For Shonda Rhimes, There is No Escape From Controversy Over Washington

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Technically, actor Isaiah Washington isn't Shonda Rhimes' problem anymore, and yet the hypocrisy over the controversial star continues, according to an opinion piece in Utah's Deseret News.

Washington's contract on Grey's Anatomy was not renewed; he has a deal at NBC that begins with a five-episode arc on the new Bionic Woman.

Shonda Rhimes, the creator/executive producer of Grey's Anatomy, and its forthcoming spinoff, Private Practice, is moving on.

But some of her own words are coming back to haunt her.

Shonda Rhimes Photo
In the midst of the controversy over Isaiah Washington's slur - which, regardless of its true intentions, was widely understood as being aimed at gay castmate T.R. Knight - Shonda Rhimes kept her mouth shut. For the most part.

Except when she then tried to turn an incident of homophobia (or, at the very least, great political incorrectness and insensitivity) into an incident of racism aimed at Isaiah Washington.

Responding to rumors almost no one had heard until she refuted them, Rhimes came out swinging at reports that Washington would be dumped from his role as Dr. Preston Burke and replaced with former ER co-star Eriq LaSalle.

She called the rumors "not only ridiculous but offensive that we would consider replacing a member of our family."

"And also the (idea) that one black man was interchangeable with another seemed disturbing to me."

In addition to the ridiculousness of that statement �" when an actor is replaced on any TV show for any reason, it's generally with an actor of the same race �" there's a huge amount of irony in that Rhimes recast one of the roles on Private Practice after the pilot episode aired as part of a
Grey's Anatomy telecast.

Merrin Dungey is out in favor of Audra McDonald �" one black actor replacing another.

Predictably, Rhimes maintained those were entirely different circumstances. On Private Practice, the change came after one episode; on Grey's Anatomy, a recasting of Washington's character would have come in the third season.

"I think that Preston Burke is a character that audiences have come to know and love for three seasons and has really been sort of well known. I think it's very different," she said.

And Shonda Rhimes has a point. Or she would have a point, were it not for her earlier statements alleging racism. And she wasn't backing off one bit when called on her inconsistency.

"At a time in which there was suddenly some talk of, 'Let's cast this actor or that actor' and sort of naming a bunch of black actors �" as if the only thing that was important about the character of Preston Burke was his race," she said. "That was disturbing to me."

Again, that's ludicrous. It's not racism to suggest that, if an actor on a hit TV show is being recast (for any reason), an obvious pool of replacements would be actors of the same race.

If Sandra Oh quit Grey's Anatomy tomorrow, would it be racist to speculate that an Asian-American actress would brought on to replace her? Of course not.

The fact is that Shonda Rhimes' attempts to turn homophobia around and make it racism offended a lot of people. Did she understand that?

"I do now," she said.

But, she insisted, unfounded rumors of LaSalle replacing Washington were "as disturbing as the entire incident that happened for T.R. and Isaiah."

To make this clear, unfounded rumors were "as disturbing" to her as actual events involving Washington's homophobic slurs.

What makes that even harder to believe is that Rhimes didn't ever come out with any sort of statement decrying the homophobia �" she issued a press statement decrying the racism that wasn't really racism.

Doesn't sound much like she considered the former "as disturbing" as the latter, does it?

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


She's entirely right. The public response was as racist as Isaiah's comment was homophobic. That doesn't mean Washington should have been kicked off though. It's ridiculous to associate an artist's work with their personality. Before Dr. Burke's character left the show, it was interesting, well written, and pushed some really important boundaries. It was art. Now, it's another stupid doctor show that relies on gimmicks to push each new, boring episode through.


I WAS a fan of the show until IW got kicked off. It is funny how the world is okay for certain people to make a negative comment and say I'm sorry and nothing happens but others get fired for doing the same thing.


Hey Hafsa I 2nd that MerDer belong together they love need & want each other. We all know it & they do too. When they get back together i also think they´ll be stronger & happier then ever.


Thanks Kathy for the link. Shonda knows what she is doing, i dont think lexie and derek will ever hook up, not in a million years, besides lexie for starters is way too young for derek, it woundnt make any sence.The way i see it, merder will be stronger this season(maybe not right away).


Here is a link to GA News ......Shonda bringing Fun back into GA. It was such a HUGE relief to hear that Lexie would be with Alex and NOT with Derek………and it made me feel so much better about Mer/Der… why are all the spoiler/comments ending with…..Lexie will not be with Derek right away or not in the immediate future or not right now….WHAT IS UP WITH THAT??? Who wants to see Mer/Der finally get back together AGAIN and then know that it is just temporary because Lexie will end up with Derek!!The thoughts of that makes ME FEEL REALLY SICK!! If there is any truth to that.....I just don't understand why Shonda would even consider that knowing how the fans feel about Mer/Der!!


I think the whole IW issue is getting old, but you can't not see the sheer hypocrisy that is Shonda Rhimes. She may have come up with (now 2) amazing television programs, but the woman is downright nuts. Any prominent black figure in the entertainment business knows better than to use the race card, but she still used it anyway (as did IW). PLEASE. I'm sick and tired of this paranoia black people harbour inside them because of shit that happened in the 19th century. Most people don't give a shit if your skin is black. It's time to let it go already.


i would appreciate it if specific facts could be represented accurately. i.e. Sandra Oh is Asian-Canadian, not Asian-American. i believe there is a difference, having been on both sides of the border.


okay, now i'm getting tired of the whole thng. greys insider should move on and quit bringing up IW name. he's no longer apart of this show. he's moved on, and so have i. i'll be watching bionic woman and everything else my man is on.




Grey's Anatomy Quotes

There's a reason I said I'd be happy alone. It wasn't 'cause I thought I'd be happy alone. It was because I thought if I loved someone and then it fell apart, I might not make it. It's easier to be alone, because what if you learn that you need love and you don't have it? What if you like it and lean on it? What if you shape your life around it and then it falls apart? Can you even survive that kind of pain? Losing love is like organ damage. It's like dying. The only difference is death ends. This? It could go on forever.


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)