Hulk Hogan's public redemption tour has gotten off to an unsurprisingly rocky start. First, he made a tone deaf joke to TMZ that he wanted to be Donald Trump's running mate. Then, on Good Morning America yesterday (August 31st, 2015) he tried to blame his usage of racial slurs on his upbringing in a poor neighbourhood:
"But a lot of people need to realize that you inherit things from your environment. And where I grew up was South Tampa, and it was a really rough neighborhood, very low income, and all my friends, we greeted each other saying that word. The word was just thrown around like it was nothing.
I would say that is very fair [that he inherited a racial bias]. The environment I grew up in, all my white friends, all my black friends, to hear the word a daily basis when they'd greet me in the morning, that's what they'd say to me, "good morning so-and-so'. I think that was part of the culture and the environment I grew up in."
As my wrestling reporter friend David Bixenspan pointed out on Twitter and later on WrestlingInc.com, these claims didn't pass the smell test:
Real talk: Hogan grew up in the ‘50s & ‘60s, not a time where black & white dudes are lovingly calling him "my n—a"/"n—er."— David Bixenspan (@davidbix) August 31, 2015
"Given the racial climate of the southeast at the time (for example, interracial marriage was not legal in Florida until Hogan was 13 years old), it sounded like a stretch that the type of language was being thrown back and forth in a friendly way during his childhood."
It should be noted that racial slurs being used in the fashion Hogan suggested only became prevalent with the growth in popularity of gangsta rap and hip hop music in the mid 1980s, long after he had become an adult. The comments were also disappointing as Hogan continues to demonstrate a wilful lack of understanding that it was the context of how he used the N-word that was most damaging, not that he used it per se, although that would be bad enough.
The inevitable follow-up story of residents of the South Tampa neighbourhood Hogan grew up in being angry that he threw their community under the bus came yesterday evening from WTSP-TV:
Linda Bryant, who grew up with Terry "Hulk Hogan" Bollea, was highly upset, countering "That was not the culture when Terry grew up here." She also complained that Bollea hadn't used his celebrity stature to help improve his hometown:
"Terry was the first guy to ever be a role model for this neighborhood and he had the kids wrapped around his finger. He had the biggest fan base you ever could imagine and he did nothing with it."
Another neighbour, whose children grew up next to the house Bollea lived in, agreed with Bryant that the N-word wasn't "thrown around like it was nothing" at the time, telling the local news reporter that "There was a time this area was poor but we didn't say that word." He went on to stress that "My daughter is not like that. My son is not like that. There's no excuse for that." His conclusion was that Hogan should grow up and take responsibility for his own actions saying "If you said it then own it."
My advice to Hogan is that if you want people to believe your contrition, then you had better be honest. My BS detector sounded even before Hogan started talking when the Good Morning America host stressed that Hogan had claimed that he has never even watched the sex tape with the racial slurs in, as anyone following his case against Gawker closely would know that's false.