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CNN Larry King Live
Interview With Isaiah Washington
Aired July 02, 2007 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Isaiah Washington -- his first TV interview since he was fired from "Grey's Anatomy" --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ISAIAH WASHINGTON, ACTOR: There's no way you're going to treat me like a "B" word or a "P" word or the "F" word.
KING: Are you sorry for what you said at the Golden Globes?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Now, finally, Isaiah Washington tells his side and reveals what you haven't heard about the on set fight with Dr. McGreevey that started it all.
Isaiah Washington is next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE Isaiah Washington, the former cast member of the hit TV series, "Grey's Anatomy". He played Dr. Preston Burke. He's an outstandingly talented individual who got himself into a lot of trouble.
And it all started with this.
On January 15th, back stage at the Golden Globes, the issue boils up after he has reportedly said something that was not seen on camera.
Here's what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS, JANUARY 15TH)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seriously? Seriously?
WASHINGTON: No I did not call T.R. A faggot. It never happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: OK, Isaiah, let's go back.
What happened off camera that we did not see?
WASHINGTON: At this -- on January 15th?
KING: No, previously. WASHINGTON: On the set October 9th or here at the Golden Globes?
KING: On the set October 9th.
WASHINGTON: Oh, OK.
On the set of October 9th.
KING: Right. That's the beginning of this, right?
WASHINGTON: Absolutely. That's the beginning of it.
WASHINGTON: Actually, it started a little bit earlier, before October 9th. And although I love Patrick Dempsey, I just have to clear the air and tell the truth of what happened.
We were shooting on location in Seattle. And it was very difficult to get from the hotel areas all the way out to where we were shooting. So we had about an hour and-a-half drive. And there were a couple of incidents where Patrick was being late a couple of times. And there was one particular time where -- I like to try to get to the set in enough time to prepare myself, get my breakfast and have an opportunity to go and give the best performance that I can give, particularly understanding the time restraints.
I felt, in my leadership, that particular morning, because not only was Patrick 45 minutes late, he asked for the Teamster to pull over to get some coffee. And he asked me to join him. And at that moment, I failed -- I failed him as a cast mate and I failed him as a leader because I didn't say that that's not the right thing to do.
KING: What you should have said was, we're late, let's go.
WASHINGTON: We're late, let's go.
KING: Do you see yourself as a leader?
WASHINGTON: I did. I did.
WASHINGTON: I'm the second oldest. So, maybe my hero complex got me in trouble many times with that, but I felt there was a responsibility that being a journeyman, that I looked at things like that and be respectful of production value.
KING: So what did you do?
WASHINGTON: So I didn't say anything. I took my flashlight out and I got in the car. But I was seething. And it was cumulative. And I kicked myself for it. And, of course, I'm very well aware that once we got to the set, we were almost three hours late, not knowing that he had an engagement that he had to get to for that weekend. So he had to fly out.
So there was a lot of stress. And I felt bad. I felt bad for the producers. I felt bad for all of the Teamsters, all of the guys that had been busting their chops to get us where we are. And I didn't -- I didn't know what to say. I was embarrassed. Because now you have your two titans, your two leaders, that are looking like they're taking advantage of -- of something. And I didn't -- I didn't feel good about that.
KING: (INAUDIBLE) you and Patrick?
WASHINGTON: Yes. So --
KING: So what did you do?
WASHINGTON: I remained quiet. And because he had to leave, there were some schedule changes, so we had to do another scene that I wasn't really prepared for. So I was put off by that. And then he had to leave. And I ended up in the river with one of his stand-ins for the rest of the -- the remainder of the day, which was fine. Which was fine. But it kept gnawing at me that I didn't correct it or at least pull him aside and say, look, man, especially with the behavioral (ph) issues that I'm hearing about, but this can't happen between you and I because we don't --
KING: Now we go to the next time.
WASHINGTON: Now we're on the plane with T.R. And he shares things with me about Patrick's behavior that I probably shouldn't have listened to and that I did. But we're on the set again. And I'm standing on my mark, myself and Jim Pickens and waiting for Patrick to return. We had already shot some things with Ellen and Katie on the other side and it looked like we were having a wonderful day. It looked like we were getting everything done.
But I remember the first day D. On the radio --
KING: The assistant director?
WASHINGTON: The assistant director -- asking for Patrick. And I remember standing on my mark and I remember five minutes going by. And Jim Pickens said he could -- he could remember seeing me because it looked like my body began to shift. I mean (INAUDIBLE) to walk away --
KING: Because he's late again.
WASHINGTON: -- go back to my trailer. He's late. And I'm thinking, not again, because what happens on the road stays on the road.
KING: So you're mad?
WASHINGTON: I'm mad. I'm getting upset and I'm feeling like -- I didn't say anything then, so what am I going to say now?
Finally, 15 minutes, the radio is squawking, I don't care what Patrick is doing, get him here, let's shoot the scene, we're about to take Grace.
So I'm taking on maybe too much in terms of the production and worrying about things I shouldn't be worried about. So he finally comes in, ready to go, which is always Patrick. He's always ready to go and up. And I said it was odd because everyone has been waiting. You're late. And I mentioned it to him. And I said, well, if you were here, you know, 20 minutes ago, you would have been able to shoot the scene and been on your way by now.
And he says, "I'm not late. I'm never late."
And I was like, "What?"
We've been standing here waiting on you here for 20 minutes.
He says, so he says, "Well, whatever. Whatever." He blows me off, which was fine. And I said OK. This coverage is on us and time is ticking away. And we're waiting on Ellen for off-camera.
And I said, "Well, why are we waiting on Ellen? I don't need to wait on Ellen. We just have one line that he'll say to you and then you can go on your way."
Then he says, "Well, I need Ellen."
And I said, "Well, I don't need Ellen. I can act."
Now that was the moment that sent it into a different zone. And as we talked later after the argument, he thought I said that he could not act. And he was -- rightfully so --
KING: Well, you were implying that by saying I can act.
KING: Meaning he can't act.
KING: So why does that lead to this word?
WASHINGTON: He got un -- 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.
KING: But how did the bad word come out of that?
WASHINGTON: Well, I said several bad words, as well as he did.
KING: To him?
WASHINGTON: To him about how I was feeling. I said there's no way you're going to treat me like a "B" word or a "P" word or the "F" word. You can't treat me this way in front of our crew.
KING: So you weren't referring to him as being an F person?
WASHINGTON: Never. Never. KING: Or anybody else being one?
WASHINGTON: Never, Larry.
Never, never, never, never,
KING: You said you can't treat me like a --
KING: What was the word you used?
WASHINGTON: The "B" word was --
KING: All right. You don't want to --
WASHINGTON: -- indicative of maybe a four-legged dog --
WASHINGTON: -- or a four-legged dog. And the "P" word would be more like punk, things like that. It's just that I felt at that point there was no place of return --
KING: And the "F" word meaning he was treating you like a gay person?
WASHINGTON: No. Just, in terms of the way I meant it is that any -- the "F" word to me, at that particular time, before this took off in this other direction, in terms of sexual orientation, it meant something -- it meant, to me, someone who is being weak --
WASHINGTON: -- a person who is not being treated -- is not deserving of respect.
KING: You weren't referring to any other cast member?
WASHINGTON: No, no, no.
KING: So how did this even become anything?
WASHINGTON: Well, that's -- I think that's the -- that's the $5 million question for a lot of people is how did it become that way. I have my -- my ideas. But none of them are good. This particular thing, I remember the public relations people telling me that they killed the "F" word thing. Because before (INAUDIBLE) it came out --
KING: Yes, where did it come out, in a tabloid?
WASHINGTON: In a tabloid, apparently that next day.
KING: Did the other words come out, too?
KING: Did they refer to an argument between you and Patrick?
WASHINGTON: It just said -- no. That --
KING: It just said you said this?
WASHINGTON: No. It said that I -- that T.R. Knight was late, that --
KING: Oh, T.R. Knight was late?
WASHINGTON: T.R. -- no, they got it all wrong.
WASHINGTON: -- that T.R. Knight was late in the "National Enquirer" --
KING: And that you then accused him?
WASHINGTON: That I attacked him with the "F" word, called him a homophobic slur and that Patrick Dempsey came in with the white hat and tried to defend T.R.
KING: I got you.
WASHINGTON: -- And then I choked him, tried to choke him to death. It couldn't be further from the truth.
KING: We'll be back with more of this saga.
Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "GREY'S ANATOMY," COURTESY ABC)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Shepherd?
WASHINGTON: Dr. Burke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You and I, I believe we've known each other for a while now, right? WASHINGTON: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've done several successful surgeries together?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your girlfriend is my ex-girlfriend's best friend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why can't we call each other by our first name?
WASHINGTON: I don't think so.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seriously.
Dr. Shepherd, get to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: All right, we're back with Isaiah Washington.
OK, the tabloid prints that this was a scuffle --
KING: -- and that you were referring to someone else when you weren't.
WASHINGTON: Yes, was not.
KING: You were referring to Patrick Dempsey, but only in the sense of the way he was treating you?
WASHINGTON: Oh, at the time, in the argument. And anyone who's having an argument, if someone were to get in your face, nose to nose, how would -- how would you feel?
KING: How did T.R. Knight even become involved in this?
WASHINGTON: That's a good question. Like I say, that's the $5 million question because --
KING: Did someone print that you were referring to another cast member?
WASHINGTON: Yes. It was printed erroneously in the "National Enquirer" --
KING: But the nei --
WASHINGTON: And then the "New York" --
KING: -- prints many things erroneously.
WASHINGTON: But the "New York Post" picked it up and then it was worldwide.
KING: And they're not always right.
WASHINGTON: And they're worldwide. And anytime you allegedly reportedly say something that is -- it's going to spread like wildfire on the Internet. And we just became bombarded by the -- literally within 24 hours I am being summoned to the office to sit with human relations, which is what is their job to do, to talk about this --
KING: At ABC?
WASHINGTON: At ABC. I see Patrick -- I love this guy. I really do, because we really got to a place where we were coming together quite well. So that's what's unfortunate about all of this.
But anyhow, I see him coming up, throwing his arms up in the air going like, what happened?
What's going on?
He didn't know.
KING: Like why is this a big deal?
WASHINGTON: Our phones are ringing off the hook.
KING: Why would T.R. Knight have to issue a statement to "People" magazine: "There's been a few questions about my sexuality. I'd like to quiet unnecessary rumors. While I prefer to keep my personal life private, I hope the fact that I'm gay isn't the most interesting part of me."
Why did T.R. Knight have to say that?
You weren't talking about him.
KING: You were making a comment, you say, in reaction to the way Patrick was treating you. How does Knight even come into play?
WASHINGTON: That's a good history. And from -- from -- not to revise history, but from my understanding while I was employed there, I was gagged. So this is the first time that you're hearing it from me -- for six months.
KING: From who?
WASHINGTON: Oh, Touchstone. KING: Who?
KING: Oh. Touchstone (INAUDIBLE) --
WASHINGTON: Yes, after -- after January 15th I couldn't talk about this, as long as I was an employee of Disney. So, the good news is that I'm relieved that I can finally tell my side of the story.
KING: Did you expect to be fired?
WASHINGTON: I expected something. I didn't know that it would happen, because I resigned. I tried to resign twice. I tried to resign. I called the president and I asked, I said, look, man, the NAACP is calling me, you know? Willis Everson is calling me. Dick Burke is calling me. And a lot of people were outraged. Jesse Jackson wants to get involved. This thing is really turning into something else and I don't want to racialize this thing, you know?
I don't know what to do here. So help me out. You know, I have shares in Disney. I want to be best of class. I want to do the right thing. But it was shut down. I got told, "We'll take care of it. Don't talk. Don't talk. Don't talk."
KING: How do you stand with cast mates after the incident?
Didn't they say everything was all right?
WASHINGTON: Yes. Yes.
KING: So --
WASHINGTON: Our heals were -- I mean our wounds were healing. And I know Patrick and I were moving in a wonderful direction, not only in terms of the story telling, but in terms of, man, we realized we made a huge mistake. And, Larry, we apologized after we went in the room and we cleared up what I implied or whatever, out of frustration. He apologized to me for being late. And he said if I apologized then, this would have never happened. We were men solving this issue.
KING: Is that word, frankly, Isaiah, you commonly use?
WASHINGTON: No, it is not. No, it is not.
KING: Do you consider yourself anti-gay?
WASHINGTON: I am not homophobic, no, way, shape or form. Nigel Finch, I auditioned in full wig and dress to be a part of a film here in New York called "Stonewall." And I friend of mine picked me up in a car and I was chased by some men -- because they actually thought I was a woman -- all the way back to Brooklyn. It scared me to death, because I said, oh, my god, I'll never hit on a woman like this again, because he thought I was a woman.
KING: But, so you used the term as an implication of weakness? WASHINGTON: Absolutely, in that particular moment.
KING: Now, then, though, T.R. Knight appears on Ellen DeGeneres' show --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "THE ELLEN DEGENERES SHOW", COURTESY WARNER BROTHERS)
T.R. KNIGHT: He referred to me as a faggot.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And he insists that you used it, that everyone on the set heard it. He said that he felt forced to come out and say he was gay because of what happened.
WASHINGTON: That's a lie. He misrepresented himself.
KING: Why would T.R. Knight lie?
WASHINGTON: Because he has been very disappointed at playing the character he's been playing. He told me that.
KING: He was unhappy?
WASHINGTON: He was very unhappy at the time. He may be happy now because he's got a really nice bump and he's still on the show. And god bless him. I wish him well. But there was a two-and-a-half conversation that was --
WASHINGTON: -- on the plane coming back from Seattle --
WASHINGTON: Two-and-a-half hours. And a young man talked to me about some things about Patrick that I thought was very negative. And -- but I threw all of that away because we're family.
But I kept telling him, I said, "Well, why don't you tell this to Chandra?"
And he kept saying, "Well, we can't talk to Chandra."
KING: Who's Chandra?
WASHINGTON: The producer and creator.
WASHINGTON: And I said, well, if you have any grievances, you know, I'll support you in that, but you've got to, you know, you've got to talk to Patrick. If there's a rift between you and Patrick -- KING: Was there a prior conflict at all between you and T.R.?
KING: You never had a difference?
WASHINGTON: I never talked to the man. Never had that many scenes with him --
KING: And you were friendly or not friendly?
WASHINGTON: Well, we worked, you know, sporadically, but I --
KING: You were part of a major hit show.
WASHINGTON: Yes, up to that point. He's a New York actor. I have nothing but respect for T.R. up to that point. I thought -- I thought -- I thought we were fine professionally. I mean I'm on my way working on other movies, documentaries that I want to produce, putting together foundation to build schools in Sierra Leone. I didn't have -- I have a wife and three beautiful kids.
KING: Haven't you always admired her in the past, Chandra?
WASHINGTON: Absolutely. I'm there because she invited me.
KING: So what -- what do you make of all this?
What's your -- you're not anti-gay. You made a comment referring to weakness. You have an altercation with another cast member when you're a friend of, who you just bugged because he was late. You had nothing to do with T.R. --
KING: T.R. Is now going around saying he's gay. You lose your job.
WASHINGTON: Well, the thing -- the reason I'm here now is because my publicist, Howard Bragman, was tipped off that there were some leaks --
KING: Leaks like?
WASHINGTON: That my entire tenure there had been -- problematic behavior had been exhibited and that I had other transgressions.
So that's the reason I'm here, Larry. Because even after I got the boot -- that's fine. Let me go. I've already been gagged. I'll put the scarlet "H" on my back and I'll continue to be the best actor I can be and win my favor back by being creative and doing my things with Minority AIDS Project.
I just finished a film where I played a Catholic priest, in "Least of These," where I had an extraordinary experience. And, ironically, the character was -- was accused of something that he didn't do.
KING: Aren't you very angry?
WASHINGTON: I was when I got the call from Chandra, because I was hurt that there was some kind of power struggle and that this African- American woman had to make this call, at the height of her game, and be told by a system that says you're not in control of your show.
KING: She was instructed to fire you?
KING: LARRY KING LIVE, by the way, made a number of requests for comments in response to Isaiah Washington's perspective on this controversy over this anti-gay slur and his firing from "Grey's Anatomy".
ABC, which broadcasts "Grey's Anatomy," declined to comment.
Representatives for Isaiah's former co-star, T.R. Knight, officially told us, "No comment," as well.
And representatives for Isaiah's former co-star, Patrick Dempsey, also declined to say anything.
And we'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM "GREY'S ANATOMY," COURTESY ABC)
WASHINGTON: I'll check back with you a little later.
Take her for a follow-up scan. Take her for x-rays on the way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Mack?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for choosing me to assist you today.
WASHINGTON: Well, you're my guy, O'Malley.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am?
WASHINGTON: I mean, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hand me the tissues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP FROM GLAAD.ORG)
WASHINGTON: Words have power. The power to express love, happiness and joy. They also have the power to heal. When you use words to demean a person because of their sexual orientation, race or gender, you send a message of hate -- a very powerful message. But we all have the power to demand better from one another and ourselves. We have the power the heal and change the world with the words we use.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Isaiah Washington.
Are you sorry for what you said at the Golden Globes?
WASHINGTON: Absolutely. If there's any concern, if there's any misrepresentation of people thinking that I did the PSA or I came -- all of those statements were written by other people.
But I will say this. I am very sorry. Context or whatever, that the day I had on Martin Luther King's birthday pin holiday. And my wife's birthday was January 15th. That I stepped up to the mike after this intrusive tabloid journalist was going after us with the same erroneous report that I attacked T.R. I unbelievably regret that. I wish I could take that back. If I could take that moment back that you just showed, I would.
KING: Why do you let tabloid journalism bother you?
WASHINGTON: Do you want the truth?
KING: I mean lot of people don't take it seriously.
WASHINGTON: It wasn't true. And, unfortunately, I did what a lot of my peers and friends said you don't do. And that's go to IMBD or your blogs and read what they're saying about you. And all my life, I've been trying to be that person, like Dante says, I mean, I mean the hottest place in hell is reserved for the person who remains neutral in terms of moral crisis. And I have been living by that, you know?
Another one is like the worst threat of mental hell (ph). It's not that their action is cruel (ph), but that you learn their way and behave far worse than they.
Those are the kinds of mantras that I live by and I felt my humanity, I felt that my -- my integrity was being challenged because it was a lie.
KING: You then issue an apology. And you say, "I apologize to T.R. my colleagues, the fans of the show and especially the lesbian and gay community" --
KING: -- "for using a word that's unacceptable in any context or circumstance."
Did you believe that?
WASHINGTON: Well, I have issues with the -- any context or -- or circumstance, because the context in which I used it was saying that I did not use it to attack T.R. With. The question --
WASHINGTON: The question --
KING: Are you saying in the apology it's a bad word, I shouldn't use it anywhere at any time?
WASHINGTON: I don't think anyone should use -- not only that word, but a lot -- a whole list of other words.
WASHINGTON: I mean there are power in all words that are -- I think there needs to be -- like I was invited by the first lady to be a part of the White House summit on malaria. I think there needs to be a White House summit on language, because I really feel that in this country, this -- things are getting lost in translations. And words that are being cast out, whether in whatever context they're in (INAUDIBLE) --
KING: That's not a word you use?
WASHINGTON: That's not a word that I use. I don't -- I don't need it. I don't need it.
KING: After the episode at the Golden Globes, you announced you'd begun counseling.
KING: For what?
WASHINGTON: Well, that was part of the four point plan I put on the table when I tried to resign the second time.
KING: You tried to resign from --
WASHINGTON: Yes, a second time.
KING: -- from the show?
WASHINGTON: I said I have to go out and clear my name. I've got a lot of clergy, a lot of people coming at me. I even -- even back in November, I asked a good friend of mine, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, I said, "You know, you're a political type. What do I do here?"
I said, "I don't -- I don't want to bring anymore attention to this than I already have. I don't want to throw anybody under the bus, but I've got to clear my name. I -- this is misinterpreted. I did not say" -- I said yes, you're not going to "B" me, "P" me, "F" me, because I'm not T.R. I never said you are T.R.
Going back to me thinking that I could be the big brother, to defend my family and T.R. which is not my place to do, against so- called bullying.
KING: And they recommended that you go to counseling?
WASHINGTON: I said I wanted to go and they recommended that it be called executive counseling so I can find out certain things about myself. And I wanted to go, Larry, because I wanted to know at that point what was it about me that no matter what, why couldn't I just walk off my mark, since he was late, or whatever, and just come back when he was ready?
KING: Why did you have to be the boss?
WASHINGTON: Oh, yes. Yes.
KING: In other words, OK -- I know actors can get annoyed on films. People used to get annoyed with Marilyn Monroe for being late.
KING: You get annoyed.
KING: It's not your show.
They pay you, right?
WASHINGTON: Yes. Yes.
Why couldn't I just walk off --
KING: So what do you care?
WASHINGTON: But at that time, I really felt the pressure and the responsibility that all of us, as an ensemble, had to step up our game, because now there are so many people watching us is that -- my biggest fear as an actor is not being believable. It's being uncredible.
KING: Did you get counseling?
WASHINGTON: Yes, I went for six days. And everybody there asked me why am I here.
KING: Did it help?
WASHINGTON: What it helped that -- unfortunately it didn't help me because I left my wife and my kids and my friends at the height of the attacks from the media out there to fend for themselves. And I'm sitting in a room doing yoga and Tai Chi and having several counseling sessions with all kinds of people trying to pick my brain. KING: Were you all assuming you were homophobic at the time?
WASHINGTON: No. They sent one guy who was clearly gay to be there in the house with me I guess to see if I'd respond to him negatively. And he ended up bringing me some really interesting horror films. I mean I love everybody.
Humanity is in my heart. Do I suffer fools? No. Am I a stickler for my profession? Yes. I am a task master? Yes. My military background, football background, I'm a team player all the way and I love winning. You know I'm not a good loser in terms of when the team is playing very hard.
And I felt that in the beginning. We came out with nine episodes, word of mouth, very little marketing. So our team won. We won public opinion. And I know and I believe that I was very big contributor to that. And I'll believe and have pride because of that. But I wish to this day that there was something I could have just walked away from -- from that volatile situation just say I'm not going to stand here for this. But I didn't.
KING: We'll have more with Isaiah Washington on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
By the way, tomorrow night Robin Williams will be with us and Thursday, former Vice President Al Gore. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WASHINGTON: Why didn't I report it at an appropriate time? Maybe because I was afraid that I would be called into a meeting where some hospital lawyer's fear of liability could end my career. Even great doctors make mistakes and when we do, we've got to have a chance to speak up without fear of retribution or everyone suffers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Isaiah Washington.
What is puzzling, probably even to people who totally accept this story as you've stated and you're very bright and emotional, why would you have used that word in a context like -- I've been upset. I get upset. Other people I know get upset. There's certain words I've never used and that's a word I would never use, for example.
WASHINGTON: You know the word I wouldn't...
KING: And no matter what I was accused of being weak or whatever, that's a word I wouldn't think of. I might say a sissy. Are you accusing me of being a sissy? I might say that. I would never use that word you used. Why do you think -- where did that come from?
WASHINGTON: Well, I kind of grew up in a gay community here in New York and...
KING: Gay friends?
WASHINGTON: Yes. And the word was thrown around quite a bit. That makes no excuse. That doesn't make an excuse because the thing that I'm -- the dubious honor that I hold is that -- not that I have a lack of awareness of the power of the word, but I made a huge error in judgment in using the word at a time when all of my friends and my companions that happen to be gay, they're just sick and tired of hearing the word. And I did it before the world. I did it before the world.
KING: You admit that that was wrong?
WASHINGTON: Unbelievable! Yes!
KING: Because there are blacks who use the "n" word.
WASHINGTON: Yes, you know, but it's almost in terms of what I was feeling on that day. I would rather -- I wish I would have said I wish you didn't treat me like an "n" word because that's how I felt. That's how I felt. I was...
KING: Do you think there would have been a fuss if you had said that?
WASHINGTON: I don't know, but I think it would have been a different feeling.
KING: Why do you think T.R. took that incident, which you say didn't involve him at all, to come out and to be angry? Well, be angry, maybe, because he might take offense to the use of the word.
WASHINGTON: Absolutely, as he should.
KING: As he should. But you weren't referring to him?
WASHINGTON: Yes. And I told him that that day in Chandra's office.
KING: And what did he say when you said...
WASHINGTON: He just said, "Well, you're trying to" -- I said but remember, you know, the conversation we had on the plane, you know, about you feeling very angry about how certain things were being handled and the way you were being treated. I said you know if anything, the only reason I brought your name into this is because I felt like I was defending you against some bullying.
And even though I was, you know, miscalculating that, that's not where Patrick was coming from because he was responding to something that I said. So we -- it was separate. But I've called him several times and said, look, man, we need to talk about this. I approached him several times and he always said I don't want to talk about. I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to talk about it. That was all through November. But then a call in December started going to Chandra Wilson and her mate -- I mean she's very, very upset that because of the way ABC put out the statement the second time after the Golden Globes, it all looked like I was lying for using the word on October 9, which I never denied. I used it and I take ownership of that but it was never to refer to T.R. Knight.
KING: How were you fired?
WASHINGTON: I got a call at 5:08.
WASHINGTON: P.M. on June 7, Thursday.
KING: Where were you, in L.A.?
WASHINGTON: I was just finishing a scene where my character in a movie, "The Least of These" where I play a Catholic priest, was also being fired.
KING: You're kidding.
WASHINGTON: I am not. I am not.
KING: Who fired you?
WASHINGTON: I don't know if I should use the word fired.
KING: Well, what word did they use?
WASHINGTON: My option wasn't renewed but it was leaked within hours.
KING: On a successful show, that's fired.
KING: Not successful show, that's everybody is gone.
KING: You were fired.
WASHINGTON: I was fired.
KING: And did you respond or just say...
WASHINGTON: I was shocked. I was stunned.
KING: Didn't expect it?
WASHINGTON: Didn't expect it after the PSA that they paid for, after the counseling that they paid half for.
KING: You did a public service announcement? WASHINGTON: Yes. That I have right -- because I wanted to put race and gender because I wanted to address all of it not just keep it so specific to sexual orientation but all that because I'm a wordsmith. I love words. I love good words. You know and I'm very...
KING: So you're shocked. Did you say that to the person that called?
WASHINGTON: To Chandra? Yes.
KING: It was Chandra that fired you?
WASHINGTON: Yes, she called me and -- I got to get it right. There's reports saying that she was crying and she is a stronger woman than that. She wasn't crying. She was very upset and she told me...
KING: Why do you think they didn't renew your option?
WASHINGTON: I'll say this: I had a wonderful relationship with Ann Sweeney. I could call her directly.
KING: That's who?
WASHINGTON: She's one of the executives at Disney. She's come to my trailer to talk about Sierra Leone, my foundation, my projects, my family, my other aspirations to do films. I have the opportunity to do other films.
KING: We'll be right back with Isaiah Washington. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We need more O negative.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll call the blood bank.
WASHINGTON: Damn it, O'Malley, do you want me to kill this patient?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sorry.
WASHINGTON: I mean is the artery retracting just too much for you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. I was -- I had an itch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES PICKENS JR., ACTOR: We're doing fine. We're one as a cast and we always will be. And that's all that matters. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you spoken to Isaiah?
PICKENS: I've spoken to him and he's fine.
KATHERINE HEIGL, ACTRESS: You know ultimately my biggest goal is to sort of see that attitude and see that word obliterated.
KATE WALSH, ACTRESS: You know I'm surprised. And I think he's a great actor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Bruce Willis said this in "Time" magazine: "I hate to think we live in a time when you get fired from your job because of what you say. Isaiah Washington didn't punch anyone. I think we'll think differently with hindsight." Reaction to that?
WASHINGTON: That's really interesting. I think it's come full circle.
Here in New York, I never watched any big-budget films. I never watched anything unless it had subtitles. And I remember dragging a friend of mine out here in New York. He still lives in the apartment on 44th Street and 45th Street. And I saw this movie, "Die Hard" and I was so blown away literally by this performance and this character named John McClain that I said, that's what I want to do. I want to do movies like that. And ironically, I ended up working with Joel Silver three times.
KING: Are you thinking of any lawsuit?
WASHINGTON: No, I'm not. I know my attorneys are looking at a lot of things, trying to figure out whether or not this was something done in retaliation. Honestly, I don't have time for it. I have a documentary. I have over 150 hours of work I'm doing in Sierra Leone. I'm building schools. I'm raising three kids.
KING: (inaudible) Isaiah, is the past, in "Essence" magazine long ago, you wrote an article condemning homophobia.
KING: So why you? Do you ever think that why me?
WASHINGTON: I felt sorry for myself. I'm not going to lie. I felt sorry for myself many times. You fall into that little space and go, why me, why me?
KING: Have you talked to Mr. Dempsey?
WASHINGTON: No. I talked to him on the last day we were shooting in a church, the final scene. And I think he knew it was coming before I did just based on some of the conversations we were having. He said at one point -- he says, "You know, you're very talented. You're vulnerable. You're strong. You're articulate. This character is a very important part of the show. If anyone is going to be fired, it should have been anyone else. It's not you."
KING: Should anyone have been fired?
WASHINGTON: I think T.R. should have been addressed. Yes, I do because I think the behavior that he promoted -- and they're all gagged now so they're not going to respond to this. There will be no comment just like they did to the gay community about me. No comment, no comment, no comment. I just think that's how they handle their business. And you know if someone says that you have cancer, they say -- they ignore it and hope the cancer will go away.
KING: Do you think, Isaiah, there's anything racist in this? If you were a white member of the cast, do you think it would have been different?
WASHINGTON: I don't know.
KING: Maybe? You grew up in a suburb in Houston, right?
WASHINGTON: Yes, I did.
KING: Did you see a lot of prejudice as a kid?
WASHINGTON: Not in that particular suburb, but there is a lot of prejudice in Houston, Texas, yes.
KING: Have you seen a lot of homophobia?
WASHINGTON: Not homophobia. I didn't know what gay was until I lived in New York for 10 years. You know I was just underexposed in that regard.
But being in Texas, yes, there are a lot of issues there. You have to compensate and overcome and I did that. I did it very well. I did it very well in the military. I've had many racial epithets thrown as me. I've been pushed to the wall, Larry, all through my military career, many situations where I've been pushed to the wall and I dealt with them.
But I think it is unfortunate that this smacks of that. I would like to feel in my heart that it's not that. And you know if something comes out in "Newsweek" where they say that, you know, maybe because I'm 6'1'' and dark-skinned and this booming voice, you know, that I'm intimidating and I think at this time in 2007, that any African-American, be it woman, man or minority that has a presence that people who are underexposed feel threatened by it. I think that surprises...
KING: Any of the members called you?
WASHINGTON: Yes. I got a -- whoa, whoa -- I got a wonderful e- mail from Sandra Oh from Spain.
KING: Supporting you?
WASHINGTON: Yes. KING: Any male members?
WASHINGTON: No. I told James Pickens, who I told I was going to do this show, and he said do what you have to do. And I said I just hope it doesn't hurt the show and I know it won't but I have to tell my truth and Chandra Wilson, a fellow Texan, she's been there behind me from day one and just wanted me to tell the truth.
KING: How about the gay community?
WASHINGTON: Yes. I have a lot of -- you know Melissa Etheridge -- I got a lot of people. I don't want to name them.
KING: (inaudible) Gay Alliance?
WASHINGTON: I have a councilman who happens to be gay. I just met a congressman at Lee's house who is very gay, who wants me figure out how I can possibly move my family to Oakland and find the best -- I don't have any issues with all the gays. I'm not going to name them. I don't think that's...
KING: How old are your kids?
WASHINGTON: They're 8, 5, and 3. And...
KING: Has the 8-year-old been affected?
WASHINGTON: Luckily for me, Larry, in fact, we're in a Rudolph Steiner program; Waldorf School is very involved in. My wife is more involved than me.
KING: In L.A.?
WASHINGTON: In L.A., but they're completely protected from all this madness.
KING: Back with more with Isaiah Washington. Don't go away.
KING: We have a new podcast for you every week. That's at CNN.com/LarryKing or subscribe to see it on iTunes.
We're back with Isaiah Washington, the former cast member of the hit TV series, "Grey's Anatomy."
Do you think more people should have stood up for you, more members of the cast? I would hope if something happened to me, this whole crew, well not the whole crew, a couple of guys here -- I would think that a lot of people around here would stand up.
WASHINGTON: I think the people that I had the closest relating with was, you know, Jim Pickens, Kate Walsh, and Sara Ramirez is new. I really felt sorry for her because she was so excited about coming to the show and all of this stuff was happening. And she was like the newbie. You know Eric Dane was wonderful. I wish them all the success. Kate Walsh is just fantastic.
You know, Patrick and I were really moving in a wonderful direction. But I never got a chance to work with Ellen as much because we started off with a kind of relationship but they moved off to T.R.
KING: Did you expect more?
WASHINGTON: Not really because of where they are. The circumstance is very...
KING: You mean they were in a tough spot or...
WASHINGTON: I mean they weren't -- you know Disney was paying their bills, you know? You don't mess with the mouse, you know. And I respect that. Like I said, I still hold my shares. You know, it's a very powerful -- a very best of class organization to have been a part of. And you know the network has -- their interests are taken care of here and I get that, and I understand that, and I support that. So it's really a hard question to answer and I think that everyone did what they have to do.
KING: Have you heard from members of the public?
WASHINGTON: Two hundred e-mails on my website. People reaching out saying they've never written an actor and don't know why they're writing me but wishing me well, wishing me well with my future endeavors with films, "The Least of These." Like I said, I'm happy with the actors, Charlie Stewart, John Bain, Jordan Garrett, Andrew Lawrence, all of the (inaudible) people at Sierra Leone that are supporting me that would huddle in this little dusty room called Channel 9 to watch Dr. Burke on "Grey's Anatomy." Now, they don't have running water or electricity but they would all congregate at 3:00 in the morning to watch this TV show. So I feel sad that they can't see me continue on with this show.
KING: Do you feel sorry for others who have come under the public scrutiny for -- let's say Don Imus who's had shtick all his life and then makes this -- one night makes this one statement.
KING: Do you feel sorry for him?
WASHINGTON: I think that the way it played out, I don't know that much about his experience other than he's been a shock jock.
WASHINGTON: That's what he does. But like I said, there's something happening in our society that people are less tolerant of things that probably would have been tolerated not just 50 years ago but six months ago. And it's something that's very indicative of maybe the leadership of our nation. There's a lot of people agitated and intolerant. And I think this is the manifestation all around.
KING: Did you ever find out who called the "National Inquirer?"
WASHINGTON: No. But, boy, I sure hope that person got paid because, man, that was the stroke of death for me, obviously. That it was misreported.
KING: We'll take a break. And when we come back in our remaining moments, we'll find out from Isaiah Washington where he thinks his career goes now. Don't go away.
KING: We have an e-mail for Isaiah from Lisa in Irvine, California. "I'm a huge fan of 'Grey's Anatomy' and I loved Isaiah's character and I wish him well. I'd like to know what he's learned from all of this."
WASHINGTON: Work harder at playing my position, just stay the actor, don't worry about production issues or time issues. And in time of great stress and duress, just keep your mouth shut.
KING: Good advice.
WASHINGTON: Keep your mouth shut.
KING: Where goes Isaiah now?
WASHINGTON: I have many world opportunities on the table that I'm happy to say. Some I can't talk about but "The Least of These" is a wonderful film. It just wrapped last night.
KING: A television series?
WASHINGTON: Television series, things are very hopeful. There are some very excited things that are coming up that I'm looking at.
But now what I've learned in terms of dealing with certain dynamics, you have to understand we're a large cast, you know, a very large cast and there's a lot of success happening and a lot of producers getting -- and I really feel ultimately that our ensemble felt like we were being proper participants in all of the success. And I really think ultimately overall that if you cage a lot of laboratory mice and you don't feed them or you treat them a certain way for an extended period of time, then they will start nipping at each other's tails.
KING: Great meeting you.
WASHINGTON: Thank you.
KING: Good luck wherever the road travels.
WASHINGTON: Thank you very much for having me, Larry.
KING: Isaiah Washington.
Don't forget to go to our website, CNN.com/LarryKing and you can send e-mail or video to upcoming guests, participate in quick votes or download our podcast. It's all at CNN.com/LarryKing.
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