I'm always vaguely surprised to hear that Grey's Anatomy is still on the air. There was a time when I was mildly obsessed with the show (even though I lived in Seattle at the time and eternally raged against the characters' habit of referring to ferries as ferry boats), but that was like eight seasons ago. Back when Isaiah Washington played Dr. Burke, before he triggered a media poopstorm over accusations that he'd insulted his co-star T.R. Knight with an ugly anti-gay slur.
Do you remember all that craziness in 2007? It was a total circus, with Washington first issuing a statement that apologized for the slur, then announcing backstage at the Golden Globes that "I never called T.R. a faggot." ABC reportedly subjected him to "executive counseling" before ultimately dropping him like a hot potato.
Oddly, ABC is now touting the fact that Isaiah Washington is coming back to Grey's Anatomy for a guest appearance. Because Burke's return is important for a ratings boost the storyline.
ABC announced they were dismissing Washington from Grey's on June 7, 2007, prompting him to issue a statement that was copied directly from Network:
I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore.
He repeatedly denied the slur, and insisted he was fired because of racism:
Someone heard the booming voice of a black man and got really scared and that was the beginning of the end for me. (...) it didn't help me on the set that I was a black man who wasn't a mush-mouth Negro walking around with his head in his hands all the time. I didn't speak like I'd just left the plantation and that can be a problem for people sometime.
But then he went on to explain that he had in fact used the slur in a verbal altercation with costar Patrick Dempsey:
I said several bad words. There's no way you're going to treat me like the B-word, the P-word, or the F-word.
Washington said he never directed the word at costar T.J. Knight and that Knight had falsely accused him of homophobia in order to advance his career:
He has been very disappointed in playing the character he has been playing. He told me that.
Wow. It's sort of hard to believe ABC would be willing to unearth this old mess -- unless, of course, they wanted to drum up fresh interest in the show. Grey's Anatomy showrunner Shonda Rhimes says Burke is critical to the story, which will follow Sandra Oh's decision to leave the show after the tenth season:
It's important to me that Cristina's journey unfolds exactly as it should. Burke is vital to that journey -- he gives her story that full-circle moment we need to properly say goodbye to our beloved Cristina Yang.
Or it's a clever way to use controversy to pull in viewers. Juuuuust saying.
What do you think about Burke returning to Grey's Anatomy? Do you think it's a ratings ploy?
Image via ABC