Late last year, in the midst of all of the hubbub about Michael Richards’ racist rant at the Laugh Factory; a storm started to brew on the set of Grey’s Anatomy. Isaiah Washinton, who plays Dr. Preston Burke on the hit ABC show Grey’s Anatomy, got into a fight with co-star Patrick Dempsey, who plays Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd and used a homophobic slur towards another co-star, T.R Knight, who plays Dr. George O’Malley. This slur caused Knight, 31, to come out of the closet and reveal that he is, in fact, a homosexual male.
The chaos had seemingly died down as time passed. New episodes of the show started to air on the ABC network and ratings went through the roof, possibly because people wanted to see if the actors involved in the fight were in any scenes together, but the war of words came back with a vengeance when the show won their first Golden Globe for best television drama. Drama is indeed what occurred afterwards during the press conference.
As the reporters and photographers were asking Knight about the incident; Washington stepped up to the mic and replied, “And no, I did not call T.R a faggot.” Shonda Rhimes, the show’s creator, laughed. This incident prompted Katherine Heigl, who plays Dr. Isobel “Izzie” Stevens on the show, to tell Access Hollywood reporter Shaun Robinson, “He just needs to not speak in public. I’m not okay with it…I will throw down for that kid.”
Knight also went on the Ellen Degeneres show the next day and said that Washington had, in fact, said it during the fight that he’d had with Dempsey, contrary to what Washington had said the night before. My opinion is that even if he hadn’t said it during the fight with Dempsey, he shouldn’t have said it in front of the reporters after the Golden Globes.
Where is Shonda Rhimes during all of this? Laughing her way to the bank, because all of this controversy is just making the show more popular, pulling in more ratings and making her a lot richer. Another question I have is if Ms. Rhimes has the set under lock and key; how could this incident come out when the stars are not even allowed to spill secrets about future shows?
The mutiny within the show is growing and it is common knowledge that if T.R Knight or Patrick Dempsey would have said the “N” word to Washington, who is only one of the three African American actors on the show; they would have been possibly fired, blacklisted and humiliated for all of the world to see. So, is Isaiah Washington really being punished for what was said?
He claims to have been the spokesperson for GLAAD, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, after his portrayal of a gay man in Spike Lee’s “Get on The Bus,” and he also claims that he didn’t say anything back when this homophobic outburst was first published because he was told not to say anything because it never happened. So, why is T.R Knight saying that it did happen? Why is GLAAD now wanting to meet with Washington? What does Knight absolutely have to gain from being called a name like faggot? Back in Late December, I, an African American female, was called the “N” word and was absolutely outraged, so for Knight to not say anything at the time was courageous. Am I saying that Knight should call Washington a racial slur? No, because hate breeds hate.
The backlash of the “F” word is still raging on, with petitions to fire Washington and ABC chastising the actor for the use of the slur. But, can the Grey’s Anatomy actors mend the rift, or will Isaiah Washington lose his job? As of January 22nd; Washington has fired his longtime publicist and hired publicists that has done damage control for Tommy Lee, R. Kelly and Paula Poundstone. TV critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rob Owen, has chastised Ms. Rhimes for being non-chalant during this entire thing. The ratings are still up for the show, but when will fans of Knight begin their inevitable boycott of the show should Washington keep his job?
Update: Washington has met with the leaders of GLAAD to discuss his recent comments but according to E! Online reporter Kristin Vietch; a source within the Touchstone/ABC family has told her that the network executives are considering firing Washington and airing an announcement of his departure at the beginning of the first episode without the character of Preston Burke. This, however, will be difficult because Washington is in the middle of a major storyline, which will include a life-altering event, that is supposed to air during February sweeps. These episodes have already been shot. Meanwhile, an episode of Grey’s Anatomy has been nominated for a GLAAD media award.
Washington has announced as of January 24th that he’s in therapy to understand what caused him to use the word and Ms. Rhimes has released a statement in which she has expressed her sympathies and dismay over the use of the word and her appreciation for the fans that have stuck with the show. Stay tuned for more news about this controversy.