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The TV Column: Mike Tyson casting on ‘SVU’ prompts Twitter uproar

Retired boxer Mike Tyson plays a death-row inmate on an upcoming episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” (JOE KLAMAR/Agence France-Presse via Getty Images)

The kerfuffle over a petition asking NBC to un-cast Mike Tyson as a guest on “Law & Order: SVU” has left its showrunner rattled and the petition creator in Twitter’s doghouse.

Marcie Kaveney says she created the petition after learning Tyson had been cast in an episode — which 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, 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 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.”

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 tweeted happily.

Couric’s time with Te’o

”Aren’t you splitting hairs a little bit here, Manti — didn’t you actually say things that weren’t true, and isn’t that, in essence, lying?” Katie Couric asked during her much-anticipated sit-down with Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o that aired Thursday afternoon.

Te’o’s the football star who chose to go on Couric’s show (sucker-punching Oprah Winfrey) after word broke last week that his dead girlfriend — the one he mourned as he helped Notre Dame to the championship game and landed in the Heisman trophy derby — never existed.

In the week since the sports Web site Deadspin broke the story that the love of Te’o’s life was an online hoax and that Te’o lied about having met her, the Internet has exploded with questions as to what Te’o knew when. (Oprah’s sit-down with Lance Armstrong became yesterday’s news, sinking that highly hyped interview’s ratings.)

With Oprah having apparently lost her status as the first Station of the Cross on the road to redemption for celebrities caught doing something stupid, Couric had a lot riding on Te’o. The trick is to ask the tough questions viewers want to hear while not frightening the professional crisis managers who direct the movements of celebs in hot water. It’s a delicate dance.

Dressed in Diane Sawyer-like blonde-on-black, Couric got going:

●”Did you somehow help concoct this hoax or are you, in fact, an innocent victim?”

●”You’re Big Man on Campus. . . . Why wouldn’t you want a real girlfriend who you could actually spend real time with in person?”

●”One of the theories is you created this whole scenario to cover up your sexual orientation. Are you gay?” (“No — far from it!” Te’o protested.)

When she got to the Sports Illustrated cover story – the one in which he told the reporter he met his nonexistent love of his life at a football game his sophomore year — Couric put on her Not Kidding Around Voice and the chic, no-nonsense eyeglasses she’d been dandling in her hand for most of the interview.

“Can you see how people would view this as at worst, a complete lie, and at best, as incredibly misleading?”

Then it was time to put on her softer, disappointed-but-still-loving parent face and tell a few jokes. “I hope you have rollover minutes,” she joshed when Te’o described falling asleep with “Lennay” on the phone every night.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to



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