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Is Isaiah Washington Beyond Help?

By Andrew Belonsky

The big news about Isaiah Washington right now isn't the fact that he's playing the DC sniper in a new film, Blue Caprice. It's that the actor claims that a gay "agenda" derailed his career, a comment that suggests the "formerly" anti-gay Washington's time in hiding taught him nothing.

You'll recall that Washington was fired from Grey's Anatomy in 2007 after two related incidents: one, the 2006 revelation that he had called co-star TR Knight a faggot on set, an incident that led to Knight's coming out; two, Washington joking on the Golden Globes red carpet that he wanted to be gay. "I love gay. I wanted to be gay. Please let me be gay," he said at the time. His career hit the skids soon after, and Washington went to therapy to learn about tolerance and acceptance, had sit downs with GLAAD, donated dough to the marriage equality movement, and even posed for NOH8 campaign, as if a sudden interest in LGBT rights would convince the public he was a changed man. It didn't, and Washington has spent the past five years largely in seclusion. His reemergence for Blue Caprice, and the role itself, were meant to reintroduce him to the lime light. Sadly, his "agenda" comment only sheds light on his past.

Speaking with Huffington Post Live during part on a press junket to talk up Blue Caprice, Washington said an "agenda" kept him out of Hollywood:

"I didn't have a choice. After the incident at the Golden Globes everything just fell apart. It literally stopped. Whatever the agenda, whatever the plan was it worked. I lost everything. I couldn't afford to have an agent. I couldn't afford to have a publicist for the crisis management to continue. I couldn't afford to continue. I went from 2 million dollars a year to residual checks. Zero. I couldn't get another apartment after I turned in my lease for my $3 million home. I had to put it in my wife's name. No one wanted to touch the name of Isaiah Washington for three years."

This remark has already ricocheted around the blogosphere and back again, but it's worth pausing for a moment to consider his word choice. It's immediately identifiable with right wing rhetoric that claims homosexuals have a secret agenda that includes, among other things, destroying all that is good and decent, whatever that means. When conservatives use "agenda," the word itself becomes an agenda, one meant to concoct images of nefarious and organized gay coven. It connotes an organized plot. I do not think that's a message Mr. Washington was trying to convey, but he did anyway.

Washington has clearly internalized the right wing message and unknowingly repeated it. To him, the agents and publicists and bankers turned their back because of a greater "agenda," not because they as individuals found his remarks to be disgusting. His own prejudices have nothing to do with it; it's a plot organized by shadowy and shady gays. Now as before, Washington's his own worst enemy, and his comments suggest he's more comfortable playing with the right than he is playing the reformed homophobe.

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