Tracy Morgan: Is his apology for anti-gay jokes enough?
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Tracy Morgan apologized Friday morning for anti-gay jokes delivered at a concert in Nashville, and while several prominent gay civil-rights groups appreciated the words, they said a simple apology wasn’t enough.
‘I’m not a hateful person and don’t condone any kind of violence against others,’ Morgan said in a statement. ‘While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context.’
The Human Resources Campaign and GLAAD later Friday urged the ’30 Rock’ and ‘Saturday Night Live’ actor to go beyond a simple apology in the wake of material that reportedly included urging homosexuals to stop ‘whining’ about anti-gay bullying and beat up the bullies instead and a declaration that he’d stab his son to death if he were gay.
‘Jokes that make light of violence directed at gay and lesbian youth aren’t only offensive, they put our kids in harm’s way,’ GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said in a statement. ‘Tracy Morgan must not only apologize, but assure us that this won’t happen again and send a clear message to Americans that anti-gay violence is no joke.’
GLAAD said it offered through Morgan’s publicist to arrange a meeting between the actor and families who have lost children to anti-gay violence ‘in order to help him understand exactly why his rant touched so deep a nerve.’
PFLAG — Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays — also weighed in, with PFLAG National executive director Jody Huckaby saying, ‘As a celebrity, Mr. Morgan needs to understand that his words have power; inciting violence against gay and lesbian kids in the name of comedy — stating that he would stab his own son to death if he was gay — is absolutely unconscionable. A simple apology is not enough.’
Meanwhile, his ’30 Rock’ executive producer Tina Fey expressed shock but also praised Morgan’s apology in a statement that humorously pointed out the many things that would not be available to him if gay people did not work on their show.
Fey, winner of a 2011 GLAAD Media Award, said she understands how comics often work through material on stage in very raw form, but was pleased to see the apology.
‘The violent imagery of Tracy’s rant was disturbing to me at a time when homophobic hate crimes continue to be a life-threatening issue for the GLBT Community,’ she said in a statement. ‘It also doesn’t line up with the Tracy Morgan I know, who is not a hateful man and is generally much too sleepy and self-centered to ever hurt another person.
‘I hope for his sake that Tracy’s apology will be accepted as sincere by his gay and lesbian coworkers at ’30 Rock,’ without whom Tracy would not have lines to say, clothes to wear, sets to stand on, scene partners to act with, or a printed-out paycheck from accounting to put in his pocket.’
Bob Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, said that while the apology was appreciated and the network recognizes an artist’s freedom of expression, reckless statements aren’t cool, no matter the context. ‘Unfortunately,’ he said in a statement, ‘Tracy’s comments reflect negatively on both ’30 Rock’ and NBC -- two very all-inclusive and diverse organizations -- and we have made it clear to him that this kind of behavior will not be tolerated.’
Before Morgan had apologized, Punchline Magazine founder Dylan P. Gadino noted (Warning: lots of profanity at that link) that this wasn’t the entertainer’s first anti-gay outing and wrote that from a freedom-of-standup-speech perspective, he could do without an apology. Instead he preferred that Morgan — whose act he called ‘generally ... not at all funny’ — take the opportunity to ‘just get off the stand-up stage for a while and stop leaning on his television credits. Most importantly, maybe he’ll just shut ... up.’
Was Tracy Morgan’s apology enough to earn him forgiveness? If not, what would work? Post your opinion in comments.
[Updated, 6:03 p.m. June 10: Statements from Tina Fey and NBC’s Bob Greenblatt, received shortly after this post went live, have been added.]
— Christie D’Zurilla and Matt Donnelly