Hogan Caused Friction in Turner When He Said “Polocks” on Larry King Live
During the most recent 83 Weeks episode, Eric Bischoff discussed the reaction inside Turner Broadcasting to the controversy when Hulk Hogan used a derogatory term for Polish people on a Larry King interview in 1999. During the appearance on Larry King Live, Hogan was discussing how Vince McMahon Sr. wanted to give him the last name of Hogan because of the Irish connotations and due to the number of heroes on his roster with ethnic backgrounds. Hogan mentioned Bruno Sammartino for the Italians, Pedro Morales for the Puerto Ricans, Chief Jay Strongbow for the “Indians” and Ivan Putski for the “Polocks.”
The term “Polocks” is considered a derogatory slur (the proper term is “Poles”) and at the time, it caused a lot of controversy. The Polish National Alliance spoke out strongly against it, and Hogan said through a spokesperson that he didn’t say the word itself and was just repeating what McMahon Sr. had said nearly 20 years ago.
Highlights of Bischoff’s comments are below, along with the full podcast:
On the reaction to the outcry: “Yeah, there was a reaction corporately to it. It was clearly a mistake, a bad mistake. And there was internally a discussion with public relations, ‘Okay, how do we address this?’ Do you ignore it? How do you mitigate it? You can’t make it go away, you can’t take it back. But how do you mitigate it, and make it as least damaging as you possibly can?”
On corporate mindset in Turner Broadcasting against use of the word “foreign”: ” And particularly in Turner Broadcasting at the time … there was one thing that [Ted Turner] was really, really adamant about. And you learned it early on once you became an executive in Turner Broadcasting, is you were never, EVER to utter the word foreigner. It’s international. It’s not foreign sales, it’s international sales. It’s not a foreign business opportunity, it’s a international business opportunity. And it was a real issue, and you would be chastised. You could get away with a lot of stuff; you could come to work for a corporate meeting wearing Bermuda shorts, flip-flops and a Hawaiian shirt, and you’d probably get away with it once or twice. But if you uttered the word foreigner or foreign in the context of Turner business, you’d get pulled over into the corner and you’d have a conversation with somebody.”
On that mindset playing into how the Hogan controversy was addressed: “So I think that the reason that Turner corporate — generally, it was the wrong thing to do, but I think that especially in Turner at the time, everybody was overly sensitive to what Hulk said. And they felt like just addressing it was the best way to do it.”