The Washington Post

Jonah Hill shows how you avoid a PR nightmare after using a slur

Actor Jonah Hill (Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

The “Jonah Hill caught on camera saying a homophobic slur” scandal that was threatening to explode had a spectacularly short lifespan. Not only that, but the whole incident has had an unusual resolution that any other celebrity who uses an unfortunate choice of words in the future (sadly, it’s inevitable) should try to emulate.

Namely, by giving two deeply heartfelt apologies (first on Howard Stern’s radio show Monday and then on “The Tonight Show” on Tuesday) Hill turned the whole thing around so now people are saying things along the line of, “Wow, that Jonah Hill — what a stand-up guy.”

The whole thing started when the paparazzi were harassing Hill on the street in Los Angeles to an uncomfortable degree, taunting and filming him, leading the very frustrated actor to hurl a homophobic slur in the camera guy’s direction. “Oh, a real bully!” the camera guy exclaims, obviously thrilled that he provoked this result.

Hill explained to Stern that the paparazzo had been following him around all day, making fun of his family and saying other terrible things — and so he snapped, using a “disgusting and hurtful term,” and he regrets it.

“I’m not at all defending my choice of words, but I am happy to be the poster boy for thinking about what you say,” Hill said. “And how those words — even if you don’t intend them in how they mean — they are rooted in hate, and that’s [expletive], and I shouldn’t have said that.”

Hill went further on “The Tonight Show” — coincidentally there to promote his upcoming movie “22 Jump Street” — looking like he was about to cry as he apologized again, saying, “My heart is broken.”

“I was genuinely hurt by this and made angry by this. And in response, I wanted to hurt him back, and I said the most hurtful word that I could think of at that moment. I didn’t mean this in the sense of the word. I didn’t mean it in a homophobic way,” Hill said. “And I think that — that doesn’t matter, you know? How you mean things doesn’t matter. Words have weight and meaning, and the word I chose was grotesque, and no one deserves to say and hear words like that.”

He goes on to say he’s been a supporter of the LGBTQ community his whole life, apologizing repeatedly.

“I’m sorry, and I don’t deserve or expect your forgiveness. But what I’ll ask is that at home, if you’re watching this, and you’re a young person especially: If someone says something that hurts you or angers you, use me as an example of what not to do.”

And then, it led to tweets like this.



The lesson? Well, in a perfect world, no one should say horrible things. Unfortunately, we live in a culture where there has to be another lesson after the obvious one, given everyone’s obsession with celebrity mishaps and the frequency with which they occur: the way to deal with the fallout when this happens and is captured on video.

So, other celebrities should follow suit. No defenses. No half-hearted Twitter apologies. No statements from publicists claiming that “anyone who knows you” knows you would never do anything like this. Appear in person, say you’re sorry, and actually mean it.

Emily Yahr covers pop culture and entertainment for the Post. Follow her on Twitter @EmilyYahr.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
Is fencing the answer to brain health?
Miss Manners: The technology's changed, but the rules are the same
Behind a famous and fast steam locomotive
Play Videos
This man's job is binge-watching for Netflix
How to survive a shark attack
What you need to know about trans fats
Play Videos
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
How to avoid harmful chemicals in school supplies
Riding the X2 with D.C.'s most famous rapper
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
How to get organized for back to school
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
Next Story
Abby Phillip · June 4, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.