NEW YORK — Hulk Hogan says his history of using the n-word isn’t evidence of racism. It’s a byproduct of his upbringing.
“I’m not a racist but I never should have said what I said. It was wrong. I’m embarrassed by it,” the iconic professional wrestler said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Monday.
“People need to realize that you inherit things from your environment. And where I grew up was south Tampa, Port Tampa, and it was a really rough neighborhood, very low income. And all my friends, we greeted each other saying that word.”
The slur, Hogan said, was “thrown around like it was nothing.”
“The environment I grew up in in south Tampa and all my white friends, all my black friends, to hear the word on a daily basis when they’d greet me in the morning, that’s what they’d say to me, ‘Good morning,’ so-and-so,” he added.
The National Enquirer reported last month on an audio recording in which Hogan, whose real name is Terry Bollea, said the n-word. World Wrestling Entertainment responded swiftly, firing Hogan and booting him from its hall of fame.
Hogan, 62, said he was shocked by the WWE’s actions and that the fallout over the controversy made him suicidal.
“I was completely broken and destroyed and said, ‘What’s the easiest way out of this?’ I mean, I was lost,” he told “Good Morning America.”
The damning audio transcript surfaced as Hogan is entangled in an epic legal battle against Gawker Media. Hogan has filed a $100 million invasion of privacy claim against the company for publishing portions of a sex tape on its flagship gossip website, Gawker.com.
Gawker contends the tape was newsworthy. The trial, which was originally scheduled to begin in July, has been delayed until next year.
Hogan’s legal team claimed last month that Gawker leaked the transcript that contained the slurs, something that Gawker denied.
In a statement released Monday after the interview aired, Gawker Media said that Hogan “certainly has a lot to apologize for.”
“He’s finally been exposed as the hypocrite he really is,” the statement said.
A teary Hogan was plenty apologetic on Monday. At one point during the interview, he asked ABC’s Amy Robach for a moment to compose himself.
He begged his fans for forgiveness, and insisted that “there’s not a racist bone in my body.”
Hogan said he used the epithet to describe his daughter’s then-boyfriend because he was “upset over a situation that happened.” His daughter, Brooke Bollea, “showed me more love than anybody,” Hogan said.
“She’s been so supportive,” Hogan said of his daughter.