Isaiah Washington Update: Despite Apologies, Actor's Job Not Safe Yet

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Unfortunately, the storm of controversy swirling around Isaiah Washington and the gay slur he made about his co-star, T.R. Knight, is not only failing to dissipate, it's generating more and more attention with each passing day.

Isaiah Washington as Dr. Preston Burke
ABC released a statement after his now infamous Golden Globe meltdown saying the network has "a long-standing policy to create and maintain respectful workplaces" and wouldn't tolerate actions like Washington's. The network did not say, however, what action it would take, if any, and recent reports hinted that his job was safe.

The week following the Golden Globe debacle saw the embattled actor release a strong statement of apology, and meet with leaders of the gay community to make amends. By and large, his efforts were well received by the people he met with.

But despite his public apologies, the actor's job may be in jeopardy. Ratings for the show didn't dip much last week, but an executive at ABC's parent company, Disney, acknowledged the possibility of Washington being axed. The executive told the New York Times that his behavior may run afoul of Disney's discrimination policy.

This incident has provoked strong feelings for and against Washington's removal. Many observers, such as Maureen Ryan of the Chicago Tribune, say it's hypocritical for Washington to remain on the set and that he should be removed for the good of the show. With an unabashedly multicultural cast, its reputation as a beacon of diversity will be forever tarnished if this behavior is not addressed by Shonda Rhimes and the higher-ups.

Others, such as Jasmyne Cannick, a social commentator, activist and member of the National Association of Black Journalists (she is also a lesbian) recently launched a petition to keep Washington on the show. You can read her justification for starting the pro-Isaiah campaign by following the link, and check out the petition to save his job here.

How it all plays out remains to be seen, but according to E! Online sleuth Kristin Veitch, Washington is definitely not out of the woods yet. Executives at ABC are contemplating ways to sack the troubled star. She writes on her official blog:

"I just received word from a highly placed source within the Touchstone/ABC family that ABC and Disney executives are currently considering the option of firing Isaiah Washington from Grey's Anatomy, effective immediately, without having him appear in any kind of farewell episode.

According to this reliable source, if the network does follow through with this option, the producers are likely to run a full-screen announcement at the beginning of the first Burke-less episode announcing that Isaiah Washington is no longer part of the show.

I'm also told by various sources that the loss of Preston Burke is not an easy task for Grey's writing staff to deal with, given that he has a major storyline (including a life-changing event) coming in the next few episodes that air during February sweeps. Those episodes have already been shot."

Steve Marsi is the Managing Editor of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Google+ or email him here.


You can call Black people "niggers" and you can call women "bitches" and "hos" but if you call a homosexual a "faggot" you are crazy and need psychological counseling? You people are sick. You need counseling. But then, I guess you can't serve God and money.


and more importantly,
who will fill his spot if he is fired? I mean, i know the main characters are Mer/Der. But the most popular couple in this show is Burke and Cristina. If they replace him with another actor, will this actor share the same tension, drama, chemistry with Sandra Oh? I think if IW is fired, Sandra Oh will get hurt too..because you just can't blindly put 2 actors who have no chemistry together...


God, why did IW have to say those stupid things at Golden Globe. Why couldn't he just be quiet about it... But firing him WILL hurt the show..I guess if they want the show to drop, then that is the right thing to do. I mean firing him, will hurt everybody who is involved in the show, because the show is just NOT the same without him... I mean who actually watches ER when George Clooney left?


Hey Rose....i have missed you....i am going to go with whatever happens...i am not saying he should or shouldn't be fired....the show would not be the same without him...but if he is fired it will not be the decision of shondra or the is way over their heads now...i believe it will be disney's decision so i find it unfair to say that people will not watch the show if he is fired or he isn't fired...there are other cast members and shondra is a genious for coming up with this why make the others suffer..


I'm right there with you Rose. I have also signed the petition to keep him on the show. GA would not be the same. I am also disappointed that TR decided to air this stuff on Ellen instead of discussing with IW privately. From the article, it appears the "wedding" may be Burktina, i.e., life changing events for Dr. Burke!


Stephanie Bates, speaking as a true homophobe.


Isaiah Washington did not utter an insult at the GG, he uttered a tactless attempt at correction. The media were just as responsible, for making a mountain out of this incident and bringing it up relentlessly. GA would never be GA without Burke, and especially without Burktina. Absolutely no one could replace this actor and it would be an insult to GA fans to try. I have signed the petition and hope it keeps him on the show.


If any one needs to be fired it is Knight for causing division among the cast. Knight should have talk with Washington or took his problem (Washington's comments) to producers. To go on Ellen's show to air the cast dirty laundry is very cowardly way to handle any situation. Knight behavior is so child like that for ABC to even consider firing Washington would be an injustice to the show and the fans. Keep Washington.


Carol, I wonder if you'll be saying the same thing if it was PD involved. Forgive and forget. He's already trying his best.


I posted last week that IW should be fired. As much as I like his acting, it doesn't make any difference what we as fans, want or what we think. What happens next is, obviously, not under our control. Disney has an obligation to uphold it's discrimination policy (IF in fact IW is found to have violated it). Disney has to treat every employee the same, the fame of IW or the ratings of GA makes no difference. It is a shame IW did this--to himself and the show. Though I don't know what was said by Shonda Rimes the FIRST time this happened last October, if she had said 'If anything like this happens again, you'll be fired', this second time probably wouldn't have happened, IW would have known better than to say anything. IF IW is fired, the ratings will probably go down for a while. We as fans should expect that. The key is to get a very good actor to fill the spot. Then there will be an adjustment period. I have no idea who would be available for GA if it came to this. I doubt Disney wants to kill one of its most popular shows, so I think Disney will be careful about casting for the empty spot (if there is one).


Grey's Anatomy Quotes

Did you say it? 'I love you. I don't ever want to live without you. You changed my life.' Did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work toward it, but every now and then, look around; Drink it in 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow."

Meredith (closing voiceover)

Burke was- He took something from me. He took little pieces of me, little pieces over time, so small I didn't even notice, you know? He wanted me to be something I wasn't, and I made myself into what he wanted. One day I was me Cristina Yang, and then suddenly I was lying for him, and jeopardizing my career, and agreeing to be married and wearing a ring, and being a bride. Until I was standing there in a wedding dress with no eyebrows, and I wasn't Cristina Yang anymore. And even then, I would've married him. I would have. I lost myself for a long time. And now that I'm finally me again, I can't. I love you. I love you more than I loved Burke. I love you. And that scares the crap out of me because when you asked me to ignore Teddy's page, you took a piece of me, and I let you. And that will never happen again.