A former SeaWorld trainer caught on camera five years ago saying the N-word has called his actions stupid, saying: “I’m definitely not a racist.”
The back-and-forth battle between ex-trainer John Hargrove -- who recently published a book critical of the park’s practices -- and SeaWorld came to a head with the park sharing the inflammatory video with reporters.
In the video, Hargrove is seen drunkenly talking on the phone with a woman who claims she was assaulted by a group of black men. Hargrove is heard repeatedly referring to the men using the derogatory term.
On Tuesday, La Jolla bookstore Warwick’s announced it was canceling a book signing with Hargrove in response to the video.
The former trainer, who once worked at SeaWorld San Diego, was featured in the documentary “Blackfish,” which took a critical view of the park’s treatment of killer whales in captivity. He released a book last month called, “Beneath the Surface,” scrutinizing the park's practices.
In response on Wednesday, Hargrove gave a lengthy phone interview with KPBS in which he calls the video embarrassing and not a reflection of his character.
“Certainly it’s offensive language and it should never have been used,” Hargrove said in the interview. “If we could all go back in time and change the stupid things we did and said when we drink.”
“I hope it doesn’t discredit me and I don’t think it will,” he added.
Hargrove went on to call SeaWorld’s leaking of the video a “smear campaign.”
“What’s more shocking is that SeaWorld would then push that video out to media outlets when it has nothing to do with my book, the content of my book, my career as a trainer – it was just a smear campaign,” he said.
In a statement, SeaWorld said: “As we have said all along, ‘Blackfish’ star John Hargrove repeatedly provided statements that were misleading, false or in conflict with statements he made previously. As someone who might report on Hargrove and his book, we believe it is important you see this video we received from an internal whistleblower.”
Hargrove told KPBS that he rarely drinks now.
"That night when I used (the N-word) and was heavily intoxicated I thought I was being funny at the time," he said. "Clearly it’s not funny, it’s obnoxious and you should not use that word."