Updated at 3:20 p.m. April 1, 2015
Organizer Ellen Ericksen, who appeared on three San Diego newscasts Tuesday night, accused SeaWorld of a “smear campaign” when it released a 5-minute video of former senior trainer Hargrove using the N-word seven times during a phone chat.
The nearly 5-year-old video was disseminated Tuesday by SeaWorld as the New York-based Hargrove was making a West Coast swing on his tour promoting “Beneath the Surface,” his week-old book critical of SeaWorld’s treatment of killer whales.
Ericksen said on Facebook late Tuesday night that “I just got off the phone with John and he truly apologizes that he will not be in San Diego. It is out of his control. Just know that he appreciates everyone’s well wishes and wants us all to continue to support him no matter where he is.”
According to Channel 8 News, Warwick’s owner canceled Hargrove’s scheduled 7:30 p.m. appearance Wednesday in La Jolla because of the video — and not at the behest of SeaWorld.
- Earlier story: N-Word Video Sinks Book-Signing by Ex-SeaWorld Trainer
- KPBS: Ex-SeaWorld Trainer Responds To Video Of Him Using Racial Slurs
“The cancellation is a statement of our feelings about what is in the video,” Nancy Warwick was quoted as saying. “This is the one and only reason we canceled our event with John Hargrove.”
However, a scheduled appearance Thursday on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles was still on. Early Wednesday, the Book Soup store website featured a graphic and background page saying Hargrove would discuss and sign the Macmillan-published book at 7 p.m.
On KPBS Midday Edition, Hargrove said his San Francisco book-signing Tuesday night was “packed” and a success and that no other visits have been halted besides the one at Warwick’s — whose cancellation was called the first in its history.
Under persistent questioning by host Maureen Cavanaugh, Hargrove repeatedly expressed regret for his behavior on the video but denied being a racist.
“No dancing around it — that’s not a word that should be used,” he said via phone. “You don’t use that word when you’re angry. You don’t use it when you’re intoxicated and obnoxious and think you’re being funny — because you’re not being funny.”
But more shocking, he said, was that “SeaWorld would then push that video out to the media outlets when it had absolutely nothing to do … with my book, the contents of my book, my career as a killer whale trainer. It was just an attempt to smear me.”
Cavanaugh said SeaWorld declined to take part in the noon radio show.
On Facebook, Ericksen wrote that Hargrove “will hold his head high and continue speaking for the enslaved animals at $ea World. Once again $ea World and the smear campaigns are out of control.”
She said the “stupidity” of SeaWorld’s recent attacks on Hargrove would boost his book sales.
“I am also urging you all NOT to buy this book or any books from Warwick’s,” Ericksen wrote. “They are pro-captivity people. I had an interesting lecture from a woman that works there earlier today. I said my peace with the media tonight and I hope that the sound bites they choose are worthy [of] the animals, because that is what this is all about. $hame on $ea World.”
In a Facebook event posting, the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. protest apparently aims to coincide with a SeaWorld event.
“Enjoy a leisurely poolside brunch with Shamu and his trainers,” a SeaWorld ad is quoted as saying. “Our chefs will prepare a wonderful buffet to entice the whole family.”
Ericksen said protesters would meet Sunday at the corner of Sea World Drive and Sea World Way.
Times of San Diego requests for comment Tuesday were not immediately returned by Hargrove or his Macmillan publicist.