LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Nine Nobel Peace laureates, including retired South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on Monday called on television network NBC to cancel its "Stars Earn Stripes" reality show, calling it a bid to "sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition."
The competition show, due to air for the first time on Monday evening, puts eight celebrities such as singer Nick Lachey and politician Sarah Palin's husband Todd, through military-style training, including helicopter drops and long-range weapons firing.
The celebrities are paired with former members of the U.S. Marines, Green Berets and other forces to compete for a cash prize that would go to a charity of their choice. Producers say the show, hosted by retired U.S. General Wesley Clark, will "pay homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. armed forces."
In an open letter to NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt, the Nobel Prize winners said that "preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining."
"It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence.
"Real war is down in the dirt deadly. People — military and civilians — die in ways that are anything but entertaining," the letter said.
The Nobel-winning signatories called on NBC to "stop airing this program."
NBC rejected the assertion that "Stars Earn Stripes" glorifies war. "'Stars Earn Stripes' is about thanking the young Americans who are in harm's way every day. This show is not a glorification of war but a glorification of service," the network said in a statement.
Tutu, 80, won his Nobel in 1984 for efforts to end apartheid in South Africa. He was joined in the letter by American anti-landmines campaigner Jody Williams, Mairead Maguire and Betty Williams of Northern Ireland, former East Timor President Jose Manuel Ramos-Horta, Argentine artist Adolfo Perez Esquivel, Rigoberta Menchu Tum of Guatemala and Iranian lawyer Dr. Shirin Ebadi.
In addition to Palin and Lachey, the show's contestants include actors Dean Cain and Terry Crews, wrestler Eve Torres, television fitness trainer Dolvett Quince, former Olympic skier Picabo Street and boxer Laila Ali, daughter of former champion Muhammad Ali.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte, Dan Grebler and Bill Trott)