WASHINGTON – Backed by 16 colleagues, a New Jersey congresswoman proposed Wednesday that the House chastise producers of television shows like The Sopranos for depicting Italian-Americans as criminals.
A resolution introduced by Rep. Marge Roukema, R-Ridgewood, urges the entertainment industry to "stop the negative and unfair stereotyping of Italian-Americans, particularly as profane criminals as portrayed in the television show The Sopranos."
"This show is an insult to my grandmother and my grandfather, may they rest in peace," said Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-Paterson, one of the 16 House members -- and the only one from New Jersey -- who immediately signed on to Roukema's measure.
Pascrell said he has a message for the producers of the show: "I hope you choke on your money."
Congressional resolutions are statements of opinion and, even if passed, do not carry the weight of law.
Roukema is the granddaughter of Italian immigrants. She said in the past that she has never seen The Sopranos. But she said Wednesday that she had "watched it once or twice (and) decided to boycott it."
Pascrell said he has seen one episode.
The HBO series, which just completed its third season, focuses on fictional mob boss Tony Soprano and his dual struggles heading a suburban New Jersey family and an organized crime family.
HBO said in a statement that it remains "very proud of the show" and considers it "an extraordinary artistic achievement."
The show received a Peabody Award on Tuesday and the following day debuted to strong ratings in Italy.
Joining Roukema and Pascrell at the press conference was Rep. Constance Morella, R-Md., and representatives of the National Italian American Foundation, the Sons of Italy Foundation and the Italian American Democratic Leadership Council.
Roukema said their support for her measure shows "there was never any truth to the misinformation out there that Italian-Americans love The Sopranos."
She conceded there may be some.
Philip Piccigallo, executive director of the Sons of Italy, said Roukema's resolution does not call for censorship, just a more balanced portrayal of Italian-Americans.
"Every depiction -- from the children to the wives to the priests to the restaurant owners to Tony and his gang of dysfunctional, murdering, misogynistic thugs -- is negative," Piccigallo said.