Paris Hilton is out of jail and Scooter Libby had his prison sentence commuted, but fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” remain captive to Isaiah Washington’s damage-control tour. America is all about forgiveness, but that usually requires knowing when to shut up long enough to provide the public that chance, and Washington’s ill-advised image-reclamation campaign is at this stage as muddled as the just-concluded season of “Grey’s” final episodes.
For those who have blissfully ignored the “Grey’s” soap-within-a-soap, Washington used the term “faggot” during an on-set dispute with co-star Patrick Dempsey. In the process, he inadvertently outed cast member T.R. Knight. Washington then repeated the slur backstage at the Golden Globes, which triggered the actor’s seemingly at-bayonet-point apology, much-lampooned announcement he would receive “counseling” and, eventually, his ouster from the hit series.
The irony is that Washington’s story — articulated to Larry King in what amounted to a monologue at the outset of Monday’s program — doesn’t sound all that far-fetched. It’s basically the same account he’s laid out in print interviews.
In a nutshell, he got pissed off at Dempsey for being late, and in the heat of what the tabloids described as their “brawl,” used the term “faggot” as a synonym for “wimp.” As for spin, Washington said Dempsey “became unhinged” over what he perceived as an insult to his acting skills, causing the brouhaha to escalate. Finally, Washington insists he and Dempsey have mended fences, that Disney forced “Grey’s” creator Shonda Rhimes to fire him and that he was “gagged” by the studio after the Globes, having twice tried to resign before his dismissal.
The question now, invariably, is “So what?” Washington maintains the offensive stems from his publicist being “tipped off” regarding leaks intimating that Washington misbehaved on the set and a desire to “clear my name” by setting the record straight.
Yet this story’s peculiar arc — the initial denial, grudging admission and recent suggestion that race played a part in his fate (a question he conspicuously ducked with King) — have made Washington a poor spokesman for his own cause. At times Monday, he rambled — a reference to Disney Media Networks co-chair Anne Sweeney was apparently edited — and became misty-eyed mentioning a supportive note from co-star Sandra Oh.
Although everyone involved declined comment for King’s show, Washington’s accusations will surely trigger another cycle of responses — a pattern that could easily sustain itself until the show’s interns are eligible for Medicaid.
It’s easy to see why Washington would yearn to cleanse his reputation, but for now he’s extremely talented and will stay somewhat notorious no matter what he says. Better to let the story die, move on to whatever his next gig might be and behave like a choirboy for awhile.
In the “Thank God for small favors” department, Anderson Cooper actually covered the Libby story immediately following King — having devoted an hour to all things Paris after last week’s “get,” while simultaneously trying to convey his disdain for the whole sordid Hilton episode.
As for Libby, in the wake of Hilton and now Washington’s performance, his inevitable “Larry King” appearance should be a breeze.