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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 27, 2006

There is no excuse for celebrities' racist rants

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When former "Seinfeld" star Michael Richards appeared on the "The Late Show with David Letterman" last week and declared that he was not a racist, it was both painful and awkward to watch.

Painful because, as the actor nervously spoke into the camera and was met with laughter by the audience, it was clear that he had chosen the wrong venue for his apology. Awkward because, given his now-infamous two-minute rant in which he repeatedly used the N-word to describe two black hecklers in the audience, it was difficult to accept that he was now telling the truth.

The public recently saw a similar situation of celebrity mea culpa when actor Mel Gibson spewed anti-Semitic comments to a police officer after he was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving.

Like Richards, Gibson went on the apology circuit. And like Richards, he claimed he was not what he appeared to be. Richards cited being agitated by hecklers. Gibson said he had too much to drink.

Both actors were right to issue apologies, it was the least they could do. But there's simply no excuse for their actions, especially given their direct access to the public.

Everyone has bad days, when the slightest thing can set you off. But if you're a public figure, you'd better be prepared to handle the consequences, especially when your rage is targeted toward one community.

Nobody expects celebrities to be perfect. But in these cases, they should know better.