Tracy Morgan Returns to Nashville to Apologize for Anti-Gay Rant

Comedian back in Nashville to make amends, as some say he's going overboard.

June 20, 2011, 1:57 PM

June 21, 2011— -- Tracy Morgan returned to Nashville Tuesday morning to deliver a personal apology for his notorious performance earlier this month that was widely condemned for its anti-gay remarks.

"I want to apologize to my friends, and my family and my fans and everyone in every community who were offended with this," the "30 Rock" star said. "I didn't know. I didn't mean it… I don't have a hateful bone in my body."

"To err is human, to forgive is divine. ... Thank you everybody for forgiving me," he concluded without taking questions.

Kevin Rogers, the audience member who first reported Morgan's remarks via Facebook, accepted the comedian's apology.

"Tracy was sincere and spoke from his heart today," Rogers said. "The best thing that has come from this is a national conversation that anti-gay violence is unacceptable and that homophobia is outdated."

Since Morgan's June 3rd performance, he has teamed up with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, met with homeless gay teens and a mom who lost her child to anti-gay violence, agreed to participate in an anti-bullying PSA and called homophobia "a sickness."

This apology marathon has prompted some of his fellow comedians to question whether Morgan hasn't apologized enough already.

"Tracy Morgan's gone overboard," Joy Behar, "The View" co-host, said on Twitter last week. "First he apologized and did a PSA. Now he supports gay marriage. What's next, a quiet weekend with Barney Frank?"

Behar -- herself, a big supporter of gay rights -- may be joking about a meeting with Rep. Frank, but Carl Siciliano, the director of the Ali Forney Center for homeless gay youth in New York City, told "I don't think there can be too much trying to make up for it. I think it was wrong and disgusting and cruel."

"As far as I'm concerned, it's between Tracy Morgan and his conscience to figure out the right thing to do," he said. "The appropriate response has to emerge from the conscience and heart of Tracy Morgan."

Siciliano said during the hour that Morgan met with two teens and mother Elke Kennedy, whose son Sean was a victim of anti-gay violence, he appeared sincere, listening attentively and relating some of his own experiences to theirs.

As soon as the meeting was over, however, Morgan began to cry.

"There were tears pouring down his face," Siciliano said. "I don't know what prompted it, but my impression was that they were tears of shame. To be confronted with the brutal realities of what he was talking about, he felt very remorseful and ashamed."

Kennedy told that Morgan shared with her that the Nashville show was the first time anyone had ever walked out during one of his performances. "He also said his son had a very disappointed look on his face backstage," she said. "He first had to apologize to his son, as soon as he got off the stage."

The South Carolina mom shared with Morgan how her 20-year-old son, Sean, was killed in 2007 during an anti-gay hate crime. His attacker called him a gay slur and punched him so hard that he separated his brain from his brainstem. Kennedy started Sean's Last Wish to lobby for hate-crimes and anti-bullying legislation in her homestate.

Kennedy, who accompanied Morgan to the press conference in Nashville, believes her story, the conversations with the gay teens and this entire experience have had a profound impact on Morgan.

"He gets a lot of credit for stepping up to the plate, taking the brunt of all this negative press," she said. "He's willing to change and make a difference."

In fact, it was Morgan who reached out to GLAAD, which later organized the meeting with Kennedy and members of the Ali Forney Center, GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro said.

"It was on his own accord that he contacted us," Ferraro said. "It really does appear he wanted to use this (incident) as a way to send positive messages out there."

In Nashville, Morgan was also scheduled to hold a private meeting with gay rights activists.

"Returning to Tennessee and apologizing to those he offended is an important step in showing that Tracy truly understands the weight of his words," GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios said on the group's website. "In a state that continues to put anti-gay laws on the books, it's now more important than ever that we let Tennesseans know that homophobia has no place on or off the stage."

The online outcry against Morgan came immediately following his stand-up show June 3 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Rogers, who is gay, wrote on his Facebook page about Morgan's over-the-top comments. In a post, titled "Why I No Longer 'Like' Tracy Morgan, he wrote: "I figured at some point the gay jokes would fly, and I'm well prepared for a good ribbing of straight gay humor. I have very thick skin when it comes to humor; I can dish and I can take.

"What I can't take is when Mr. Morgan took it upon himself to mention about how he feels all this gay s**t was crazy and that women are a gift from God and that 'Born this Way' is bulls**t, gay is a choice, and the reason he knows this is exactly because 'God don't make no mistakes.' Morgan's raunchy lewd statements also included how he'd stab his son to death if he said he was gay."

His remarks were roundly condemned by GLAAD and other gay rights' groups; NBC president Bob Greenblatt, who said his comments "will not be tolerated"; and "30 Rock" creator Tina Fey, who found the routine "disturbing to me at a time when homophobic hate crimes continue to be a life-threatening issue."

Morgan quickly issued an apology.

"I want to apologize to my fans and the gay and lesbian community for my choice of words at my recent stand-up act in Nashville. I'm not a hateful person and don't condone any kind of violence against others," he said in a statement. "While I am an equal opportunity jokester, and my friends know what is in my heart, even in a comedy club this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context."

But he didn't stop there.

He bared his soul to rap impressario Russell Simmons, telling him in an interview posted online that his "unfiltered" style of comedy sometimes results in him saying "stupid" stuff.

"The truth is if I had a gay son, I would love him just as much as if he was straight," Morgan said. "I might have to try to love even more because I know of the difficulty that he would have in society."

He told Simmons his "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."

Then he came out as a supporter of gay marriage.

Last Friday, he met with teens at New York City's Ali Forney Center, the nation's largest organization serving homeless gay and transgender youth.

Siciliano, the director, said in all of his years of working with kids who have been cast out by their families, Morgan's visit was a first.

"I've never seen anyone say I'm sorry and accept responsibility for their homophobia," he said. "It takes a strong person to apologize. Irregardless of what motivated it, I did appreciate it."

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