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Isaiah Washington Speaks His Mind, Laments His Firing to Newsweek

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It's a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles, and Isaiah Washington is on the set of the independent film The Least of These, Newsweek reports.

Isaiah Washington plays a priest in the movie, and he's dressed in full-on black on black with a sliver of white at his collar.

He greets his guests with a gentle smile and an extended hand. Sitting in his small trailer filled with the scent of myrrh incense, he seems at peace.

Washington, IsaiahUntil he starts talking.

Isaiah Washington can't stop himself from doing what he's been doing a lot lately: explaining away a situation that already cost him a beloved job - and could ultimately cost him much more.

Last fall, Washington, by his own admission, picked a fight with Patrick Dempsey, one his co-stars on the ABC hospital drama Grey's Anatomy.

Fighting with a co-worker is never smart, but Washington took it further by using an offensive term to refer to a gay cast member, T.R. Knight, during the altercation.

"Patrick and I had a philosophical disagreement that got out of hand and that I regret a great deal," Isaiah Washington says.

"I said a lot of negative things that were never reported, but there was one word that caught everyone's attention, particularly someone who wasn't even in the room with us. It was a fight between two men that shouldn't have happened. But someone heard the booming voice of a black man and got really scared and that was the beginning of the end for me. I see that now, but I didn't then."

But that's not the end of the tale.

When the cast was celebrating at the Golden Globes in January, a reporter asked about the altercation, and about Washington's anti-gay comment. Washington took the mic to defend himself â€" and used the slur again. Once may have been a slip of the tongue, but twice? The public got angry.

Earlier this month, ABC did not offer Washington a new contract for the show's fourth season, which begins filming this summer.

Washington has expressed bitterness about the situation, especially since he did everything the network asked to atone for his mistakes.


"I apologized and showed my remorse for what I said and for the pain I caused anyone," says Washington.

"If a black man can't get forgiveness in this country, when so many other people like Robert Downey Jr. and the governor of California get second and third chances ... I think that says a lot about race and where we stand."

ABC asked Washington to go to rehab to deal with his alleged homophobia, which he did; he says he even paid half the fee.

"I thought them sending me meant they actually wanted me to succeed and come out on the other end," he says. Yet Washington now says that his counseling - or "homophobia reprogramming" - wasn't exactly what it seemed.

"There is no rehab for homophobia â€" that was just some crap being put out by the network," he says.

"I went into an executive counseling program which many people in this industry know about and go to. They knew what the program was but chose to call it what they wanted to fit an agenda. More importantly, I volunteered for it because I wanted to understand my fight with Patrick and how it got out of hand like that. I wanted to know what I could do to avoid it happening again."

ABC declined to comment.

Shortly after the second incident in January, cast member T.R. Knight appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show and said he felt he had no choice but to admit he was gay after Washington's fight on set.

Washington has said that Knight fueled the flames of the situation to advance his own career. No cast member has spoken to the media since Washington's firing.

Washington is no stranger to anger.

He has somewhat of a reputation in the film industry for lashing out at others while working and for also speaking his mind with no fear of consequences. A few years back, he had a confrontation with Tracey Edmonds, an African-American producer of the Showtime program "Soul Food."

Washington chalks up those previous incidents to an artist's temperament. "I have a mind of my own and I do speak it when I feel it's right," he says. "In this business that's considered being difficult and hard to deal with. A lot of actors face this and it does hurt you with work and in the future jobs. It's a price you pay though for doing the projects you want and making things turn out the way you want. I have an opinion and that should be valued by my employer."

Washington's use of the "F" word seems surprising, given that he portrayed a gay character in Spike Lee's 1996 Get On the Bus â€" and wrote an essay condemning homophobia in the black community a few years back.

One thing that's also been lost with so much focus on Washington is the sad reality of homophobia in the black community. From rap music to Eddie Murphy jokes, insensitivity to homosexuals seems to be a mainstay of African-American culture.

"Growing up in the South, I wasn't exposed to as many different lifestyles and personalities as I could have been. That's always a problem, because the more you're exposed, clearly the more you know and understand," Washington says.

"My mother had several cross-dressing friends who she sometimes referred to with names I'd never use, but she didn't know any better. There was no hate, just lack of awareness."

Washington has spent untold sums of money tracing his roots back to the small nation of Sierra Leone, where he is currently funding the building of a five-room school for village children. That sort of work might seem to contrast with his harsh comments. But if Washington is conflicted, he doesn't see it that way.

"People who know me know what's really in my heart," said Washington. "That is what's hurt me so much with all this. I was doing what I'm doing in Africa for years â€" before Angelina and Bono. But I've worked at homeless shelters for years and given money to make sure people knew they didn't have to be hungry or the street. I have shared my blessings, but all that changed when this happened and it's truly heartbreaking for me."

The actor, who is traveling to Ghana along with Jamie Foxx, Chris Tucker and Forest Whitaker to recognize the end of slavery there 200 years ago next week, also feels that race played a part in his public flogging and eventual firing.

"Well, it didn't help me on the set that I was a black man who wasn't a mush-mouth Negro walking around with his head in his hands all the time. I didn't speak like I'd just left the plantation and that can be a problem for people sometime," he says.

"I had a person in human resources tell me after this thing played out that 'some people' were afraid of me around the studio. I asked her why, because I'm a 6-foot-1, black man with dark skin and who doesn't go around saying ‘Yessah, massa sir' and ‘No sir, massa' to everyone? It's nuts when your presence alone can just scare people, and that made me a prime candidate to take the heat in a dysfunctional family."

In conclusion, does Isaiah Washington have any regrets now that a chapter of his life is now closed?

"My mistake was believing that I would get the support from my network and all of my cast mates across the board. My mistake was believing I could correct a wrong with honesty and sincerity. My mistake was thinking black people get second chances," he says. "I was wrong on all fronts.

Isaiah Washington Speaks His Mind, Laments His Firing to Newsweek

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

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WOW I can't believe there are so many homophobic people in this world. Did the memo that it's 2007 get missed? Gay people are not immoral. Do straight people get to choose who they're attracted to? I think not. I highly doubt that the majority of the gay communinity would choose a lifestyle that is veiwed negatively by so many if the had another option. And why don't they they deserve rights. They're HUMAN! I know racisim still exists in this word, and that's sad, but I just don't believe it has anything to do with this decision, and no I don't know exactly what happened that day, but IW seems to make himself look worse the more he speaks. He should just focus on hus future and let this die!

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Changing the Subject: There is a Mer/Der petition someone has started to keep our favorite couple together if everyone wants to sign it! http://www.petitiononline.com/... sign it.

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White people can't stand when any one calls racism because they don't believe it exsits since they don't experience it.
Race probably did have something to do with IW's firing but his attitude didn't help anything. Anyway, I liked seeing a strong black man who didn't act like a clown on tv, a rare sight. so, my choice is unless he is replaced with someone equally as strong, I will read a book when grey is on.

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It is a shame that so many people resort to name calling when this is a place to respond to the issues. The issue at hand is that IW was fired for his actions. Would a white actor have been fired for these same actions? I doubt it. Lindsey Lohan has just been arrested for her third accident in two years in which she was found under the influence of alcohol, and with cocaine in the car. Somehow, she still gets work. Jim Carey has been known to be a very difficult actor to work with and yet his skills made directors overlook it. Human beings are not perfect and although certain mistakes should not be made, people still make them. The reality is that Black people just don't get as many chances as White people do. Black guys fight in the NBA or and they all become thugs and hooligans. White guys fight in the NHL and MLB and its considered normal. There's a 2-minute penalty for a White man, while a Black man's whole career is questioned. Something needs to change. If all people are to be considered equal, then there should be some consistency.
On another note, it is quite sad that people are so ignorant that being Black is compared to being gay. They are both "minorities", but it is totally different. First of all, it is not even proven that people are born gay. It is a lifestyle. You cannot find out if someone is gay from DNA testing. Gay people should still be treated with respect, but don't expect Black people to understand how it feels just because we are both "minorities".

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It makes me sick how we as a naton founded under god cater to such immoral people as the gay community. I personally don't think they should have rights at all. It will be the down fall of America to allow these people to adopt children and recognize them as a family. Why is everyone so scared to say what they feel? But that's another story. I think IW was great for the show although I don't agree with his view on race.

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This is getting pathetic. Isaiah is just making up every excuse that pops into his head to make the public feel sympathetic towards his situation. I am shocked that someone with such talent would stoop to an all-time low, accusing racism as to why ABC will not forgive him. He really has to face the facts and realize the only reason ABC fired him was because of the use of such an outrageous profanity towards a castmate.

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I hate to admit it, but until this moment I did not know this had happened.
I have loved Grey's from day 1 and I have always liked Burke's character, but only on the show. I was shocked to hear the news and wasn't sure of a reaction, but after reading the article above I am sad to read that the race card is being thrown yet again when something happens to a black person. I make no apologies, but I do not and will not use African American since that makes absolutely NO sense to me and I am of that race.
Back to my point: To blame race is insane and if anyone pays attention to the media much how many times does Jesse Jackson or the Rev. Al Sharpton show up at ANY possible race event? Hell, this past week Al Sharpton got involved in Paris Hilton's jail stint since it was an injustice to black people. I hope that Grey's can survive this since the cast, being so diverse is what really mixed the show up to be different than any other show on TV. I am not disappointed in Grey's for this decision, but rather for the direction they have the show heading.
For those of us that are such Mer/Der fans they are tearing them apart, Chris didn't get married and I hope that they do not opt for the lesbian story line as was mentioned for season 2. I do not see why every show HAS to include a gay character to make it politically correct. Again, I am sad to see the cast change, but now that I have read the details I am not sad, but upset with IW for not doing the right thing, using the "F" word more than once and now blaming everyone except himself.... that's what my children do!! Does ACCOUNTIBILITY mean anything anymore? OH, that's right, no one is responsible for anything anymore! I almost forgot!

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It's growing increasingly harder to respect IW. There is a pont when we have to hold our heads up with class and dignity and sometimes....just walk away. He needs to learn how to take things like a man. Pulling the race card is as dispicable as using the term faggot in reference to another person. Shonda Rhimes is a black woman; two factors that have made it fairly difficult up until recent times to be accepted and respected in Hollywood. There seems to be no evidence to the contrary that she's not both highly successful and deeply respected by the industry and her peers. I've always stated that while i was saddened to see such a talented actor let go from the show, I also agreed with it. His statements of late are proof that it was perhaps the right decision.

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faggot is not a color! it's a strong word for punk! i respect TR as a person. i do not respect his sexual orientation! i respect homosexuals as people. i don't have to respect what they do in their bedrooms.

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White privilege is so blinding!
Look at this way: Knight and Washington are in similar situations now. In a room full of people, Knight and Washington will feel the same pressure; some people in the room will feel uncomfortable by the fact that Washington is Black, and others will feel uncomfortable that Knight is gay. Both Knight and Washington will choose to be careful how they express themselves, and they will (and probably have their entire lives) try to avoid "stepping on toes." They both are who they are, and it's sickening that either would have to feel uncomfortable about one simple part of who they are. Now, who is at more fault? Also, what about Ann Coulter? She has used the "F" word on national television at least once, but because she is an upper-class, white woman, how much grief does she get? People laughed when she said it, and she didn't do it out of anger. Ann Coulter probably suffers from an actual case of homophobia, but Washington gets fired because he's not a rich white woman?

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