After his on-stage homophobic tirade “went viral” last week, Tracy Morgan issued a lukewarm apology that included such garbage chestnuts as “my friends and family know what is in my heart” and “I am an equal opportunity offender.” Yuck to both of those statements. But after being publicly admonished all weekend by Tina Fey and NBC and Chris Rock (eventually), etc, Tracy Morgan appears to be taking genuine steps towards making things right. From the Hollywood Reporter:

On the heels of his anti-gay tirade and subsequent apology, Tracy Morgan has told GLAAD president Jarrett Barrios that he will team up with the group to meet with LGBT youth and participate in an anti-bullying PSA.

Additionally, Morgan plans to return to Tennessee next week to apologize to audience members offended by his comments.

Right? That’s kind of a lot, doing community outreach and a PSA and apologizing directly to the people who were at the show in question. Not bad. He also issued a much more thoughtful and personal reaction to his own behavior:

“I know how bad bullying can hurt,” he said. “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.”

Make no mistake: he should never have said the things he said in the first place. Actually, wait, no, that’s not quite the right way to phrase it. People can say whatever they want. But it is a bummer that he said what he said in the first place, and it suggests a deep-rooted belief system either in the hatred he espoused or at the very least in the acceptability of expressing and making “light” of hatred like that. The Videogum “Tracy Morgan Promise” remains a defunct remnant of the past. He still kind of sucks now. But, whether coerced by his publicist or not, he still seems to be taking the extra step to make things right, and even if that has as much to do with salvaging his own career as it does with making society a more tolerant place, it’s still something.

So there’s that.

Comments (46)
  1. Tracy should really leave the sniping homophobic commentary to the internet, where it belongs.

  2. I wonder what will happen to 30 rock. They kind of already closed the “Tracy is gone” window at the end of last season.

  3. Mistaken Trey.

  4. The more I think about it the more I realize this just isn’t enough to make up for his initial garbage. Does he have the right to say whatever comes to mind in the moment? Sure. Even if what comes to mind is highly specific, evocative, crowd-inciting, poisonous garbage? Of course. But it really seems as if he had no idea there would be a backlash. IN 2011.

    You’re a public figure. What you say is amplified and part of a cultural forum much larger than any dimestore homophobic. And when you achieve that status you should also understand that the fans you accrue enjoy and appreciate you because on some level they feel they share a part of themselves with you. That you have the same sensibilities or interests or senses of humor. So when you vomit forth anti-gay bullshit and the audience CHEERS in response then what the hell does that tell you? You loathe homophobia, you loathe bullying? Why do you help them to have life? Why are you feeding an anti-gay hunger in this nation that’s just BEGGING to be validated?

    One last question: If Michael Richards can essentially be removed from the cultural sphere for his psychotic racial tirade then why the hell should Morgan so easily regain all of his credit? It just seems like he’s very smoothly transitioning out of this and back into his comfortable lifestyle with a few kowtows to the GLBT community. I really don’t see how that makes any sense.

    • I think the Michael Richards show was what removed Michael Richards from the cultural sphere.

    • His return trip to Tennessee is apparently for the GLAAD press conference opposing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. If somehow he can bring attention and help bring an end to that garbage legislature, that’s a pretty good apology. He fucked up and it’s pretty unforgivable, but that goddamn bill is the apocalypse, so I welcome him back if it will help.

      • For anyone unfamiliar with the Don’t Say Gay bill, it makes it a misdemeanor (I believe) for a teacher or official in elementary or middle school to include any material that discusses homosexuality.

        “Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, no public elementary or middle school shall provide any instruction or material that discusses sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.”

        Sorry, I know i’m getting off topic. I despise what Tracy Morgan said, but I despise this bill more (not that they are mutually exclusive, maybe they can both be thrown away forever). I’m just hopeful that a small good thing can come out of such a dumb dumb terrible… thing.

        • I agree with you 100% that the bill is abhorrent and a sign of the political discourse becoming more shrill and hysterical than it has ever been in the past. It needs as much attention as it can get if it’s to be struck down. And that Morgan is willing to be a part of that fight is admirable. That is to say that action taken on its own is admirable. But I still find it incredibly bizarre how Morgan could do such a neck-snapping 180. I would have found it just as strange if Richards had gone out of his way to fight for the causes of the African American community after his rabid screed. I mean if Tina Fey, who works closely with him and claims to know him so well, is completely taken aback by what he said then I feel it’s pretty clear something else was going on that night other than ‘equal opportunity insult comedy’ or whatever.

        • That bill’s still going through? Back in April George Takei (aka The Best) offered to lend his name as a substitute, e.g. “It’s okay to be Takei.” This led (sorry for the navel-gazing flashback humor) to My Greatest Tweet Ever:

          “@GeorgeTakei Make sure they know TAKEI is the modern term, preferable to 60′s term SULUSEXUAL (too clinical and pathologizing) #thatssotakei”

    • Also Isaiah Washington. I think what Tracy Morgan said is much worse than saying the word ‘fag’ in its colloquial sense. (especially a few years ago when that happened and there hadn’t been widespread efforts to stop using that word)

      • If you read what happened, the Isaiah Washington situation was infinitely worse. He said it directly to a fellow gay cast member in anger, and then, once the wounds were slowly starting to heal via PR magic, he made it a point to say it again. In public. At a freaking awards show.

        • but didn’t he not know TR was gay? I’m not excusing him, but it’s not gay bashing (not that this is equal to bashing, but I can’t think of the correct word to use here) if you think the person’s straight.

    • Does anyone else look at this and think O HAI COCAINE? It doesn’t excuse anything obviously, but in 2011 a guy who’s job is to be on stage and be scrutinized publicly decides to state, not even in the larger context of a joke that could POSSIBLY be taken as “ironic” or “pushing boundaries” that he would STAB* YOUR HYPOTHETICALLY EFFEMINATE SON is just patently implausible without drugs involved.

      *to DEATH, because putting your son on dialysis just teaches him he can get away with anything. #goodparentingstartswithstabbing

    • This whole scenario just proved to me that I’m never going to be able to like a celebrity. I think it is just impossible to stay a decent, grounded human being when you are surrounded by people who indulge your every whim because of your wealth/fame.

    • It didn’t stop Michael Richards from being in the Seinfeld reunion episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, though, and not-so-subtly referencing his antics.

  5. I’m looking forward to the Michael Richards & Tracy Morgan buddy cop vehicle, “Sorry Dicks”.

  6. doing a PSA is a BS make good. remember kelsey grammer making one for drunk driving? He was not sorry about drunk driving. Actually meeting with someone who was personally hurt by his comments however does seem like a genuine outreach.
    In a weird way I’m glad hes being held accountable here since it means there is definitely a line about LBGT that even people we like can’t cross, as opposed to just being perpetually pissed off at Jef Dunham for EVERYTHING. Also, if videogum can forgive 30 Rock for having Jeff Dunham on then we can probably get back to being okay with Tracy Morgan.

  7. A friend of mine asked me why I was OK with Alec Baldwin in the show after his rant to his daughter. I guess my rationale was that he was yelling at his daughter and not women in general. Not that it makes it better, it might be worse in some ways, but that was my opinion. The reason this is harder for me to stomach is that Tracy seemed to generalize and was deliberate about it. It wasn’t a thing where he lost his cool, this was part of his act. You can also argue that Tracy is misguided and comes from a rougher background than Baldwin. That’s also true, but it doesn’t make it any better nor does it make me care for him as an entertainer. I don’t know anyone who took his words in a serious manner. But in the end of the day he is a role model for the way he rose from poverty. I hope for his sake and his sake only that he’s serious about making amends.

    As far as 30 Rock goes, I think it’s over. This was a favorite show of mine, but I just could not get into it this season. Maybe it was Tina Fey’s limited writing this season, maybe it was Tracy being gone but whatever it was it just seemed very tired. There’s no way a show about showbiz can ignore this and unfortunately this is their weakness. As great as 30 rock is their weakness is very special episodes. They just don’t have the soft touch that shows like The Office, Parks and Rec and Community have. The Joan of Snark episode was great but that was laced with social commentary that wouldn’t fit in a Tracy apology show. Like my grandma used to say: TL;DR.

    • I disagree. One bad season does not destroy a show. Admittedly, I find myself laughing less at it, but I’m still invested enough to hang on.

      • I thought 30 Rock was really good last season! I don’t remember a single episode that I didn’t enjoy!

        also more on topic, I agree with Gabe. Sure, this could be just a calculated, cynical career move, or whatever, but it is nice to see these various (seemingly sincere, but maybe I’m just naive) statements he’s made as opposed to him staying silent on the issue, or merely sticking to his first apology and leaving it at that. There are a lot of homophobic boneheads supporting his original statements on the internets, and I’m glad he didn’t give them any reason to keep using him as some sort of heroic emblem of playing-by-his-own-rules or equal opportunity humor or other such nonsense. Obviously this doesn’t take back what he said, and he shouldn’t have been saying these things, but if having done so, and the reaction it sparked, helps him reflect, learn, and grow (and possibly also helps others do the same), and brings attention to important gay rights issues, then I think that’s the best possible thing that could come out of this whole debacle.

    • I can see where you’re coming from with the Baldwin angle. He’s known for being tough to work with and has on more than one occasion said some pretty bizarre, nasty things. However, I think it’s clear calling your daughter a pig is radically different from taking some form of stage in the public forum and doing a bit about how women are scheming whores (Example Town, USA over here). I’m thinking Morgan kept going with the gay material because it was getting a response from the crowd and he felt the need to ramp it up, go even further. Which is pathetic. Don’t feed that mentality, don’t lower yourself and validate the prejudice of your fans. Homophobic people aren’t smart enough to understand that deep down in your heart you actually love people. All they have to go on is what is happening right there in the moment.

      Ugh. This really has touched a nerve with me I guess (Duh Town, USA over here).

      And yeah, ’30 Rock’ was very tired this past season. Tracy’s crazy, Jenna’s crazy, Liz is crazy, blah, blah, snore, snore. Very run of the mill almost from start to finish.

    • I think the Baldwin thing is completely different. That was his personal family business (not that it was a healthy family dynamic or anything) that was not intended for a public audience. Also, he didn’t endorse verbal child abuse, Tracy Morgan endorsed violence against homosexuals.

      Seriously though, poor Tina Fey. I love how in both of these scenarios, we’ve all turned to her like you better explain this, you’re reasonable, what is this?

  8. I don’t know. I think appearing in a PSA, making a trip to Nashville, and issuing a slightly more thoughtful apology is the absolute least he could do in light of the extremely bizarre and fucked up things he said. I think he’s just doing whatever his people are telling him to so he can keep his job on 30 rock and any semblance of a career in tact.

    • Yes and yes. Very well said. If he had cared about this at all he’d have been getting involved in the past.

    • I’m wondering what exactly you would like to see him do. Apart from build a time machine and go back and undo what he did? I mean I’m cynical too but, I like what I’m seeing.What exactly would work for you?

      • I don’t know what he should do, I’m not a homophobe harboring sadistic fantasies about killing my own gay children. It just doesn’t seem genuine at all to me. As my man Warren Buffet say, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and only 5 minutes to lose it.”

        Case in point – this

  9. I prefer honest bigotry to self-interested back-pedaling. I like when I can SEE my haterz.

    I mean the fact that this is coming back to “went way too far with a joke!” is stomach-turning, disingenuous bullshit. And you don’t go from “I WOULD STAB THAT LITTLE N***A IN THE HEART” to “And now I am doing an anti-bullying PSA!” in a week. Fuck that liar.

    Come back out Tracy! Hate, hater, hate.

  10. does this mean i have to apologize for saying i would stab my son to death if he turned out to be a tracy morgan?

  11. I don’t know guys… we all make horrible mistakes in life, just some of us much more publicly than others. Maybe Tracy Morgan has deep-seated homophobia, but it could be a situation like this that causes him to re-examine what the thought was a normal and acceptable response.

    He could turn around and horrify me again, but for now I would like to hope that this is the start of a process of change.

    • I would hope so as well. And I’d like to think I’m not so radically cynical that my ‘this is being done not so much out of actual regret as it is a need to save face’ reaction isn’t some reactionary rejection of him from top to bottom. … But then I remember the ‘stab the little n—– in the heart’ bit and I feel fine in my evaluation of the situation. You can’t take that back with a 30-second anti-bullying ad.

      And here’s a question, will the ad be about anti-gay bullying or just bullying in general? If it’s the latter then fuck that noise. Something tells me they’ll avoid the gay angle altogether and just deliver some bullshit ‘don’t be mean to, you know, anyone’ message. Screw that.

  12. People are only going to forgive Tracy because they like him. If these statements were made from someone who we are indifferent to or even dislike, we would see their attempts for redemption to be drenched in vanity. Really, I have no control over it, so it doesn’t matter. And I’m not so cold that people can be forgiven if they are contrite AND also demonstrate by doing not saying things in the right direction. But if Mel Gibson can still make movies or if Charlie Sheen can still make money, Tracy Morgan will be just fine.

    And everything in the world is wrong with that.

  13. There’s the Fresh Air with Terry Gross Tracy Morgan I know.

  14. I guess no matter how much he apologizes, I see it all as a PR move. That’s not to say he’s not genuinely rethinking his behavior. But I personally don’t think that the kind of feelings that would have provoked him to write a set like that just go away because you’re “caught.” I think he should have to take some sort of class–on tolerance, on LBGT issues, on the power of words. Sometimes, I think we have to make people literally learn a lesson, and I don’t just mean celebrities.

    • I hear you, but taking a class wouldn’t make him learn a lesson. It would probably just reinforce the bullshit notion in the minds of conservatives that “political correctness” (not stabbing your son?) is a highfalutin’ academic exercise, something for a classroom that’s inapplicable to “the real world.”

      Actually meeting people who deal with anti-gay bullying and violence, plus possibly seeing some result/feedback from his PSA: that’s something that could actually have an effect on him. Could even be one of those “teachable moments” if he truly had a Road to Damascus moment, but I’m not holding my breath.

  15. I’m not letting him off the hook but I am liking what I’m seeing. I thin this is one of those things that no matter what he does some people are just going to always be angry,which they clearly have a right to do. Good on him for at least trying and I really think he’s doing more than the bare minimum since a lot of people would have just stopped with their first apology.

  16. To fuck up badly is human, to make a PSA, divine.

  17. So- he’ll help the people, the thing that happened, happened to!

  18. I don’t mean to defend Tracy Morgan’s comments too much, because he said a lot of reprehensible things that aren’t vindicated by any humor (since they weren’t funny, except maybe to homophobes). However, I believe the ‘I would stab my son’ comments which many hold to be the worst of his comments were not just about stabbing his son if he was gay, but was specifically if his son was gay and didn’t stand up to bullies. It doesn’t really help the humor much, and it doesn’t make the comment not homophobic, but it does add a little context.

    The guy definitely fucked up and should have known better, but I do think it’s possible that Morgan was doing his common schtick of a guy with somewhat crazy views, and he took it too far. It doesn’t necessarily mean he is the same as the character he portrays as himself on stage; just like Carroll O’Connor didn’t agree with the views he espoused as Archie Bunker. The analogy isn’t perfect… Bunker was clearly a fictional character and Morgan is a real person, but I think many comedians adopt a different, more extreme personality when they’re on the stage. In this case, Morgan let his go too far, maybe testing boundaries.

    Or maybe he really does hold those opinions and is a reprehensible person for it. I don’t know, but most of you don’t either. It’s up to you if his acts of contrition redeem him in your eyes, but I for one am reluctant to assume that I could gain a deep insight into a man’s moral fiber from a single stand-up performance that went awry.

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