June 13, 2011
New York, N.Y. -- The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the nation's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organization, today spoke with Tracy Morgan following anti-gay remarks made during a recent performance in Nashville, Tenn. He also spoke out in support of LGBT people, marriage equality and against anti-LGBT bullying on Global Grind.com.
During a call with GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios and members of GLAAD's staff today, Morgan committed to meet this week in New York City with LGBT youth from the Ali Forney Center who have been hurt or left homeless by parental rejection as well as family members who have lost children to anti-gay violence. Those he will meet include Elke Kennedy, the founder of Sean's Last Wish. Elke's son Sean was killed by anti-gay violence in 2007 at the age of 20 in South Carolina, when another man called him a f*ggot and punched him so hard it broke his facial bones and separated his brain from his brain stem. Since that day, Elke has traveled more than 140,000 miles to speak in states across the country about hate violence and bullying.
Morgan also committed to participate in GLAAD's upcoming 'Amplify Your Voice' PSA campaign to combat anti-LGBT bullying.
Together with GLAAD and the Tennessee Equality Project, Morgan has said he will return to Tennessee next week where he will apologize to audience members who were offended by his remarks. Currently, legislation in Tennessee is pending that would ban educators from speaking about gay people in the classroom.
Morgan stated to GLAAD: "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."
"Meeting with gay and transgender youth shunned by their parents and families who have lost loved ones to anti-gay violence is an important first step. These meetings will help Tracy better understand that no one should be treated differently or subjected to violence," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios.
Russell Simmons also spoke out: "In the years that I have known Tracy, I've only ever known him to want to make people happy. This experience might be a blessing. The amount of pain he caused has resulted in a new sensitivity for him that he can now use to bridge communities. I'm proud to be a straight figure who spends time advocating for the community and for marriage equality. I'm happy to have another ally in Tracy. People like Tracy Morgan to speak out against homophobia, and I hope more leaders within the black community and everywhere speak out in support for marriage equality like he has."
Russell Simmons received the GLAAD Media Award this year for Excellence in Media.
GLAAD's upcoming 'Amplify Your Voice' PSA campaign will feature Russell Simmons, Rev. Al Sharpton, Kristin Chenoweth, Chaz Bono, Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Vinny Guadagnino and Tori Spelling, among others. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has partnered with GLAAD to produce the campaign, and NBCUniversal has pledged national airtime. Famed producer Jonathan Murray serves as creative director. On Friday, Barrios called for NBC to condemn anti-gay violence during an interview with CNN and via GLAADBlog.org. Barrios also addressed the dangers posed by jokes about anti-gay violence in an op-ed published on CNN.com.
After speaking with GLAAD, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt issued the following statement: "I speak for NBC and myself personally when I say we do not condone hate or violence of any kind and I am pleased to see Tracy Morgan apologizing for recent homophobic remarks in his standup appearance," Greenblatt said. "We will always recognize an artist's freedom to express him or herself, but not when reckless things are said no matter what the context. Unfortunately, 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."
Tina Fey also weighed in with TMZ.com: "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. 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 co-workers 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."
30 Rock received the GLAAD Media Award this year for Outstanding Television -- Individual Episode.
More information on Morgan's original remarks and the request to apologize from GLAAD, HRC, Truth Wins Out, bloggers and others are available here: http://glaadblog.org/2011/06/10/glaad-calls-on-nbc-to-condemn-tracy-morgan-tirade/. During that show, Morgan reportedly claimed that being gay is a choice, that being gay is something that kids learn from the media, and that victims of anti-gay bullying are simply 'whining.' Spectators also allege that Morgan went so far as to say that he would stab his own son if he turned out to be gay.