Comedian Michael Richards said Sunday he did not consider himself a racist, and that he was “shattered” by the comments he made to two young black men during a tirade at a Los Angeles comedy club.
Richards appeared on the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s nationally syndicated radio program, “Keep Hope Alive,” as a part of a series of apologies for the incident. He said he knew his comments hurt the black community, and hoped to meet with the two men.
He told Jackson that he had not used the language before.
“That’s why I’m shattered by it. The way this came through me was like a freight train. After it was over, when I went to look for them, they had gone. And I’ve tried to meet them, to talk to them, to get some healing,” he said.
Richards, who played Jerry Seinfeld’s wacky neighbor Kramer on the TV sitcom “Seinfeld,” was performing at West Hollywood’s Laugh Factory last week when he lashed out at hecklers with a string of racial obscenities and profane language. A cell phone video camera captured the outburst, and the incident later appeared on TMZ.com.
Richards told Jackson the tirade was fueled by anger, not bigotry. He said he wanted to hurt those who had hurt him.
“I was in a place of humiliation,” he said.
Richards’ publicist, Howard Rubenstein, said Saturday that Richards has begun psychiatric counseling in Los Angeles to learn how to manage his anger.
“He acknowledged that his statements were harmful and opened a terrible racial wound in our nation,” Rubenstein said. “He pledges never ever to say anything like that again. He’s quite remorseful.”
Jackson, who has called Richards’ words “hateful,” “sick,” and “deep-seated,” said the comedian’s inclusion on the show was a chance for a broader discussion about “cultural isolation” in the entertainment industry.
Richards noted that the racial epithet he used is frequent in the entertainment industry, and acknowledged that it could have consequences.
“I fear that young whites will think it’s cool to go around and use that word because they see very cool people in the show business using that word so freely,” he said. “Perhaps that’s what came through in that ... the vernacular is so accessible.”