Tracy Morgan offers apology for offensive remarks

Tracy Morgan sang a different tune Tuesday when his tour of forgiveness wound its way back to Nashville. At a morning press announcement presented in the Nashville Convention Center, he apologized for anti-gay comments made during his June 3 performance at Ryman Auditorium.

Morgan offended audience members who were horrified by his homophobic and violent rant against gays. The 30 Rock star told the crowd that if his son were gay, he would "pull out a knife and stab" him.

Concert attendee Kevin Rogers wrote a Facebook post expressing his disappointment about Morgan's performance. When his online essay went viral, the comedian's venomous remarks became a national story.

At Tuesday's press announcement, a full schedule of speakers was slated to address the incident, but the program was shortened to a five-minute event where Morgan offered a somber mea culpa for his outburst.

"From the bottom of my heart, I apologize to anyone I offended," he said. "I don't have a hateful bone in my body...I don't see gay or straight...I only see human beings."

"At this point in my life, I have an opportunity to make a difference," he added.

Morgan will demonstrate his commitment with a series of volunteer endeavors: he's planned a public service announcement with GLAAD (Gay & Lesbians Alliance Against Defamation) and pledges to meet regularly with LGBT youth.

"Tracy has expressed a willingness to help us out," said Herndon Graddick, Senior Director of Programs at GLAAD. "He's trying to do what he can, and we're optimistic he's going to become a champion for our cause. We definitely want to educate people about what we do."

"Entertainers set a standard (in society), and I think it's important that now he's shown a genuine interest in being involved," he adds.

Morgan's lapse in judgment has now thrust Rogers, a 36-year-old photographer and entrepreneur from Whites Creek, Tenn., into the spotlight. The two men embraced at the end of their announcement, but Rogers admits it was an awkward experience being with the entertainer.

"It was a strange moment sitting up there with him," he said. "And to think that all of this started with me. I felt what he was saying I think Tracy was very sincere. I think that was very clear."

Rogers is the latest in a long line of Tennessee citizens turned unlikely activists. Among them:

  • Carol Ann Stutte and partner Laura Stutte, who were on a visit to Nashville last September when their home was burned to the ground in an alleged hate crime. They returned to find the word "queers" had been spray painted on the side of their garage.
  • Lisa Howe, former Belmont women's soccer coach, who was fired last December just days after informing her team that her same-sex partner was expecting their first child. .
  • Belmont University music business major Robbie Maris, who began a Facebook page for a gay and lesbian student support group at the private institution last year. After the group had made repeated requests to the administration, school administrators finally relented and recognized Bridge Builders as an official student group last February.

You can add Katie Cleek and Cynthia Wagner to the list, too. The couple, who celebrate their first anniversary Friday, also saw Morgan's show and have since performed interviews with numerous media outlets to share their experience.

"I still don't understand it at all because there was no joke," Wagner said. "The whole time I thought he was getting to a point, but it completely failed. (We did this) because I wanted him to know he was being offensive."

For Cleek, a private conversation she had with Morgan before the media announcement brought closure to the experience.

"Today went better than I expected," she said. "When we met with him privately, I really felt his apology had a lot of power. Whether he believes the words he was saying or not, I feel he was being sincere (in his comments on stage)."

Tennessee Equality Project Vice President Wes Aull expressed hope that the incident will lead to even more discussion about LGBT issues both locally and nationally.

"It means a lot for him to come show his support," Aull said. "This is a real teachable moment. We really appreciate his honest and heartfelt response and his openness to speak out. Hopefully this (incident) will raise the discourse about (the LGBT community)."

 Video of today's Tracy Morgan press announcement:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/v/LG56TKa-fsE?version=3&hl=en_US expand=1]

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