The Isaiah Washington Incident: What Really Happened?
Actor Isaiah Washington appeared on a pre-recorded edition of the "Larry King LIVE" show on Monday night to finally explain what happened on October 9, 2006 on the set of ABC's blockbuster TV series "Grey's Anatomy" when he used the homophobic slur "f*****" that ultimately cost him his job.
Before I get to that, here's a little recap of what we had known about the incident from the media.
On October 11, 2006, The National Enquirer ran a story about the incident that occurred two days earlier claiming that Isaiah Washington, who was upset over co-star T.R. Knight being late on the set, verbally attacked him, causing Patrick Dempsey to step in and defend Knight. Washington allegedly shoved Dempsey and shot back: "I am not your little f***** like T.R."
Although, the tabloid initially withheld T.R. Knight's name from the report, the gay actor came out in People Magazine 10 days later. The studio tried to put out the fire caused by the leak of the incident to the media instructing actors like Katherine Heigl and Sara Ramirez who appeared on talk shows to state that there were no problems on the set.
Oprah Winfrey did a "Grey's Anatomy" special in November getting the three actors involved to sit together with her in one of the segments and talk about the incident. The actors, of course, under strict guidelines from Disney which owns the ABC studio, never spoke openly about it.
"I think we've all really learned a lot from this experience and we're much tighter because of it," said Patrick Dempsey at the time.
Flash forward to January 15, 2007 and the Golden Globes press room where the cast got together to celebrate the success of their drama. When one of the reporters asked series creator Shonda Rhimes about the original incident, Isaiah Washington was faster and he stepped up to her microphone and foolishly said: "I never called T.R. Knight a f*****. Never happened."
This is the moment that people who support Isaiah Washington fail to understand - all he did was to say he did not do what everyone is accusing him of doing, so what is so wrong about that? What they don't get is that using the slur that causes so much outrage when the wounds remain open is a very inconsiderate thing to do. Especially when T.R. Knight claims the denial is a lie.
Immediately after the incident, Katherine Heigl who is said to be a good friend of T.R. Knight, said to the crew of Extra magazine: "Isaiah Washington should not be allowed to speak publicly" objecting to his repeat use of the homophobic slur. And that's how all hell broke loose.
The next day, T.R. Knight who had been scheduled to tape an appearance on the Ellen Degeneres show, used the opportunity to counter Washington's denial by explicitly saying: "He called me a f*****." The day after, the program aired in the US causing outrage of those who supported T.R. Knight.
The day after that, ABC issued a statement condemning Isaiah's second use of the slur and saying they would be dealing with the situation (they ignored the original incident).
Isaiah fired his publicist and hired Howard Bragman, who is specialized in damage control. By the end of that week it was announced Isaiah would meet with gay groups to discuss his irresponsible use of the slur and seek counseling in a rehab program.
Following his meeting with gay groups Washington agreed to do a pro-gay Public Service Announcement sponsored by ABC. However, it remained unclear whether the actor would get to keep his job or be forced to leave, but as time passed by the fans believed they would be seeing his character Preston Burke next year.
Ultimately though, ABC instructed the series creator Shonda Rhimes to inform Isaiah Washington on June 7, 2007 he would not be returning to the set of "Grey's Anatomy" the following month. That sparked the actor's month-long anger management media tour accusing ABC of racism, T.R. Knight of conspiring to have him fired and saying ABC should have fired T.R. instead.
On Monday night on "Larry King LIVE", Isaiah seemed to have backpedaled on the ABC racism suggestions and instead focused on accusing T.R. Knight of lying about the original incident to improve his own career. So what happened in October, according to Isaiah?
Early reports indicated, there had been long-simmering tensions on the set due to Isaiah Washington's perfectionism and meticulous approach to work. He could not stand laid back attitude to work and that apparently caused what some would describe as "being difficult to work with."
On the King show, Washington revealed that there had been tensions between Dempsey and himself because of his co-star's poor time management. Allegedly, they were both late on the set one day, because Dempsey needed to get coffee while they were traveling together to a filming location by car keeping the crew waiting for 3 hours.
Even worse, Isaiah said that filming of exterior scenes (for the camping episode "Where the Boys Are") got even more problematic when Dempsey had to leave early causing unnecessary irritating changes in the filming schedule for Washington who had to film a scene with Dempsey's double and stay longer on the set.
This caused Washington a lot of anger and he finally exploded on October 9 when Dempsey was once again late for about 20 minutes. At this point it appeared they would have to wait even longer as Ellen Pompeo was also not present so Washington suggested they film their lines without her.
After Dempsey insisted that they wait for Pompeo Washington shouted: "I don't need Ellen. I can act!" This of course, insulted Dempsey as Washington became very personal and the brawl ensued.
"He [Dempsey] became unhinged, face-to-face, spittle to spittle, in my face -- first. I did not start it. And I'm asking him why is he screaming at me, why are we doing this? Get out of my face. Several times. Several times. And he just becomes irate.
But I'm not understanding why am I being berated to this point in front of our crew, particularly after what we experienced in Seattle. You know, I mean, I think you owe me on apology and I'm being berated.
And by that time I pushed him out of my face and it just took off from there and I began to say a lot of -- a lot of things that I'm not really proud of -- but all referring to myself and how I felt I was being treated."
Washington then admits to using the B-word and the P-word and the F-word, but not in reference to T.R. Knight. He said he was not going to have Dempsey treat him like f*****.
At this point, Washington explained that when he used the F-word he never even thought about it in terms of sexual orientation, but rather as a reference to one being weak.
Now, this is the point when Katherine Heigl's suggestion that this man should not be allowed to speak publicly comes to mind and I mean that for his own good. It appears he may not necessarily have the worst intentions, but he always puts things in the worst possible manner.
Perhaps he really wanted to clear the air on January 15 (the move he says he wishes to take back more than anything), but he simply chose a bad way to do so. And even now - how on Earth does the fact that by using the F-word he meant to indicate one's weakness make things any better?
Washington also said he does not want to file a lawsuit against ABC, but his lawyers are investigating all options.
He broke down when he spoke of Sandra Oh sending him an email of support from her holiday in Spain.
Finally, he said he has several interesting projects lined up, including some exciting series television work.
As the interview concluded, Larry King asked Isaiah Washington what he has learned from the experience and he said "just be the actor, don't worry about the production issues, and at times of great stress - keep your mouth shut."
Hopefully, Isaiah Washington will stick to that advice effective immediately.