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Richard Belzer, the 67-year-old Jewish actor best known for playing detective John Munch on "Homicide: Life on the Street" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," is in hot water for making a Nazi salute at the 52nd Monte Carlo Television Festival on Tuesday.
Posing on the red carpet alongside co-stars Danny Pino and Kelli Giddish, as well as "Law & Order" producer Dick Wolf, Belzer broke away and gave a "sieg heil" for the cameras.
The move came as a surprise considering the actor's TV alter ego is known for being sensitive to anti-Semitic jokes.
But Belzer's rep told TMZ he had just been chatting about the 1940 Charlie Chaplin movie "The Great Dictator" and decided to spontaneously re-enact a scene in which the silent comic, who plays a Jewish barber, salutes the Nazis.
"I'm a Jewish comedian, and there's this new thing out, it's called satire, irony, and historical reference," Belzer said in a statement to the website. "To say that a Jew can't do that gesture as homage to Chaplin's masterpiece 'The Great Dictator' is like Muslim extremists killing a cartoonist for disparaging Muhammad in his art."
Belzer later retweeted a message of support from one of his fans.
"Just saw a ridiculous TMZ headline and wanted to tweet just to say - you're awesome," Twitter user Miz B. Havior wrote. "I'm only sorry you explained it to them."
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