Originally created 03/16/04

Andy Rooney gets record response for calling Mel Gibson a "wacko"



NEW YORK -- Andy Rooney certainly knows how to stir the passion in his viewers.

The "60 Minutes" curmudgeon said Sunday he got 30,000 pieces of mail and e-mail in response to his Feb. 22 commentary, in which he called "The Passion of the Christ" filmmaker Mel Gibson a "wacko."

It's the biggest viewer response ever to a segment on the CBS newsmagazine, which has been on the air since 1968, a spokesman said.

Rooney also called the Rev. Pat Robertson a "wacko" for saying he had a conversation with God, but not many people noticed that, he said. Most of his mail concerned Gibson.

"I think the mail was a good indication of how bitterly divided our country is right now," Rooney said on his Sunday "60 Minutes" commentary. "I hope I'm not contributing to that - even though I'm right and everyone else is wrong."

He read some of the mail on the air, including one letter that called him an "asinine, bottom-dwelling, numb-skulled, low-life, slimy, sickening, gutless, spineless, ignorant, pot-licking, cowardly pathetic little weasel."

Rooney, 85, noted that many of his critics took shots at his age. Even Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly said he was too old.

"That wasn't nice, Bill," he said. "I didn't get old on purpose. It just happened. If you're lucky, it could happen to you."