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24 Nov 2006 07:54
Michael Richards, the actor loved by millions as Seinfeld’s peculiar neighbour Kramer, has turned to an equally legendary public relations guru to save his career after last week’s racist outburst.
Richards has signed up Howard Rubenstein, whose New York-based PR firm is the first port of call for many stars in a fix.
The actor’s future looks bleak after he used the word “nigger” several times in a tirade against two black hecklers at the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles last Friday night. Video of the incident appeared on the celebrity news website tmz.com and has been widely circulated.
The actor made an impromptu appearance on the David Letterman show earlier this week and apologised, saying his words had been fuelled by anger, not bigotry.
But Rubenstein’s appointment suggests that he feels further damage limitation is needed.
The PR chief’s first act has been to put Richards in touch with the anti-racism campaigners Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.
Sharpton said he replied: “Last Monday I was on the stage in Washington where they broke the ground for the Martin Luther King monument. It showed us how far we have come. Then by the end of the week, his tirade shows us how far we still have to go.”
Jackson said the actor’s language should be categorised as hate speech, no matter who he was or how he used the word. “Clearly he needs some race sensibility training, and some psychiatric help,” he said.
Rubenstein represents some of the most prominent figures in New York. His clients include Larry Silverstein, the developer at the centre of the beleaguered project to rebuild Ground Zero, and George Steinbrenner, the owner of the New York Yankees baseball team.
The PR guru said that his new client wanted to heal “the tremendous wounds he’s inflicted on the American public, and on the African-American community”.
But no sooner had Rubenstein begun to initiate that healing process than a new public relations disaster befell the actor. Tmz.com claimed that Richards had made an earlier racist outburst, on this occasion against Jews.
The website reported that during an act in Los Angeles in April he had turned on a man in the audience and said: “You fucking Jew. Your people are the cause of Jesus dying.”
An audience member, Carol Oschin, told the website: “We didn’t know if it was part of the act or whether this guy was losing his mind. The entire club got very quiet. He got very violent and very agitated, and then he stormed off the stage.”
Rubenstein, called upon suddenly to doubly earn his money, confirmed that his client had said those words but added: “[Richards] is Jewish. He’s not anti-semitic at all.” - Guardian Unlimited Â
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