Marcie Kaveney says she created the petition after learning Tyson had been cast in an episode —is scheduled to air on the eve of a global movement to end violence against women and girls called One Billion Rising.
“As soon as I saw it [in a news report], I just saw red,” Kaveney, a rape survivor now working as a rape crisis advocate in Fort Myers, Fla., told The TV Column on Thursday.
Tyson was arrested in July 1991 and charged with raping Desiree Washington, then an 18-year-old Miss Black America pageant competitor. He was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison; he served three years.
In the episode, Tyson plays the face of violence begetting violence: a murderer on death row who had a troubled childhood.
“I am sorry, but I see this as just another way to clean up his image,” Kaveney wrote in the petition on change.org, which asks NBC and the show to reconsider casting Tyson.
Among the 4,700 who had signed the petition at press time: “NCIS” star and abuse survivor Pauley Perrette.
Kaveney says that a lot of the comments on her petition were made by sexual abuse survivors who feel betrayed by the February “sweeps” stunt casting.
“A lot of survivors consider ‘SVU’ to be Their Show, because it’s about victims, about helping victims and getting justice for victims,” she said. “We’ve taken to the show and consider it ours.”
Since the petition surfaced, showrunner Warren Leight began to tweet in his defense. A seven-part defense, in fact.
It’s “2 of 7” that really caught Kaveney’s attention — as well as that of the group Peace Over Violence, which jumped into the fray:
“2 of 7) While in no way excusing his past actions, it’s worth noting MT was convicted over twenty years ago, and served his time,” Leight tweeted Jan. 12 about Tyson.
“1 of 3) He only served 3 of his 6 years for RAPE,” Peace Over Violence tweeted in response.
“2 of 3) it doesn’t matter how long ago he was convicted. A rape is a rape, annnnnd . . .
“3 of 3) He has never apologized for the rape, nor had he done anything since 2 promote sexual assault awareness or education,” the organization added.
Kaveney, meanwhile, says her Twitter account has been suspended, she was told, for “sending multiple unsolicited messages using the @ replay and/or mention feature.”
“I’m new to Twitter,” she explained, apologetically.
In his final talking point, Leight said of the Tyson casting: “Our intent, as always, is to provoke discussion and awareness.”
Which is ironic, because neither NBC nor “Law & Order” franchise creator Dick Wolf nor Leight had any comment when the TV Column reached out to them Thursday.
Since word of Tyson’s casting got out, things have really heated up for Leight on Twitter.
“@warrenleightTV How hard is it to cast a guest actor who doesn’t have a sexually violent past for a show that champions victims of sex crime,” tweeted one of many unhappy fans.
Things got so hot for Leight by Monday, he was warning protesters: “If you’ve sent the same tweet 10+ times, please know that I’ve heard you. When tweets become harassment, I will have to block. Thnx.”
Meanwhile, Tyson’s having a ball. “Can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched SVU marathons. This is my dream job. #gratitude,” he prattled happily on Twitter.