By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, July 22, 2010; C04
The Virginia man who had issued "warnings" to the creators of Comedy Central's animated series "South Park," saying they risked death if they showed the prophet Muhammad in a bear costume, has been arrested and charged with giving material support to the Somali terrorist group al-Shabab.
Zachary Chesser, 20, was arrested Wednesday on charges unrelated to the online "warnings" that he posted to "South Park" creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker over the show's 200th and 201st episodes, in which viewers were led to believe Muhammad was disguised in a bear suit -- only it turned out to be Saint Nicholas in the bear costume.
Comedy Central censored the episodes when they were telecast in April, clumsily wiping out the cartoon bear-suited Santa Claus from its scenes.
According to records, Chesser, an Oakton High School grad, told federal agents he twice tried to travel to Somalia to join al-Shabab as a fighter. According to an FBI affidavit made public Wednesday, Chesser told authorities he had traveled with his infant son to avoid suspicion when attempting to reach Somalia.
Comedy Central declined to comment on Wednesday's arrest; efforts to reach Stone and Parker were unsuccessful.
In April, the two men issued an angry statement complaining about the Viacom-owned Comedy Central censoring the episodes after Chesser posted that the cartoon satirists would likely be killed for their depiction (or not) of Muhammad.
"We delivered our version of the show to Comedy Central and they made a determination to alter the episode," the duo said in their missive, which they slapped on the show's Web site. "Comedy Central added the bleeps. In fact, Kyle's customary final speech was about intimidation and fear. It didn't mention Muhammad at all, but it got bleeped too," Stone and Parker complained.
After the 200th episode debuted, the Web site Revolutionmuslim.com posted a statement saying, "We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid. . . . They will probably end up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show." That's a reference to the Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 after making a documentary about violence against Muslim women. In its "warning" to Stone and Parker, the Web site illustrated its point with a photo of the filmmaker's body. The site also posted the addresses of Comedy Central's New York headquarters and of the "South Park" production company.
In the 201st episode, all verbal references to Muhammad were bleeped out and the bear costume was unzipped to reveal Santa Claus inside. All images of Muhammad were redacted with a large black strip on which was written the word "censored." In 2001, however, Parker and Stone included images of Muhammad in an episode that was not censored. Ironically, the two censored episodes are nominated for an Emmy this year.
Chesser's initial court appearance is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday in federal court in Alexandria.Julie Chen gets a 'View'
Julie Chen has added another show to her CBS empire.
The network announced Wednesday that Chen will be one of the panelists on a new "The View"-like daytime chick-panel talk show, debuting in the fall.
Only, whereas the gimmick on "The View" is that the chief chick is a well-respected journalist, the gag here is that all the panelists -- are moms!
The as yet unnamed (send us your suggestions!) talk show is CBS's answer to: "What kind of super-special show can we find to replace 'As the World Turns' when we dump it in September, ending its 54-year run?"
When asked if Chen was going to continue to co-anchor CBS's morning infotainment program "The Early Show" and keep her role on CBS reality series "Big Brother" as Chenbot (the fans' name for her hosting/exiting interview skills), a CBS rep said: "As far as we know -- we haven't been told anything different."
Like most successful TV shows, this one adheres to the One of This, One of That School of Casting.
Chen -- who got top billing in CBS's announcement Wednesday -- is Married to CBS's CEO Mom.
Leah Remini -- onetime female lead of CBS's "King of Queens" -- is Former CBS Star/Takes Heat for Being Scientologist Mom.
Holly Robinson Peete -- married to former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete -- is Football Wife Mom.
Sharon Osbourne -- mother of Ozzy Osbourne's children -- is They Don't Come Much Crazier Old Mom.
And Marissa Jaret Winokur -- best known for her breakout role in the Broadway production of "Hairspray," followed by a mercifully short run on Fox's Pamela Anderson-works-in-a-bookstore-hardy-har-har sitcom "Stacked" -- is Had Baby Via Surrogate Mom.
Chen is the wife of CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, and they have a son named Charlie, who was born in September.
CBS spokesman Chris Ender told one reporter who was writing up something on the announcement that Moonves was not involved in the decision to pick up the show; he said the decision was made by Nina Tassler, CBS's entertainment president.
F'realsers? Let's think this through:
Salient Fact 1: Tassler works for Moonves. Salient Fact 2: Moonves's wife is one of the stars of a show that is vying for a time slot on the network. Salient Fact 3: Even if Moonves recused himself, he can't help but be involved.
Ender said the pilot "stood out" from all other contenders. Those other contenders included a talk show featuring Valerie Bertinelli, a "Pyramid" game-show remake hosted by Andy Richter and a cooking competition hosted by Emeril Lagasse. Where I come from, Ender's "stood out" remark falls under "damning with faint praise."