Morning Joe panel panned Gibson's "awful joke of an apology" after his "anti-gay tirade" about Ledger's death

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

On Morning Joe, Mika Brzezinski described John Gibson's statement in response to the firestorm over remarks he made concerning the death of actor Heath Ledger as "an awful, awful joke of an apology," and later asserted that it was "not an apology." After airing Gibson's statement, Joe Scarborough said, "What he said was, 'I'm sorry if you were offended. ... I'm sorry if you were offended that I mocked the death of a young man.' " Scarborough also asserted that Gibson "got caught in an anti-gay tirade."

On the January 25 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, co-hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski and guest co-host David Shuster discussed John Gibson's statement on the January 24 edition of Fox News' The Big Story responding to the firestorm over remarks he made concerning the death of actor Heath Ledger during the January 22 edition of his nationally syndicated Fox News Radio show. Teasing the Morning Joe segment, Brzezinski described Gibson's January 24 statement as "an awful, awful joke of an apology," and later asserted that it was "not an apology." After airing the statement, Scarborough said, "What he said was, 'I'm sorry if you were offended. ... I'm sorry if you were offended that I mocked the death of a young man.' "

On the January 24 edition of The Big Story, Gibson said:

GIBSON: Now it's time for "My Word." I have received comments regarding remarks I made on my radio show the other night after the shocking death of Heath Ledger. I'm sorry that some took my comments as anti-gay and insensitive. I'm aware that Ledger has a family and many fans who were grief-stricken by his sudden death.

As I speak, a crowd is gathering at the funeral home where Ledger's services will be held. Those who knew him say he was a good actor and a loving dad. And what happened to him was terrible, but was evidently an accident. Once again, to anyone offended by my comments, I'm sorry. But I'm also sorry that Heath Ledger is no longer alive and with us.

That is "My Word."

Gibson issued a similar statement on the January 24 broadcast of Fox News Radio's The John Gibson Show.

Regarding the controversy over Gibson's comments, Shuster asserted that he is "sorry that John Gibson appears to have lost his mind," adding, "He is usually fairly rational, I've exchanged emails with him about issues that I've had, and he can usually come around. This time, he has completely lost his mind." Brzezinski said that she was "surprised that he could say something like that and still be on the air." Scarborough also asserted that Gibson "got caught in an anti-gay tirade" about Ledger, who played a gay cowboy in the film Brokeback Mountain:

SCARBOROUGH: Well listen, but here's the deal, though. John Gibson got caught in an anti-gay tirade. Why don't we just call it what it is, I'm not politically correct, God knows. Anybody that has followed my career for years knows I'm not politically correct. So I'm not waving the GLAAD flag or anything like that. I am telling you though, he got caught --

BRZEZINSKI: It was ugly.

SCARBOROUGH: -- going on an anti-gay tirade, mocking the death of this young father, because this young father had just happened to play a gay man in a movie. That is -- talk about being homophobic. I want to play you the original clip.

At the end of the segment, Scarborough and Brzezinski gave their opinion of what to do "when you do something like that, that is that harsh and that insensitive":

SCARBOROUGH: Again, when you do something like that, that is that harsh and that insensitive, you know what you do? You turn and you say, "I am very sorry for what I did, I was" --

BRZEZINSKI: "I was out of line, I was wrong."

SCARBOROUGH: "I was extraordinarily out of line, I was wrong, I was not only insensitive, I said something which was repugnant" --"

BRZEZINSKI: "My apologies to his friends and his family."

SCARBOROUGH: "I've embarrassed myself, I've embarrassed my family, please forgive me." That's what you do.

BRZEZINSKI: That was a joke of an apology that he had there.

Later during the January 25 Morning Joe, co-host Willie Geist interviewed MSNBC's Courtney Hazlett regarding Gibson's January 22 comments about Ledger and Gibson's subsequent January 24 statement. Hazlett asserted that she was "glad that he apologized, I think that was the right thing to do," but added that she had "contacted John Gibson shortly after these comments were made as well, and he had no apology at that time." Indeed, on the January 23 edition of his radio show, after Gibson's producer, known on-air as "Angry Rich," pointed out that Gibson had mocked Ledger's death, Gibson replied, laughing, "Oh, that. Well." Gibson later added, "There's no point in passing up a good joke." Geist, addressing Gibson's original comments, asserted: "We have to be careful in our business. There's a fine line between being shocking and irreverent and just being stupid, and he clearly crossed it there."

Scarborough, Brzezinski, and Geist previously discussed Gibson's January 22 comments about Ledger on the January 24 edition of Morning Joe, characterizing Gibson and others who appeared on his show, as well as their comments, as "unbelievable," "grossly inappropriate," "hateful," "callous," "very insensitive," "not funny," "sick," "absolutely, totally out of line," "stunning," "mean-spirited," "disgusting," and "incomprehensible."

From the January 25 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: A couple of things. When we come back --

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah?

SCARBOROUGH: -- we're going to talk about John Gibson.

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, do we have to?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, he tried to apologize, he didn't really apologize. He kind of apologized --

BRZEZINSKI: No, he didn't.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, no, he did.

BRZEZINSKI: I think we should talk about him when he actually apologizes.

SCARBOROUGH: It was one, you know -- it was actually one of those --

BRZEZINSKI: It was an awful, awful joke of an apology.

SCARBOROUGH: "Well, if you're weak enough to be offended by that" apology "then I'm sorry for you."

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: Now, and John Gibson --

BRZEZINSKI: Oh, the follow-up to John Gibson.

SCARBOROUGH: Our friends, our friends over at NewsBusters said that Mika said, "Bring me the head of John Gibson."

BRZEZINSKI: No.

SCARBOROUGH: You never said that, you were not asking for anybody to be fired.

BRZEZINSKI: No, I never said that. But I actually am surprised that he could say something like that and still be on the air.

SHUSTER: This is again for making a joke about Heath Ledger's death, right?

BRZEZINSKI: Exactly, Shuster.

SCARBOROUGH: Right, right.

BRZEZINSKI: Not only making a joke, but kind of scoffing at it and laughing at it.

SCARBOROUGH: Well, he was actually laughing. Heath Ledger's death, this young father's death, was a punch-line, which, of course, as I suggested yesterday, what was so sad about that is, that this isn't a Matthew Shepard thing where somebody is ridiculed or hated because they're gay. Actually Gibson, apparently, if you listen to the clips, it sounds like he had contempt for Heath Ledger because he played a gay man in the movie. So --

BRZEZINSKI: Whatever, he was just so callous.

SCARBOROUGH: He really was. He really was, and it all goes back to the fact that he starred in a movie as a gay man. And really, I'm just wondering what type of mindset, what type of worldview somebody has to have to say something that hateful.

BRZEZINSKI: Well, apparently we weren't the only ones who were upset about it. And he did apologize, sort of.

SCARBOROUGH: Kind of.

BRZEZINSKI: I don't know.

SCARBOROUGH: Let's watch.

BRZEZINSKI: You decide.

[begin video clip]

GIBSON: I have received comments regarding remarks I made on my radio show the other night after the shocking death of Heath Ledger. I'm sorry that some took my comments as anti-gay and insensitive. I'm aware that Ledger has a family and many fans who were grief-stricken by his sudden death.

As I speak, a crowd is gathering at the funeral home where Ledger's services will be held. Those who knew him say he was a good actor and a loving dad. And what happened to him was terrible, but was evidently an accident. Once again, to anyone offended by my comments, I'm sorry. But I'm also sorry that Heath Ledger is no longer alive and with us.

[end video clip]

SCARBOROUGH: OK, that was one of --

BRZEZINSKI: What the heck was that?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, it's one of those apologies where you don't just say --

BRZEZINSKI: No, it's not an apology.

SCARBOROUGH: -- "I'm sorry," you say --

BRZEZINSKI: You don't care.

SCARBOROUGH: What he said was, "I'm sorry if you were offended."

BRZEZINSKI: Exactly.

SCARBOROUGH: "I'm sorry if you were offended that I mocked the death of a young man."

SHUSTER: You know what I'm sorry about? I'm sorry that John Gibson appears to have lost his mind.

BRZEZINSKI: He really has.

SHUSTER: He is usually fairly rational, I've exchanged emails with him about issues that I've had, and he can usually come around. This time, he has completely lost his mind.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah. We should show -- I mean, I don't really want to belabor this, but --

SCARBOROUGH: Well listen, but here's the deal, though. John Gibson got caught in an anti-gay tirade. Why don't we just call it what it is, I'm not politically correct, God knows. Anybody that has followed my career for years knows I'm not politically correct. So I'm not waving the GLAAD flag or anything like that. I am telling you though, he got caught --

BRZEZINSKI: It was ugly.

SCARBOROUGH: -- going on an anti-gay tirade, mocking the death of this young father, because this young father had just happened to play a gay man in a movie. That is -- talk about being homophobic. I want to play you the original clip.

BRZEZINSKI: All right.

SCARBOROUGH: And let you to see what he said.

[begin audio clip from January 22 John Gibson Show]

[begin audio clip from Brokeback Mountain]

JACK TWIST (by Jake Gyllenhaal): Well, since we're going to be working together, I reckon it's time we start drinking together.

ALMA BEERS DEL MAR (by Michelle Williams): If you don't go out there and finish her.

ENNIS DEL MAR (by Heath Ledger): You don't know nothing about her.

JOE AGUIRRE (by Randy Quaid): You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there.

DEL MAR: We was fishing buddies.

TWIST: I wish I knew how to quit you.

[end audio clip]

GIBSON: Well, he found out how to quit you.

[...]

GIBSON: Heath Ledger died, and I'm sure people will be upset. All you Brokeback Mountain fans, you want to give Christine a call, she'll be happy to talk to you.

DEL MAR [audio clip from film]: We're dead.

GIBSON: "We're dead."

DEL MAR [audio clip from film]: We're dead.

[end audio clip]

BRZEZINSKI: That's enough.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, and of course, it goes on and he jokes about it.

BRZEZINSKI: I mean, I just cannot get over it.

SCARBOROUGH: Again, when you do something like that, that is that harsh and that insensitive, you know what you do? You turn and you say, "I am very sorry for what I did, I was" --

BRZEZINSKI: "I was out of line, I was wrong."

SCARBOROUGH: "I was extraordinarily out of line, I was wrong, I was not only insensitive, I said something which was repugnant" --"

BRZEZINSKI: "My apologies to his friends and his family."

SCARBOROUGH: "I've embarrassed myself, I've embarrassed my family, please forgive me." That's what you do.

BRZEZINSKI: That was a joke of an apology that he had there.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah, it was.

BRZEZINSKI: Whatever.

SCARBOROUGH: Anyway.

BRZEZINSKI: OK. Some people just get away with anything.

SCARBOROUGH: So anyway, a sad, sad moment.

[...]

GEIST: Welcome back to Morning Joe, we're not at Hawaiian Tropic Zone any more. We're here with Courtney Hazlett, she has literally been on television for three straight days talking about the Heath Ledger story and doing a great job of it. And one of the unfortunate side stories to the death of Heath Ledger has been the John Gibson controversy. Let me play for you what he said on his radio show two days ago.

[begin audio clip from January 22 John Gibson Show]

[begin audio clip -- from Brokeback Mountain]

TWIST: Well, since we're going to be working together, I reckon it's time we start drinking together.

DEL MAR: If you don't go out there and finish her.

DEL MAR: You don't know nothing about her.

AGUIRRE (by Randy Quaid): You boys sure found a way to make the time pass up there.

DEL MAR: We was fishing buddies.

TWIST: I wish I knew how to quit you.

[end film audio clip]

GIBSON: Well, he found out how to quit you.

[...]

GIBSON: Heath Ledger died, and I'm sure people will be upset. All you Brokeback Mountain fans, you want to give Christine a call, she'll be happy to talk to you.

DEL MAR [audio clip from film]: We're dead.

GIBSON: "We're dead."

DEL MAR [audio clip from film]: We're dead.

[end audio clip]

GEIST: So shockingly enough, that didn't go over so well, that shtick.

HAZLETT: Not so much.

GEIST: That hilarious shtick didn't go over so well. So John Gibson finally, after coming under fire from a lot of different sides, apologized on television yesterday.

[begin video clip]

GIBSON: I have received comments regarding remarks I made on my radio show the other night after the shocking death of Heath Ledger. I'm sorry that some took my comments as anti-gay and insensitive. I'm aware that Ledger has a family and many fans who were grief-stricken by his sudden death.

As I speak, a crowd is gathering at the funeral home where Ledger's services will be held. Those who knew him say he was a good actor and a loving dad. And what happened to him was terrible, but was evidently an accident. Once again, to anyone offended by my comments, I'm sorry. But I'm also sorry that Heath Ledger is no longer alive and with us.

[end video clip]

GEIST: Courtney Hazlett, you've covered this story.

HAZLETT: Correct.

GEIST: Are you satisfied with this apology?

HAZLETT: I'm glad that he apologized, I think that was the right thing to do. I contacted John Gibson shortly after these comments were made as well, and he had no apology at that time, so I'm glad that he sort of found it appropriate to do so, but I think a lot of people might be critical of it. I mean, quite honestly, to say, "I'm sorry if you took it that way," well, you know what, there's no other way to take it.

GEIST: Right.

HAZLETT: And so, I think for those who were most hurt by these comments, they might feel that that apology might be of the too-little, too-late category, I'm not sure. But again, I think he did the right thing in apologizing, and you know, move forward.

GEIST: We have to be careful in our business. There's a fine line between being shocking and irreverent and just being stupid, and he clearly crossed it there.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, LGBT
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, Willie Geist
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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