LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jonah Hill is winning points for what appears to be a sincere apology for hurling a gay slur at a paparazzo he says was harassing him.
But the insult the actor hurled last week still raises the question: Why would someone like Hill, for years a vocal supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, use such a word? Even in a moment of anger?
Not that he's the first or likely will be the last prominent person to do so. A national television audience heard Kobe Bryant shout the same slur three years ago at a referee he thought had made a bad call during a basketball game. Isaiah Washington said it to his "Grey's Anatomy" co-star T.R. Knight in 2007, setting off a dispute that eventually got Washington fired. Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah yelled it at a Miami Heat basketball fan who had been getting on him during a game.
The word is faggot, and although it's not the only gay pejorative, it seems to be the one people most often fall back on when they're mad at someone. And often it doesn't seem to matter if they think the person is gay or not.
"I think Jonah Hill's comments are indicative of the fact that oftentimes when somebody uses that language, they aren't using it because they are necessarily homophobic," said Hudson Taylor, whose group, Athlete Ally, seeks to end anti-gay bias in sports. "That language is so prevalent in all the communities I work with that whether it's a fourth-grader or a professional athlete, 90 percent have heard the term in the last week."
It is so commonplace that when someone is furious and searching for the most insulting thing they can say, that's the one they pick, says Howard Bragman, a veteran Hollywood crisis publicist and vice president of Reputation.com.
"In anger, the emotional overtakes the rational and you think of the harshest thing you can say, and that certainly sounds harsh," added Bragman, who himself is gay, knows Hill personally and doesn't believe the actor is anti-gay. Hill has been a public supporter of gay rights, including speaking out against Russian laws against "gay propaganda."
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