: SVU” is facing backlash from critics who say Thursday night's episode included a character wearing a red cap who seemed too similar to real-life Covington, Ky., high school teen Nicholas Sandmann.
Another character in the same episode resembled embattled U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., some critics also said.
The episode on the NBCUniversal series comes a week after Sandmann’s legal team filed a $275 million defamation lawsuit against NBC over its coverage of a Jan. 18 controversy involving the teen and a Native American man named Nathan Phillips outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
“It’s probably not the smartest idea to mock a group of people as bigots as they are currently suing you for $275 million dollars [sic] in a defamation lawsuit,” wrote a film critic on the “conservatarian” Society Reviews website.
Initial reports suggested that Sandmann and his Covington Catholic High School classmates initiated the January confrontation with Phillips. Subsequent reporting and video evidence contradicted that version of events. During the encounter, Sandmann wore a red “Make America Great Again” cap.
While the long-running series often lifts plots from the headlines, Thursday’s episode differed from the real-life events surrounding Sandmann.
The character resembling Sandmann -- named Ari -- was one of several angry Jewish students who accuse a Muslim councilwoman named Nahla Nasar of anti-Semitism. Two of the teens are then accused of raping her. The real suspect turns out to be Nasar's husband, who was angry that she was a lesbian, in defiance of Sharia law, according to the Times.
“Much like with the Covington Catholic kids, the situation was a hoax, but in the show the full video doesn’t exculpate Ari’s aggressive and hostile interaction,” said an analysis by the NewsBusters.org website of the conservative Media Research Center (MRC). “Does 'Law & Order: SVU' know that Nick Sandmann, who Ari is clearly based on, didn’t do anything but stand quietly in place?”
The Nasar character at one point says, “It’s all about the Benjamins,” a line once tweeted by Omar, the freshman congresswoman who has been accused of anti-Semitism.
The MRC also accused the NBC show of letting the Muslim councilwoman character off the hook too easily for her false accusation against the teens.
The suit against NBC is the third major lawsuit Sandmann’s legal team has launched. Also being sued are the Washington Post for $250 million and CNN for $275 million.