Tracy Morgan already apologized for disturbing anti-gay remarks he made during a comedy show in Nashville earlier this month, but the outrage continued its slow boil over the weekend. Now that his gay-bashing has been denounced by Tina Fey, NBC executives, and his openly-gay co-star Cheyenne Jackson, Morgan has decided put this mea culpa in high gear.
In an interview posted on GlobalGrind, Russell Simmons, who gave Morgan his first big break on Def Comedy Jam, says he's "disappointed" that Morgan said he'd "pull out a knife and stab that little [n-word] to death" if his son was gay. Morgan responds:
I guess the reason I am successful is because I am so unfiltered. And sometimes as a result I say really stupid shit. The truth is if I had a gay son, I would love him just as much as if he was straight ... I might have to try to love even more because I know of the difficulty that he would have in society ...
When all of this set in, I realized how hurtful my words were. Not asking anyone to feel sorry for me or pity me, but I definitely don't want or need people to defend me. In my heart, I know that the words I used are indefensible. I appreciate the love from my friends and fans, but I was wrong. Period. Now, I just gotta think of some funny shit, not some shit that gets me knocked upside my head.
But that's not all! The New York Times reports that Morgan issued a second statement:
I know how bad bullying can hurt. I was bullied when I was a kid. I'm sorry for what I said. I didn't mean it. I never want to use my comedy to hurt anyone. My family knew what it was like to feel different. My brother was disabled and I lost my father to AIDS in 1987. My dad wasn't gay but I also learned about homophobia then because of how people treated people who were sick with that. Parents should support and love their kids no matter what. Gay people deserve the same right to be happy in this country as everyone else. Our laws should support that. I hope that my fans gay, straight, whatever, forgive and I hope my family forgives me for this.
He's also taking action to show how truly sorry he really is. He's agreed to meet with LGBT youths in New York, and will return to Tennessee to speak with people who were offended by his act. While there, he'll film a PSA and participate with GLAAD in a news conference protesting the state's "Don't Say Gay" bill.
While many people are still furious about his remarks, GLAAD has accepted his apology and it seems highly unlikely that he'll be fired from 30 Rock. If anything, we should expect (yet another) storyline next season about Tracy making an inappropriate yet amusing comment, and Liz being forced to smooth things over for the good of the show.
So what makes Tracy Morgan forgivable in the eyes of show business? Unlike Mel Gibson or Michael Richards, his outburst wasn't caught on tape (unless you or someone you know has it; email us at firstname.lastname@example.org). The controversy was sparked mainly by a lengthy Facebook post from an audience member. The location also matters. Isaiah Washington used a gay slur during an altercation with Patrick Dempsey. Morgan was mid-performance at a comedy club; if you're so inclined, you could excuse the rant as part of his act. Or perhaps while he was improvising he started rambling and wound up saying things he didn't mean. You know, it's just like how even the least anti-Semitic among us occasionally have a bit too much to drink and declare the Jews are responsible for every war, ever.
Comedians can certainly play up a certain persona on stage that's an exaggeration of what they actually believe, but it doesn't seem that's what happened here. Morgan has made homophobic comments before, during a performance at Carnegie Hall in 2009, and again at a Northwestern University show in February 2010. Audience members at both shows later said they were uncomfortable, but the recorded remarks lacked the violent imagery of his latest tirade, so the controversy blew over quickly.
We can't know what's really in Morgan's heart, and while it would be lovely if he truly has seen the error of his ways, that's a bit hard to believe. It's also difficult to predict what the overall effect of this seemingly short-lived scandal will be. On the one hand, there's now another (extremely loud) voice actively supporting gay rights. Yet, Morgan's lightening-fast turn around gives the impression that this is all an insincere attempt to save his career. It may be sending the message that condoning violence against gays can easily be forgiven, particularly if the right people find you funny.
Tracy Morgan Wants To Go To The Gay Marriage Rally! [GlobalGrind]
WHY I NO LONGER "LIKE" Tracy Morgan - A MUST READ [Facebook]
Tracy Morgan Plans Meetings To Make Amends For Anti-Gay Comments [NYT]
Audience Members Walk Out Of Tracy Morgan's Bawdy Carnegie Hall Performance [N.Y. Daily News]
"If You Can Take A Dick, You Can Take A Joke." [North By Northwestern]