Four years ago, Grey’s Anatomy star Isaiah Washington was fired from the hit ABC series after using a homophobic slur during an off-camera altercation with co-star Patrick Dempsey. This week, in the wake of 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan’s anti-gay comedy routine during a stand-up show, everyone from NBC Programming Chief Robert Greenblatt and 30 Rock creator/executive producer Tina Fey to Morgan’s openly gay co-star Cheyenne Jackson have issued sternly-worded responses denouncing Morgan’s ill-conceived jokes. But even though Greenblatt went so far as to say “this kind of behavior will not be tolerated,” there’s been no talk so far about replacing Morgan on the Emmy winning comedy series.
Many readers on EW.com think the comedian should be fired for his homophobic jokes, which included saying that “the gays needed to quit being p—ies and not be whining about something as insignificant as bullying” and adding that if his son was gay he would “pull out a knife and stab that little [n—–] to death.” While a key insider at NBC says there are no plans to drop Morgan, it’s doubtful that the show would struggle without him if the network chose to make a drastic move. It would be one thing if Fey or star Alec Baldwin were to leave the single-camera comedy, but Morgan’s presence as Tracy Jordan isn’t as vital to the action when other supporting players like Jane Krakowski (Jenna) and Jack McBrayer (Kenneth) provide plenty of comedic conflict for Fey’s Liz Lemon. The writers demonstrated last season that they could write a good arc without Morgan in the mix, as they did when the actor took a leave for kidney replacement surgery. That said, 30 Rock has won three best comedy Emmys — due in no small part to the contributions of Morgan. (He also earned an Emmy nod in 2009).
Clearly, the actor appreciates the severity of his actions and continues to express remorse for what he said at a Tennessee show. On top of the statement he released Friday (“this clearly went too far and was not funny in any context”), Morgan met with GLAAD Monday in New York and released another statement, saying, “I know how bad bullying can hurt. I was bullied when I was a kid. I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean it. I never want to use my comedy to hurt anyone.” He also plans to return to Tennessee to meet with those who were offended by his routine and will shoot a PSA for GLAAD.
For its part, GLAAD does not want to see Morgan lose his job. “Our goal has always been that he sends out a positive message to his fans, parents, and gay and lesbian youth. He has committed to doing that and turning this into a positive experience,” said GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro. “We are not asking for him to be fired from NBC.”