ABC News(NEW YORK) — With his signature leg drop, horseshoe moustache and undeniable strength, 12-time world wrestling champion Hulk Hogan single-handedly transformed wrestling into a global phenomenon, but he’s now he’s fighting to maintain his legacy after fallout over his admitted use of the N-word.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News’ Amy Robach that aired Monday on Good Morning America, a contrite and emotional Hogan talked about the circumstances surrounding his use of the N-word. He steadfastly denied being a racist and begged his fans for forgiveness.
In addition to the scandal involving his use of the N-word in the past, the 62-year-old is embroiled in a legal battle with Gawker Media following the gossip website’s publication of a tape showing Hogan having sex. The National Enquirer reported on the audio from a different part of that tape, in which Hogan can be heard using the racial slur, according to the Enquirer.
The tape is believed to have been recorded between 2006 and 2007.
Hogan is suing Gawker Media for $100 million. Heather Dietrick, Gawker’s president and general counsel, has argued that publishing the tape was an issue of newsworthiness.
Born Terry Bollea, the man behind the once-indestructible “Hulkster” was wiped from the WWE’s Hall of Fame last month after his use of the racial slur was revealed.
Hogan told Robach that he had been “upset over a situation that happened” between his daughter, Brooke Bollea, and her boyfriend. That’s when he referred to his daughter’s then-boyfriend using the N-word.
Hogan said he had “no idea” that he was being taped, explaining: “I was to the point where I wanted to kill myself, you know?”
He described how he sat in his bathroom by himself, his estranged wife and children gone.
“I was completely broken and destroyed and said, ‘What’s the easiest way out of this?’ I mean, I was lost,” he said.
Asked whether he was suicidal, Hogan replied, “Yes, I was.”
Then Robach asked: “Are you a racist?”
“I’m not a racist but I never should have said what I said. It was wrong. I’m embarrassed by it,” he said, but added: “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.”
He added that the word was “just thrown around like it was nothing.”
Asked whether it was fair to say that he inherited a racial bias, Hogan agreed that he did.
“I would say that is very fair. The … 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 said. “I think that was part of the culture and the environment I grew up in and I think that’s fair to say.”
As for his fans who may feel let down by his actions, Hogan asked for forgiveness.
“Oh, my gosh. Please forgive me. Please forgive me,” he said. “I think if you look at the whole picture of who Hulk Hogan is, you can see over all the years that there’s not a racist bone in my body.”
He said he has forgiven himself, telling Robach that it wasn’t hard for him to do because he’s not a racist.
“I’m a nice guy. It’s not, you know, not the Hulk Hogan that rips a shirt off and bang, bang, bang, slams giants, you know? I’m Terry Bollea,” he said.
But WWE – formerly the WWF – took drastic action. It fired the wrestling legend and removed his image and name from its website’s Hall of Fame.
Hogan was shocked.
“I’ve worked for the WWE for almost 30 years off and on … and then all of a sudden, everything I’ve done my whole career and my whole life was like it never happened,” he said.
He described the WWE’s actions as “devastating.”
“I mean, I love this business. I mean, it’s been my life. I’ve given my life to this business,” he said. “I’ve destroyed my body because I love doing this so much … And I knew great things were still coming. And — it just destroyed me.”
Many high-profile figures are now coming to his defense, including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, George Foreman and Dennis Rodman.
His daughter has also come to her father’s defense, writing in a poem on Facebook: “Human isn’t perfect and perfect is not he but I can tell you one thing, it’s just not what it seems. Cause if you knew the dad I knew, you’d know he raised me well. He taught me folks are so much more than shades could ever tell.”
Hogan said if anyone should have disowned him, it should have been his daughter.
“She knows me. She’s seen me — kids of every color, nationality… She’s seen me interact with these kids through Make A Wish, through just all these different organizations,” he said, getting emotional as he added: “For me to vent and be so angry at her, she should have been the one — she should have been the one to throw me out like the trash. But instead, she showed me more love than anybody.”
His daughter has never wavered, he said.
“She’s been so supportive … she instantly said ‘I don’t even need to forgive you ’cause I’m not mad at you. I love you. You’re my dad,'” he said.
Hogan is trying to turn the experience into a positive.
“You know, just because a person makes a mistake, just don’t throw them away. You don’t throw good people away … I refuse to believe that one thing that I did, which is not who I am, is the beginning of my demise,” he said. “I think it’s going to open up a lot of eyes and I’m accountable. I did it. I if I did something, I’ll tell you, I did it.”
Even on what he calls the “worst day of his life,” Hogan said: “I thought, ‘You know what? This is going to be the greatest day of my life,’ as crazy as that sounds.”
“Why would it be the greatest day of your life?” Robach asked.
“So this can become the greatest day in my life if people understand there can’t be double standards,” he said. “And you just can’t use the word. Let’s take it out of the dictionary. Let’s not use it in rap songs or movies. I mean, if it’s unacceptable, it’s unacceptable.”
Hogan added: “If everybody at their lowest point was judged on one thing they said and let’s just say in high school, you may have said one bad thing and all of a sudden, your whole career was wiped out today because of something you said 10 or 20 years ago, it’d be a sad world. People get better every day. People get better.”
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