Earlier this week, Tracy Morgan announced that he would be working on GLAAD’s upcoming “Amplify Your Voice” anti-bullying public service campaign, in an effort to make amends for his recent anti-gay remarks at a comedy show in Nashville. But are a GLAAD partnership and a public apology enough to help the “30 Rock” star restore his image, particularly in the eyes of gay fans?
“He’s also doing the full-on mea culpa: public apology in the place of transgression, public service announcement, the meeting with GLBT youth,” AfterElton.com editor Brent Hartinger told MTV News. “And it’s worth noting that he did it all fast, which counts a lot.”
Former celebrity publicist and PopEater columnist Rob Shuter agreed that the speed with which Morgan addressed the issue may be key to redeeming himself publicly.
“Whatever crisis a celebrity has, the best way to resolve it is quickly,” Shuter said. “People forget when you move on and stop talking about it. Tina Fey had to respond, and she did it within 24 hours; within the first phase of the story. That was a big favor. This will pan out best for him if he just gets it all out of the way. I think people believe he’s sorry, and that’s a big thing too.”
If the public perceives that Morgan’s apology is sincere, that will no doubt help his cause. Hartinger noted that when former “Grey’s Anatomy” star Isaiah Washington attempted to apologize for a similar, anti-gay gaffe, he did so while portraying himself as the wronged individual, saying his words had been taken out of context. Because of this, Washington’s mea culpa fell on deaf ears. Had he simply owned up to making a mistake, as Morgan has, the public would have been more apt to forgive him.
His work with GLAAD and the fact that Morgan works alongside plenty of LGBT people at “30 Rock,” including co-star Cheyenne Jackson, have also revealed that Morgan leads what Hartinger calls a “bifurcated life.” “[He is] comfortable with out gay people in Hollywood and on the set of ’30 Rock,’ but also appeals and panders to an audience that’s comfortable with, even eager for, open homophobia.
“He really needs to reconcile these two sides to his professional life,” Hartinger continued. “It’s not enough to continue to be cool around the gay folks at ’30 Rock’ — he was already doing that, so that’s not really an indication of anything sincere. But if he were to take his pro-gay ’30 Rock’ sensibility and somehow incorporate it into his blue-collar life and audience, that would mean a lot to me and would be an indication that his words are actually sincere.”
Morgan also benefits from having a vehicle in “30 Rock” to remind people why he is famous in the first place and divert attention away from his comments — or, given the meta nature of the show, address them in a creative way. Shuter said this is often a problem for celebrities: Had Morgan been fired from “30 Rock,” he would have been stranded in his scandal with nowhere to turn.
“That’s why the crisis becomes the legacy, because they have nowhere to go to recover,” he observed. “So, as long as he has ’30 Rock,’ he’ll have something to move on to.”
Moving on is key in crisis management, and Morgan has the opportunity to do just that. His willingness to team with GLAAD to address the controversy head on proves that he knows he did something wrong. He now has to prove to his fans that the homophobic vitriol he spouted from a Nashville stage was just a misguided and unfortunate attempt to shock, and then he’d be smart to lie low and let “30 Rock” do his talking for him for a while.