Critic who called Melissa McCarthy a ‘hippo’ takes credit for film’s success

Melissa McCarthy in "Identity Thief." Universal Pictures

Rex Reed has two words to describe "Identity Thief" star Melissa McCarthy: "completely classy." 

That magnanimous assessment stands in stark contrast to the New York Observer film critic's mean-spirited pan of McCarthy's new comedy, in which he called the actress "tractor-sized" and a "female hippo," among other insults.

More from THR: Hollywood slams Rex Reed for attacking Melissa McCarthy's weight 

In his first time speaking out on the incident, Reed refused to back down from his choice of words, but said McCarthy "has remained completely silent [on the controversy], and I think that's completely classy."

Talking to WOR, a New York-based AM radio station, on Monday, Reed theorized that the outrage was actually orchestrated by "the big publicity machine called Universal Pictures" who mobilized people to attack him in their "desire to sell tickets to a bad movie."

Reed took credit, too, for "Identity Thief's" stellar opening weekend take of $36.6 million, saying the controversy was "what sold the tickets."

Addressing the name-calling, Reed told host Mark Simone, “I object to using health issues like obesity as comedy talking points. That’s what this girl does, this Melissa Manchester," he said, confusing McCarthy's name with that of the "Don't Cry Out Loud" singer.

More from THR: 'Identity Thief' No. 1 with $36.6 million

"I have too many friends that have died of obesity-related illnesses, heart problems and diabetes...I have helped people try to lose weight, and I don't find this to be the subject of a lot of humor," Reed said.

Responding directly to his critics, of which there are many -- including "Bridesmaids" director Paul Feig, who invited Reed "to go f--- himself," and "Modern Family's" Eric Stonestreet, whotweeted, "Turns out Rex Reed didn't die sad and alone 10 years ago." -- Reed responded, "Don't make me a villain."

"She is crying all the way to the bank!" he said.

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