We’ve all put our foot in our mouths and done things to offend a person at some point in our lives. Celebrities are no different from the rest of us, but instead of apologizing for their misdeeds, these stars didn’t think they did anything wrong.
Sean Penn was tasked with announcing the winner for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards ceremony. When it came time to reveal who won, Penn quipped, “Who gave this son of a b*tch his green card?” before announcing the winner as Birdman. Mexican-born director Alejandro Iñárritu laughed as he accepted the award, but others didn’t find Penn’s remarks so funny. The Milk star refused to apologize because although some people were offended, Iñárritu wasn’t. “I found it hilarious,” Iñárritu said after the ceremony. “Sean and I have that kind of brutal (relationship) where only true friendship can survive.”
For the past few years, Kathy Griffin has helped ring in the New Year alongside CNN’s Anderson Cooper as part of the cable news network’s New Year’s Eve special. But two years ago, many viewers were shocked and appalled after watching the red-haired comedienne repeatedly simulate oral sex on Cooper. A couple days later, Griffin appeared on David Letterman to address the controversy she caused saying, “If you think this is the part where I’m going to apologize for trying to go down on Anderson Cooper, you are sorely mistaken. I tried, ladies and gays, I tried for you.”
Joan Rivers made a very lucrative career out of saying things others would never have uttered out loud, but not all of her material was well received. While making an appearance on Today, Rivers lamented about staying at her daughter Melissa’s house when she was out in California and joked that the kidnapped women found in Ariel Castro’s Cleveland home had more space to move around than she did. That joke didn’t go over so well with a lot of people, but in true form, the legendary comedienne refused to apologize. “I’m a comedienne. I know what those girls went through. It was a little, stupid joke,” she said in an interview with a local Cleveland newspaper. “There is nothing to apologize for. I made a joke. That’s what I do. Calm down. Calm f*cking down. I’m a comedienne. They’re free, so let’s move on.”
Ricky Gervais was asked to host the Golden Globes three years in a row and even though viewers at home loved watching the British comedian make Hollywood heavyweights squirm in their seats, his jokes didn’t go over so well with the stars he offended. But The Office creator could care less about offending anyone and said just that during an interview with Matt Lauer. “What am I doing? I’m coming up with jokes and annoying people,” Gervais said. “I think offense is taken, not given. If you don’t let yourself be offended, you’re not offended. Some people are offended by quality; some people are offended by mixed marriage; some people are offended by homosexuality. What are we meant to do, stop all those things because someone’s offended? No.”
Azealia Banks has received more attention for the things she says and the beefs she starts with other people than her actual music. Last year, Banks went on social media and took a jab at T.I.’s song “Mediocre,” saying the song didn’t make sense because his wife, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle, is mediocre. Tip didn’t take too kindly to Banks’ comment and lashed out at her on social media, calling her out of her name and making some not-so-thinly veiled threats. The Atlanta rapper went on Power 105’s the Breakfast Club and explained why he would never apologize to Banks: “On some real sh*t, that other person you just named is insignificant in every speaking of the word,” T.I. said. “It wasn’t about what they [Azealia] said in reference to Iggy it was what they said in reference to my old lady.”
Katy Perry is one of pop’s biggest stars, but a couple of years ago the “Fireworks” singer came under fire for her choice of attire during a performance. In 2013, Perry appeared onstage at the American Music Awards dressed as a Japanese geisha. There was an immediate backlash on social media, but after her performance, Perry refused to apologize and instead said her performance was in homage to Japanese culture. A few months before her AMA appearance, Perry gushed about her love for all things Japanese to Jimmy Kimmel, and her comments caused controversy: ‘I’m so obsessed with you [Japanese race] I want to skin you and wear you like Versace,” Perry declared.
Throughout his NBA career, Charles Barkley was loud, brash, and unapologetic on the court. After he hung up his basketball jersey for good, Barkley became a sports commentator and has made a second career out of being just as loud, brash, and unapologetic. Last year, Barkley was in hot water for saying there were “big ol’ women” in San Antonio, a place where “Victoria is definitely a secret.” He also said the city was a “gold mine for Weight Watchers.” Barkley faced major backlash, but he dug in his heels and refused to apologize. “You all can write letters to your momma, your daddy, your uncle. I’m going to have fun on television,” Barkley said the following week. “You know that I’m joking around. But if y’all waiting on me to apologize, hell gonna freeze over.”
Avril Lavigne’s obsession with Hello Kitty was the driving force behind her song of the same name. But when the music video for “Hello Kitty” was released, Lavigne was accused of being racist for her references to Japanese culture. Instead of apologizing, the Canadian singer/songwriter defended herself by tweeting, “RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!! I love Japanese culture and spend half of my time in Japan. I flew to Tokyo to shoot this video specifically for my Japanese fans, with my Japanese label, Japanese choreographers and a Japanese director in Japan.”
Surprisingly, not every celebrity handles his or her own social media accounts. In the case of Stephen Colbert’s former Comedy Central show, the network actually controlled @ColbertReport. But that didn’t stop people from pointing the finger at Colbert and calling for his resignation when @ColbertReport took one of his jokes out of context and tweeted, “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.” The hashtag #CancelColbert went viral and the late night host addressed the criticism on his show. Instead of apologizing, Colbert joked his way out of the situation and a few months later he was named as David Letterman’s successor for the Late Show.
Former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was thrown into the national spotlight when audio of him making disparaging comments about Black people leaked to the media. Sterling was caught on tape chastising his mistress for bringing Black people to Clippers games and taking pictures with African Americans, including Magic Johnson. His comments ignited a firestorm and many people were offended, specifically players on his own team. The NBA commissioner issued a lifetime ban on Sterling and he was forced to sell the Clippers. At first the elderly billionaire balked at the ban and filed a lawsuit against the NBA, but eventually he realized the writing was on the wall and conceded, allowing his beloved team to be sold. It took a while for Sterling to apologize, and when he did, he continued to make disparaging remarks about African-Americans.
Rocker Ted Nugent made most of his hit songs in the 70s, but decades later he’s still making headlines. The “Stranglehold” singer caused quite the ruckus when he called President Obama a sub-human mongrel. Despite the outcry, the outspoken musician refused to apologize and showed no remorse even after he was pressured by people in the Republican party. When he did speak out on the issue, Nugent’s apology did almost as much damage as his original comments. “I do apologize–not necessarily to the President–but on behalf of much better men than myself,” he said in an interview. Nugent said he apologized, “for using the street fighter terminology of ‘subhuman mongrel’ instead of just using more understandable language, such as ‘violator of his own — the Constitution.”
Anyone familiar with Amy Schumer’s style of comedy knows her jokes can border between being hilarious and being cringeworthy. During her appearance on Comedy Central’s roast of Charlie Sheen, one of her jokes made many uncomfortable. Steve-O was a part of the roast and Schumer made a remark about his recently deceased pal, Ryan Dunn. “I truly am — no joke — sorry for the loss of your friend Ryan Dunn,” Schumer said. “I know you must have been thinking it could’ve been me. And I know we were all thinking, Why wasn’t it?” Steve-O was visibly upset and there were some boos and gasps from the audience. But the Comedy Central star was unapologetic: “I don’t feel the need to apologize,” Schumer said afterward. “I respect people’s opinion as long as they understand what the joke is. It wasn’t a Ryan Dunn joke. It was a Steve-O joke.”