Earlier this week, Queerty published a story about Fred Phelps’ granddaughters, Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper, announcing that they had left Westboro Baptist Church and were currently in Montreal speaking with universities and attending Jewish cultural festivals. The next day we published a follow-up story about the response the article received from many of our readers. It seemed they were upset that we were holding the women accountable for their past actions which were, in all honestly, quite repulsive.
As the author of the two articles, I’m concerned about how quickly the public seems to have embraced these two women who, until only a year ago, were still members of WBC and actively inflicting tremendous pain upon countless people. As I meditated on their story, I couldn’t help but think of other people who have caused far less pain to the LGBT community, but who have suffered far greater backlash.
Here is a list of a few “reformed homophobes” — people, like Megan and Grace, who have acted out or spoken against the LGBT community — and the repercussions they faced because of their actions.
Crime: Using the word “faggot” twice in public.
Punishment: Essentially blacklisted from Hollywood.
In 2005, Isaiah Washington was the star of one of ABC’s highest rated primetime dramas, Grey’s Anatomy. He nabbed two NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. In the summer of 2006, People magazine listed him as one of “50 Beautiful People” and TV Guide named him “TV’s Sexiest Men”
Then in October 2006 a rumor spread that Washington had called Grey’s costar T.R. Knight a “faggot” during an on-set altercation. After the story broke, Knight came out publicly and Washington issued an apology for his “unfortunate use of words during the recent incident on-set.” The story more or less went away until a backstage interview at the 2007 Golden Globes when Washington repeated the word, this time saying: “I never called T.R. a faggot.”
Afterwards, Washington was fired from Grey’s Anatomy and few acting opportunities came his way. He participated in the NOH8 campaign and spoke in favor of LGBT people on multiple occasions, but he continues to struggle finding work to this day, even though more than half a decade has passed. In a 2013 interview with the Huffington Post, he revealed: “After the incident at the Golden Globes, everything just fell apart. I lost everything. I couldn’t afford to have an agent. I couldn’t afford to have a publicist. I couldn’t afford to continue.”
He also told BET recently: “At the time, I was the largest African-American in the public eye. I was on the most successful show in America at the time. It wasn’t hard to latch the story on me and have it go viral around the world.”
Crime: Likening gay people to puppies.
To Britney Jean’s credit, calling her a “homophobe” is definitely too harsh. She has a long history of supporting the LGBT community, which we appreciate. But she has also made some rather eyebrow-raising statements, albeit inadvertently, about the gay community.
Earlier this month, she compared gay people to puppies when she said in a radio interview: “A lot of my hairstylists and my beauty team that I work with are gay so I hang out with gays a lot and I just think they’re adorable and hilarious.”
Most people brushed the comments off, saying it was just “Britney being Britney.” Had it been some other celebrity who made those comments, however, would they have gotten off so easily?
Crime: Saying he would “stab” his gay son.
Punishment: Publicly condemned by the HRC, GLADD, NBC, Tina Fey, and the media, and required to attend sensitivity counseling.
In 2011, 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan made headlines for a joke he cracked during one of his standup routines. At a show in Nashville, he told the audience if his son were gay, he’d “better talk to me like a man and not in a gay voice or I’ll pull out a knife and stab that little n**ger to death.”
Interestingly, the fact that Morgan joked about child abuse or used the N-word didn’t bother people nearly as much as the jab he made at the LGBT community.
The venue where Morgan was performing quickly released a statement distancing itself from the comedian:
The Ryman Auditorium regrets that people were offended by statements made by Tracy Morgan during his June 3 appearance. The Ryman does not control the content presented by people appearing on its stage, nor does it endorse any of the views of, or statements made by, such persons.
Shortly after that, Morgan released an apology:
I want to apologize to my fans and the gay & 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. 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.
The HRC responded to Morgan’s apology by saying it was “not enough,” and called for NBC to “condemn” Morgan for his “atrocious comments.” NBC did condemn Morgan’s comments, as did Tina Fey, and pretty much everyone else.
After apologizing, Morgan went on to release an “It Gets Better” video as well as serve as GLAAD’s Queer Youth spokesperson. Today, he seems to have weathered the storm and is still working, though there are plenty of folks who have not forgiven him, as evidenced by the comments section of any post written about the guy.
Crime: Calling gay men horny, disgusting, and AIDS-ridden.
Punishment: Some temporary bad press.
In September 2012, an audio clip of Paris Hilton leaked to the media in which she could be heard saying: “Gay guys are the horniest people in the world. They’re disgusting. Dude, most of them probably have AIDS… I would be so scared if I were a gay guy. You’ll like, die of AIDS.”
Shortly thereafter, her rep released the following defense to Radar Online:
“Paris Hilton’s comments were to express that it is dangerous for anyone to have unprotected sex that could lead to a life threatening disease. The conversation became heated, after a close gay friend told her in a cab ride, a story about a gay man who has AIDS and is knowingly having unprotected sex.”
When that didn’t prove sufficient enough, Hilton released an apology to GLAAD in which she felt “absolutely horrible” and was sorry “from the bottom of her heart.”
And, evidently, that was enough. Paris didn’t have to make an “It Gets Better” video or pose for the NOH8 campaign or volunteer with gay youth. She was forgiven and the story went away.
Crime: Using the word “homo” at a press conference.
Punishment: Fined $75,000 by the NBA.
NBA player Roy Hibbert made headlines earlier this year after using a gay slur during a press conference.
The Indiana Pacers player used the word “homo” while discussing his defense against Miami Heat player LeBron James. The next morning, Hibbert released the following apology:
“I am apologizing for insensitive remarks made during the postgame press conference after our victory over Miami Saturday night. They were disrespectful and offensive and not a reflection of my personal views. I used a slang term that is not appropriate in any setting, private or public, and the language I used definitely has no place in a public forum, especially over live television. I apologize to those who I have offended, to our fans and to the Pacers’ organization.”
Despite the apology, which the NBA acknowledged as “sincere,” Hibbert was still fined $75,000. He also took a beating in the press and on Twitter.
Crime: Making repeated antigay and transphobic remarks on his podcast.
Punishment: Some temporary bad press.
In 2011, Adam Carolla launched into anti-LGBT tirade on a podcast when he asked: “When did we start giving a shit about these [transgender] people?” He also claimed that the acronym LGBT should instead be YUCK.
GLAAD responded to Carolla’s comments by saying: “Given his history of anti-gay and racist comments, networks and advertisers should know what their money is supporting if they choose to hire Adam Carolla. The gross intolerance that he tries to pass off as comedy should not have a place on our airwaves.”
Carolla responded by saying: “I’m sorry my comments were hurtful. I’m a comedian, not a politician.”
But GLAAD refused to accept the apology, calling it “empty” and urging advertisers to stop supporting him.
Aside from some harsh criticisms in the media, the incident had very little impact on Carolla’s career or his ability to find advertisers.
Crime: Calling a referee a “fucking faggot.”
Punishment: Fined $100,000 by the NBA.
In 2011, during a heated game against the San Antonio Spurs, Lakers player Kobe Bryant called a referee a “fucking faggot” after being whistled for a technical foul. The remark was caught on camera.
LGBT groups immediately latched onto the story and Bryant issued an apology the next morning:
“What I said last night should not be taken literally. My actions were out of frustration during the heat of the game, period. The words expressed do not reflect my feelings towards the gay and lesbian communities and were not meant to offend anyone.”
That afternoon, Bryant did an interview with ESPN 710′s “Mason & Ireland” in which he apologized a second time:
“The comment that I made, even though it wasn’t meant in the way it was perceived to be, is nonetheless wrong, so it’s important to own that. The concern that I have is for those that follow what I say and are inspired by how I play or look to me as a role model or whatever it is, for them not to take what is said as a message of hate or a license to degrade or embarrass or tease. That’s something I don’t want to see happen. It’s important for me to talk about that issue because it’s OK to be who you are, and I don’t want this issue to be a part of something or to magnify something that shouldn’t be.”
Despite the apologies, NBA commissioner David Stern called Bryant’s comment on the court “offensive and inexcuseable” then slapped him with a $100,000 fine.
Two years later, there are still people who have not forgotten Bryant’s slip of the tongue. Earlier this year, the basketball player called someone out on Twitter for using the word “gay” as an insult, tweeting:
“Just letting you know @PacSmoove @pookeo9 that using “your gay” as a way to put someone down ain’t ok! #notcool delete that out ur vocab.”
Someone else then chose to bring up Bryant’s infamous run-in with the referee, tweeting: “Come on Kobe…you called a ref a FAGGOT. Don’t preach, just win.”
Crime: Actively opposing LGBT rights throughout his 12-year tenure in the U.S. Senate.
Before landing his current job as U.S. Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel had a long history of being antigay.
In June 1999, President Bill Clinton named Jim Hormel Ambassador to Luxembourg. Hormel was the first openly gay person to be appointed to an ambassadorship. Hagel, then Senator of Nebraska, vehemently opposed the nomination, saying: “[Ambassadors] are representing our lifestyle, our values, our standards. And I think it is an inhibiting factor to be gay — openly aggressively gay like Mr. Hormel — to do an effective job.”
He was also a vocal supporter of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, telling the New York Times in 1999: “The U.S. armed forces aren’t some social experiment.”
In fact, over the course of his entire 12-year career in the Senate, Hagel maintained a virtually 0% voting record from the HRC.
During his confirmation hearing for U.S. Secretary of Defense, Hagel’s history of antigay sentiment did come up, but ultimately had no impact on his getting the nomination. He was confirmed the 24th U.S. Secretary of Defense on February 26, 2013, and took office the very next day.
Megan and Grace Phelps-Roper
Crime: Picketing U.S. soldiers’ funerals, waving “God Hates Fags” signs outside of LGBT events, and actively spreading a message of hatred and intolerance for years.