Apology follows Carolla and co-host Teresa Strasser’s
LOS ANGELES–Three weeks after former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Norm MacDonald used the offensive racial slur “gooks” on an appearance on the syndicated radio program, “The Adam Carolla Show,” he apologized to Media Action Network for Asian Americans (MANAA), the only organization solely dedicated to monitoring the media and its depiction of Asian Americans.
On Wednesday, March 5th, MacDonald, Carolla, and co-host Teresa Strasser, were analyzing the lyrics of the 1969 Kenny Rogers and the First Edition hit “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love To Town” (They were laughing because it’s about a paralyzed war veteran who wants to shoot his cheating girlfriend). MacDonald said, “he’s killed strange gooks.” All three of them laughed. On his March 10th show, Carolla addressed the issue: “Norm MacDonald was in studio last week… He used a derogatory term toward some Asians groups.” Strasser joined in: “It was often used by American servicemen during the Vietnam War.” Carolla continued: “That’s right. And we did not dump it, nor did we say anything to Norm. And for that, we apologize.” After McDonald’s representative, Marc Gurvitz of Grillstein-Grey, responded to MANAA Founding President Guy Aoki on March 12th, Aoki wrote in an e-mail, “We’d like to hear Mr. MacDonald explain what he was thinking when he said ‘gooks,’ which has been an offensive slur against Asian people since the 1890s and was used a lot during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. And we would like an apology from him sent to this address. The fact that ‘Ruby’ was about a Vietnam vet in no way excuses saying ‘gooks.’ (Would he rationalize that it’s OK to call blacks ‘negroes’ or ‘niggers’ because that’s what many people called blacks during that period?).”
Exactly one week later, Gurvitz forwarded MacDonald’s response: “I understand your concern and am anxious to reply. In your letter, you say you would like an apology. I apologize. Since I’m not racist, I can’t apologize for being a racist. However, the remark was reckless and had no greater meaning to redeem it. So I am sincerely sorry for saying a thoughtless thing that could hurt innocent people. I understand the power of words, and I wish I hadn’t said the one you refer to. “Also, you asked if I could explain what went on in my head when I said it. When I said it, I assumed people listening would infer that it was the paralyzed serviceman using the term. In another way of saying it, the word had quotation marks around it in precisely the same way that you yourself used the word. But I understand that quotation marks cannot be heard audially [sic] and that reasonable people could easily perceive racism where it doesn’t exist. I understand the perception of impropriety can be as painful as impropriety itself, and since as I earlier said, there was no particular point I was making, I’m left only with regret. And so, I apologize to you personally for any pain you may have felt hearing that word and to any person of any race who took offense. I don’t want to hurt anyone, and I will be more vigilant in the future to avoid this. I hope you keep up your good work and accept my humblest apology.”
Phil Lee, MANAA’s President, said, “This is a hurtful word. It can inflame a lot of emotions. We appreciate that both the station and Mr. MacDonald seem to get that and hope their responses will serve as a reminder to others that these concerns need to be taken seriously.”