“This woman once proclaimed that I should ‘never’ be allowed to speak publicly again. The world agreed with her proclamation back then and protested for my job and my head in 65 languages. I wish I was on Twitter in 2007, because I will NEVER stop exercising my free speech,” Washington, 57, wrote alongside a photo of Heigl, 41.
The “proclamation” the actor is referring to occurred in October 2006 when it was reported that Washington — who viewers will remember as Dr. Preston Burke — used a homophobic slur during an argument with Patrick Dempsey (Derek Shepherd) at the time. A few months later, fellow former Grey’s star T.R. Knight revealed during an October 2007 episode of The Ellen Degeneres Show that hearing Washington use the word “f—-t” encouraged him to come out as gay.
Washington subsequently denied using the slur, which led Heigl (Izzie Stevens) to tell Access Hollywood that he “needs to just not speak in public, period.” After the scandal broke, ABC announced that Washington would not be returning to season 4 of Grey’s Anatomy. He admitted to using the slur during an interview on Larry King Live in July 2017.
As for why Washington went on Twitter Monday to bring up the scandal, he addressed this in another social media post saying, “Because it’s the TRUTH. The End.” He also referred to Heigl as “the first Karen” and brought Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey) into the drama.