When Holly Robinson Peete was told by a friend that John Mayer – a musician her whole family admired – had called her “gorgeous” in a Playboy interview, she blushed and even told E! in a widely reported interview that she felt flattered.
But the apparent compliment turned sour when Robinson Peete read the full interview, complete with his statement about African American women and his use of the N-word. “I was disgusted and offended,” says Robinson Peete, who herself had faced criticism from some who felt she had initially been an apologist for Mayer.
Robinson Peete reveals to PEOPLE that Mayer has reached out to her to apologize for involving her in his firestorm, but not for his actual words. The actress says it’s “time for him to really just drop the frat boy act” and “take responsibility for these hurtful comments.”
A spokesperson for Mayer says: “On Wednesday, John apologized for his remarks via Twitter and again in public that night. His remorse is genuine and he has expressed sincere regret for all of his word choices.”
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In an exclusive interview with PEOPLE, Robinson Peete spoke in detail about the issue:
Q: Would you have been so flattered by John Mayer stating you’re "gorgeous" if you’d read what he said in the rest of the interview?
A: The answer is no. I would never have been as flattered. As a matter of fact, it went from a compliment to being an insult. That anyone would think that I would be so giddy about this young man’s compliment that I would compromise my integrity as an African American woman is the most disturbing part for me. I foolishly and impulsively commented (to E!) on a sound bite from an interview that was sent to me by a girlfriend and I didn’t know the context at all. Clearly, after I understood how John Mayer’s comments were bookended by racial insensitivities and this racially charged, rambling diatribe that denigrated black women, it became a whole other animal.
Q: How do you feel about what Mayer said?
A: I was disgusted and offended. Especially when I started reading his surrounding comments. In the whole body of the article, there wasn’t anything that wasn’t offensive. It was beyond inappropriate. It’s crucial for African American women to understand that I would never knowingly gush about such a compliment had I had any clue that it was bookended by these racially denigrating comments about black women. I feel disgusted by it. I went from flattered to flat-out pissed.
Q: Do you feel John Mayer is a racist?
A: Is it possible to say something racially charged, bigoted and flat out ignorant and not be a racist person? That’s the question. My impression is that it’s possible, but I want to make it clear that this guy has some major issues to sort through and a whole lot of apologies to make. I heard some apologies about the N-word, and I’ve seen him crying, which seemed sincere. But I don’t know if he understands how much he hurt black women’s feelings.
Q: Has he reached out to you to apologize?
A: He was very remorseful about the fact that I was inadvertently tangled up into this mess. He reached out to me via email. … He did not apologize for his comments. … At this point, it doesn’t feel right for me to totally accept his apology. It’s time for him to really just drop the frat boy act and take responsibility for everything that he said, no matter how painful it’s going to be for him.