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'Dog' says he doesn't want to forget racial slur

  • Story Highlights
  • Use of slur threatened to end TV career of Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman
  • Chapman says he does not want the controversy to be forgotten
  • Chapman was heard repeatedly using racial slur in recording sold to tabloid
  • Reality show has returned successfully to A&E network
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By Tricia Escobedo
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (CNN) -- It's been more than a year since a racial slur threatened to end the television career of Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman. But the incident still weighs heavily on his mind.

Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman watches his son's baseball game this month in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Duane "Dog the Bounty Hunter" Chapman watches his son's baseball game this month in Honolulu, Hawaii.

A&E briefly suspended his top-rated reality show in late 2007, and his reputation was on the line.

Now, with his show back on the air and at the top of the network's ratings list, Chapman insists that he does not want the controversy to be forgotten.

"They said, 'It'll pass,' and I said to the guy, 'You know what? I won't let it.' "

Chapman, 56, spoke candidly about accusations of racism on a recent windy Saturday afternoon on the sidelines of 8-year-old son Garry's baseball game.

It was his other son, Tucker, who recorded a profanity-laced conversation with his father and reportedly sold the recording -- which included Chapman repeatedly using the "n-word" -- to the National Enquirer in 2007.

Some African-American leaders called for the cancellation of his show.

Chapman said he was advised to lay low for several weeks, but he refused.

"All the spin doctors ... all those guys told me, 'Dog, say that you were this, say you were that, [but] if you go out there, you're done.' I said, 'I'm going out in a hail of glory. You may call me a convict ... but you ain't gonna call me something I'm not. I'm going out swinging.'"

Chapman said his meetings with leaders of the black community were more than an attempt to redeem himself in the public eye and get his show back on the air. In a February 8, 2008, foreword to his book, "You Can Run But You Can't Hide," he writes that "giving up cussing is just the first step toward my evolution as a human."

He said he was referring to his use of the racial slur, which he admits -- even on the recording -- knowing that it would spark public outrage. But as a former prison inmate of mixed ethnicity -- he is part Native American -- Chapman said he felt he could use the word without it defining him as a racist.

"I was with 38,000 black men at the age of 22 in the '70s, the [prison] guards -- whether they're black or white -- called them that [the slur] every day," he said. "Once I said it and met with leaders of the black community and realized what that word meant, that's when I said, 'I will never again utter that word. Ever.' "

He said, "I don't give a damn that [it] was a private call they burglarized; I knew not to do that. I didn't know not to say the word because what it would do, but I do now. Now if you catch me [saying it], you won't have to stop my show, I'll resign."

Controversy is something that Chapman draws on; it defines his character both publicly and privately. He ran with motorcycle gangs before he was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to a five-year prison term in 1977. He maintains his innocence and served a fraction of the sentence.

His determination to prove he was the world's best bounty hunter led him to Mexico in 2003, where he and his team captured the heir to the Max Factor cosmetics fortune, Andrew Luster, who was convicted in absentia on charges of rape.

The Mexican government charged Chapman and his team with kidnapping and demanded their extradition, but the charges later were dropped.

His life story of an ex-con-turned-vigilante is the hallmark of his celebrity and leads many people to tune in to his show, which began in 2004.

Chapman said his fans perceived the racial slur incident differently.

"Not one black person to this day has walked up to me and said anything bad; it's all been the whites," he said. "[Others said], 'You know here's a bounty hunter, was convicted, went to prison, 30 years later he's arrested 7,000 people. You think he might say a couple bad words.' That's the good things that were said to me."

His 10-year-old daughter, Bonnie Jo, heard about what happened on the radio.

"And she goes, 'Dad, you know you can't use that [word], you're not a rapper. OK, love you, Dad, see you.' And I'm like, 'And is that what your friends are saying?' 'Yep, they know you're not a rapper. They know you're Dog the Bounty Hunter. And it was over, just like that."

While some of his viewers have forgotten the controversy, Chapman does not want it to go away -- particularly the accusations that were leveled against him in the media.

"You better not forget the s*** you put me through over that. I ain't lettin' 'em forget it. Ever. You think black guys forget it? It hurts my feelings to hear it [the slur]. So, yeah, there's such a thing as passing, but I never heard of that. It ain't passing."

He added, "I understand the saying now, 'Lest ye forget.' Don't ever forget that. Please don't forget that, that I went through that. That I learned."

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