Following a weekend when Tracy Morgan’s anti-gay tirade prompted very tersely worded responses from both NBC’s (openly gay) president Bob Greenblatt and 30 Rock’s Tina Fey, as well as people like Chris Rock, the comedian is now doing everything he can to elaborate on the initial swift apology he made on Friday. While that statement had the somewhat-generic ring of a publicist’s crafting, Morgan’s more recent apologies have gotten much more personal, beginning with an interview he gave to Russell Simmons on his GlobalGrind website:
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.
Of all the sicknesses, there is probably none more abusive than homophobia. My heart is committed to giving everyone the same rights that I deserve for myself. I don't care if you love the same sex as long as you have the ability to love someone. Also, you should have the right no matter who you are to protect and serve our country. I am deeply sorry for the comments I made. What I am most sad about is the comments I made about kids and bullying. I would never want any young person to think that I wasn't on their side and if any young person thinks they can bully a young gay kid, come see me at 30 Rock. On the corner, I would be happy to meet you. Or Brooklyn if you can't make it into Manhattan.
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.
While Morgan is thinking of that funny shit, he’s also extended an offer to attend any gay marriage rallies in New York this week, and next week he’ll travel back to Tennessee (where this all blew up in the first place) to attend a GLAAD-sponsored press conference protesting the passage of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill that outlaws the discussion of homosexuality before the ninth grade in public schools. He’ll also tape a PSA soon and, according to E!, this week Morgan has agreed to meet with gay teenagers who have been bullied, as well as family members of those who have been killed as a result of anti-gay violence.
In that E! interview, Morgan brought up his own history with being bullied, as well as father’s death from AIDS and how it introduced him to homophobia at a young age:
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.
So there you have it—a lot of very public contrition and immediate actions to follow it up, which is a rarity for a lot of comedians who say controversial things, let alone Tracy Morgan. True, you could probably take the cynical route and argue that Morgan is just saying the stuff his employers want to hear, of course. But on the other hand, at least he is saying and doing something about it, right? I rarely like to end these things with, “What do you guys think?” but really, what do you guys think? Is this enough penance?