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Madonna will play nice on NBC

Richard Huff
New York Daily News

Facing threats of boycotts and a possible viewer backlash, Madonna has agreed to trim shots of a controversial mock crucifixion from her upcoming NBC special.

The decision came after weeks of hand-wringing at NBC, which faced growing opposition from watchdog groups that said the scene would stir public outrage.

Madonna's "Confessions" concert is to air Nov. 22, Thanksgiving eve.

In the crucifixion scene, part of her recent worldwide tour, she climbs onto a cross while singing "Live to Tell."

Since the tour started, she's been slammed by Catholic leaders around the world for using the religious symbol as a concert prop.

In Italy, for instance, religious leaders condemned the scene (which includes her wearing a crown of thorns) as an act of hostility against the church.

Late last month, as interest in NBC's decision on the concert special simmered, Madonna defended the scene and urged people to see it before making condemnations.

"This is not a mocking of the church," she said in a statement. "Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole. I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing."

Without mentioning the controversy, NBC released a short statement Thursday. "The `Live to Tell' song has been revised for NBC's broadcast special," a spokeswoman said.

NBC faced a tough decision. The threat of upsetting watchdog groups prompted some network affiliates to raise concerns to already concerned network brass. Many insiders said that it was highly unlikely NBC would have aired the show without the cuts.

In the end, Madonna, an executive producer on the special, had to set aside a desire to express her creative freedom and agree to the revision to get the show on the air.

The song is still scheduled to be in the special, just not the portion when she climbs onto the cross.

The concert was shot last summer at Wembley Stadium in London, with 12 cameras filming at the same time. That means there are plenty of alternate angles to show viewers besides ones of Madonna on the cross.

Kiera M. McCaffrey, a spokeswoman for the Catholic League, said the organization was glad NBC pulled the scene.

"They did the right thing," she said, "not that they had much choice. They actually faced a lot of opposition on this."

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