When celebrities apologize for bad behavior or hateful language, sometimes it seems like they’re more sorry for getting caught. Not so Jonah Hill. Last weekend, Hill was caught on video using a gay slur directed at a paparazzo, and on Tuesday the actor went on “The Tonight Show” to face the music head-on.
Hill was on “The Tonight Show” to plug his new movie, “22 Jump Street.” But before anything else, he explained the circumstances that led to the incident, saying he had been hounded all day by the paparazzo, who had been poking fun at him, and finally lost it.
"In response, I wanted to hurt him back, and I said the most hurtful word that I could think of at that moment," Hill said.
Hill went on to apologize, but the comments felt sincere and not packaged into convenient sound bites.
“I didn’t mean it in the sense of the word,” Hill said, stammering. “But 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 or hear words like that."
He added: "My heart’s broken, and I genuinely am deeply sorry to anyone who’s been affected by that term in their life. I'm sorry, and I don’t deserve or expect your forgiveness."
Hill went on to say that if “someone says something that hurts your or angers you, use me an example of what not to do. And don’t respond with hatred or anger because you’re adding just more ugliness to the world.”
Hill said he has been a supporter of the LGBT community; the actor also spoke out against Russia's anti-gay laws amid the controversy surrounding the Sochi Olympics.
Hill’s amends could be a model for the next celebrity apology, which is inevitable, of course.
We don’t know if Hill’s career (which has taken off) needs any salvaging. But the actor might squash the controversy further by speaking in front of schools and/or younger people and helping to educate them on the dangers of hateful speech.
Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjourno1