The Flash star Hartley Sawyer was fired from his role as Ralph Dibny on the CW show after fans resurfaced his old racist and misogynist tweets. In a statement shared with In Touch, executive producer Eric Wallace confirmed the actor “will not be returning” for season 7 of the show after starring in seasons 4, 5 and 6.
“In regards to Mr. Sawyer’s posts on social media, we do not tolerate derogatory remarks that target any race, ethnicity, national origin, gender or sexual orientation,” the statement continued on behalf of the TV network and producers Warner Bros. TV and Berlanti Productions. “Such remarks are antithetical to our values and policies, which strive and evolve to promote a safe, inclusive and productive environment for our workforce.”
A Twitter thread of the tweets started circulating on May 29. On June 5, actress Skai Jackson shared screenshots of several of them, and the post went viral. The offensive jokes, written between 2011 and 2014, made light of racism, black people in prison, mutilating women, domestic violence, assault and beastiality. Though Hartley, 35, deleted his Twitter account, he shared an apology on Instagram.
“I’m not here to make excuses,” he wrote on May 30. “Regardless of the intention, my words matter and they carry profound consequences. And mine can and have caused pain and embarrassment, along with feelings I can only imagine, to supporters and fans, my castmates, the crew, my colleagues and friends. I owe them all an apology. And I owe each of you an apology. Thank you for holding me accountable.”
He explained that his words were meant “with an intent of humor” but acknowledged they were “hurtful and unacceptable” despite that. “I am ashamed I was capable of these really horrible attempts to get attention at that time. I regret them deeply,” he continued. He insisted he “began his journey into becoming a more responsible adult” years ago and has “largely kept that journey private.” He assured fans the sentiments shared in the tweets are “not reflective” of what he thinks or who he is today.
In a separate statement shared on Twitter on June 8, the showrunner spoke at greater length with fans. “This morning, many of you learned that Hartley Sawyer will not be returning for season 7 of The Flash,” Eric wrote. “Concerning his social media tweets, they broke my heart and made me mad as hell.” He committed himself to “bringing permanent change to the work environment” on the show, promising he will “continue to find black and brown writers, directors, actors and producers of all genders to tell Flash stories.”
He also took the opportunity to speak out about the Black Lives Matter movement. Calling Hartley’s tweets “indicative of the larger problem in our country,” he wrote, “At present, our country still accepts and protects the continual harassment — unconscious or otherwise — terrorizing and brutalizing of black and brown people, which is far too often fatal. … Murder is not democracy. Systemic and institutional white privilege is not equality. Suppressing the free press with violence is not liberty. The only way for you to be free is for all of us to be free.”
Costar Danielle Panabaker didn’t share a statement of her own, but she did retweet a news article about Hartley’s firing as well as Eric’s statement. Grant Gustin, who plays the titular superhero, also shared the statement on Instagram. “I don’t have much to add because Eric’s thoughts are stated so eloquently and powerfully,” he wrote. “I will say I was shocked, saddened and angry when I saw the tweets. Words matter.”