Glee's Iqbal Theba Defends Lea Michele Against 'Racist' Accusations: 'I Was Never Mistreated by Her'
"Please be compassionate, careful & responsible before we accuse anyone of this horrible thing called racism," Iqbal Theba said
On Wednesday, Theba, who starred as Principal Figgins on the Fox musical dramedy from 2009-15, said that Michele didn't mistreat him while they acted together on the Ryan Murphy-created series.
"Lot of people r assuming that @LeaMichele mistreated me. Let me state it clearly that I was never mistreated by her," Theba, who was born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, began in his first tweet. "And if some of the cast were treated badly then she has apologized for it which is wonderful."
He continued by calling for people to not assume that Michele is "racist," but to instead practice compassion.
"But being called a racist is too heavy & unfair a burden 4 most ... of us, specially in these troubled times," wrote Theba, 56.
"So, please be compassionate, careful & responsible before we accuse anyone of this horrible thing called racism. I love each & everyone of my fellow cast members from our great show @OfficialGLEEtv," he continued.
The actor concluded: "Be safe & be well. Much love."
Accusations against Michele, who starred as Rachel Berry, began on Monday, when Glee actress Samantha Marie Ware — who played Jane Hayward on the musical TV series for 11 episodes in 2015 — called Michele out for making her time on the show a "living hell" after Michele tweeted about the killing of George Floyd.
Ware alleged that Michele "told everyone" that she would "s--- in [Ware's] wig." Ware also said Michele made other "traumatic" microaggressions that made her "question a career in Hollywood."
Michele, 33, said in a statement that while she does not remember making the specific remarks that Ware says she made, that is "not really the point."
"What matters is that I clearly acted in ways which hurt other people," Michele said. "One of the most important lessons of the last few weeks is that we need to take the time to listen and learn about other people's perspectives and any role we have played or anything we can do to help address the injustices that they face."
"When I tweeted the other day, it was meant to be a show of support for our friends and neighbors and communities of color during this really difficult time," she said, referring to her May 29 tweet in support of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.
She continued: "but the responses I received to what I posted have made me also focus specifically on how my own behavior towards fellow cast members was perceived by them."
"While I don’t remember ever making this specific statement and I have never judged others by their background or color of their skin, that’s not really the point," Michele said. "What matters is that I clearly acted in ways which hurt other people."
"Whether it was my privileged position and perspective that caused me to be perceived as insensitive or inappropriate at times or whether it was just my immaturity and me just being unnecessarily difficult, I apologize for my behavior and for any pain which I have caused. We all can grow and change and I have definitely used these past several months to reflect on my own shortcomings."
"I am a couple of months from becoming a mother and I know I need to keep working to better myself and take responsibility for my actions, so that I can be a real role model for my child and so I can pass along my lessons and mistakes, so that they can learn from me," she concluded. "I listened to these criticisms and I am learning and while I am very sorry, I will be better in the future from this experience."
A source close to Michele told PEOPLE on Wednesday that the actress "has reached out to a few of her former cast members and spoke to a couple of them."
Following Michele's apology, Heather Morris, who starred on the show from 2009-15, said in a tweet that her costar was "unpleasant to work with."
"Let me be very clear, Hate is a disease in America that we are trying to cure, so I would never wish for hate to be spread to anyone else. With that said, was she unpleasant to work with? Very much so; for Lea to treat others with the disrespect that she did for as long as she did, I believe she SHOULD be called out," Morris said about Michele on Wednesday. "And yet, it's also on us because to allow it to go on for so long without speaking out is something else we're learning along with the rest of society."
She concluded, "But, at the current moment it's implied that she is a racist and although I cannot comment on her beliefs, I think we're assuming, and you know what happens when we all assume..."
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On Thursday, Glee's Amber Riley also made a brief comment about Michele while speaking with journalist Danielle Young on Instagram Live, discussing racism and the ongoing Black Lives Matter protests.
Riley said during the chat that she doesn’t think Michele is racist, but she hopes the actress "has grown."
"I’m not going to say that Lea Michele is racist. That’s not what I’m saying," said Riley, who played Mercedes Jones on the musical series. "That was the assumption because of what’s going on right now in the world and it happened toward a black person. I’m not going to say that she’s racist."
She added, "She’s also pregnant and I think that everybody needs to chill. Y’all dragged her for a couple of days."