Jon Hamm on his fraternity hazing past: ‘I don’t want to give it any more breath’

I used to be a huge Jon Hamm fan. Mad Men is one of the few TV series that I’ve seen from start to finish, every episode. Hamm was perfect as Don Draper and even now, when I happen upon an old episode, I’m struck by just how great Hamm was on that show. But as the show was ending in 2015, Hamm’s life fell apart. He went into rehab, he broke up with his longtime girlfriend, and reports came out about Hamm’s activities in college which… really made him seem like a total a–hole. The stories were about Hamm attending UT-Austin and being one of the ringleader sadists of the Sigma Nu fraternity, and some episodes of frat hazing gone terribly wrong. Star Magazine broke the stories – go here and here. According to those reports, Hamm reached a plea deal with prosecutors and the charges against him were later dismissed, while some other frat bros were charged with misdemeanor hazing and assault.

In the months and years that followed Star’s reporting, Hamm didn’t say much about any of it. It’s easy for celebrities to dismiss tabloids like Star and it’s easy for the more “legitimate” news outlets to whitewash those tabloid stories. So Hamm was never really pressed about anything. Now Hamm covers the latest issue of Esquire to promote his role in Beirut, and Esquire went there, asking Hamm about his abusive frat-bro past. The impression I getting is “dismissive.” You can read the full Esquire piece here. The highlights:

The Hazing Crime: In 1989, he went off to the University of Texas and pledged the Sigma Nu fraternity, through which he found a family of brothers and got himself into serious trouble with the law. According to reports, when Hamm was a sophomore, he and several of his fraternity brothers hazed a pledge so severely that their actions permanently shut down the frat’s UT chapter. Assault charges were filed against the 20-year-old and fellow members that were later dropped. A 1991 lawsuit claimed that Hamm lit the kid’s pants on fire; physically abused him; and, along with his brothers in a part of the Sigma Nu house called the “Party Room,” hooked the claw of a hammer underneath his crotch and led him around the room.

How Hamm responds: When I bring up the incident…Hamm bristles. He tells me, “I wouldn’t say it’s accurate. Everything about that is sensationalized. I was accused of these things I don’t… It’s so hard to get into it. I don’t want to give it any more breath. It was a bummer of a thing that happened. I was essentially acquitted. I wasn’t convicted of anything. I was caught up in a big situation, a stupid kid in a stupid situation, and it’s a f–king bummer. I moved on from it.”

He later dropped out of UT: That same year, Dan died of complications associated with diabetes. Hamm went home to lay his father to rest and never returned to UT. “My dad was sick. He ended up dying in the middle of all of this and I had to rally my own mental health and become a better person because of it. I’m happy that I became a better person. Everyone goes through a weirdness as a young person, especially in college, when you’re trying to figure things out.”

[From Esquire]

The name of Hamm’s not-so-alleged victim is Mark Allen Sanders. Sanders gave interviews about the hazing, and clearly, he went to the police at the time. He directly confirmed that Hamm was the ringleader of the fraternity’s hazing rituals/crimes. But Hamm makes it all about himself – “it was a bummer of a thing that happened” – and spares no thought to the victim who had to be hospitalized because of Hamm’s actions. The fact that this part of the conversation is framed by Esquire as part of Hamm’s tragic childhood and young-adulthood feels… tricky. And smarmy. Like, I genuinely believe that Hamm had a terrible f–king childhood. His mother died when he was very young, his dad didn’t know how to take care of him, Hamm didn’t know how to grieve, all of that. But I also believe that he was an abusive a–hole who brutally assaulted a young fraternity pledge and even now, Hamm can’t even spare a thought for his victim.

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Photos courtesy of WENN, cover courtesy of Esquire.

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79 Responses to “Jon Hamm on his fraternity hazing past: ‘I don’t want to give it any more breath’”

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  1. Who ARE these people? says:

    Too late, a**hole. He was old enough to know what he was doing.

    • Lana 234 says:

      Jon Hamm was in university and old enough to know better. He doesn’t want to talk about because he probably doesn’t feel bad about his behaviour.

    • imqrious2 says:

      He *is* old enough, true. But as a teacher, I can tell you, that if a child isn’t taught empathy as a toddler (“How do you think you’d feel if ___”), it is hard to instill later. I’m thinking Hamm doesn’t really have empathy for anyone. He is basically a narcissist, thinking only of HIS feelings. While I really loved Mad Men, I dislike *him* as a person.

      • homeslice says:

        Yes, loved Don Draper, can’t stand Hamm and not interested in any other thing he does…

  2. Severin88 says:

    Forever my hammaconda.

    • erbs says:

      It’s the hammaconda that gives him the impression he’s king. Other men revere it. Women, meh, not as much.

      My truism:
      The best fruit does not always grow on the biggest trees.

    • Jess says:

      Eh, I used to love him but I’m over it after this story came out. He seems a little stunted mentally as well. Plus all the big dongs I’ve seen or had were the laziest lovers and worst overall sexually. They expect their big d*ck to just dazzle us into orgasm I guess, and they don’t have to do any actual work. I’ll take an average size everyday all day😂😂

  3. Esmom says:

    Yeah, wow. Heartless bastard.

    • Rumi says:

      Yup!
      He could’ve said it was a incredibly horrific incident to have engaged in, I’m ashamed of the way I took an active part of Hazing somebody. I deeply regret my actions. I’ve learnt and grown from that experience and have made amends. Maybe add a sentence of how to treat people with kindness and respect.
      Instead he’s like i was acquitted, that speaks more of the justice system than Hamm’s acquittal.
      Owning up to his terrible behavior would’ve closed this for good.

    • tracking says:

      He’s a total prick about this, exuding ‘poor me’ instead of taking even a modicum of responsibility for his role in that horrifying incident. So glad HE has moved on from it. I don’t say this often, but he’s cancelled.

      • Jess says:

        Agreed. I somehow missed this story at the time but his approach in this interview is inexcusable.

    • Jag says:

      Definitely acting like a true narcissist. Glad that I never liked him in the first place because I won’t watch anything that he’s in since first hearing the story here on CB.

  4. grabbyhands says:

    “It was a bummer of a thing that happened. I was essentially acquitted. I wasn’t convicted of anything. I was caught up in a big situation, a stupid kid in a stupid situation, and it’s a f–king bummer. I moved on from it.”

    My god, what an ASS. His publicist must hate his guts because I can’t imagine anyone greenlighting this .

    • Chaine says:

      IKR? I’m not a publicist and I could tell him something better to say… “As a young college student, I got caught up in the Greek scene and made some people’s lives very difficult. I’m very sorry about that. It was a long time ago and I’m not the same person I was back then.”

      • grabbyhands says:

        The Greek system is the worst. It probably served a purpose in the 50’s but there are a tons of other resources for leadership and networking these days. All they are now are school sanctioned, parent sponsored, four year vacations in toxic masculinity.

        Is Hamm a republican? Because his answer is straight out of the 45 playbook- I wasn’t convicted of anything so basically it’s like it didn’t happen and you’re a jerk for reminding me of it.

    • Llamas in pajamas says:

      Wow. It wasn’t a “bummer thing” that just “happened”, it was a thing he actively did! Way to not take responsibility after all this time, still.

    • Pandy says:

      Seriously. How hard is it to say “I’m deeply ashamed of my part in hazing. I was young and stupid and it was a hard lesson to learn. It changed the course of my life for the better.”
      I bet he “bristled”. Dude wants to pretend it never happened but that genie is out of the bottle.

  5. Miss Melissa says:

    I can tell you with certainty it happened.

    Everyone on campus knew the story of why they lost their charter.

    It was legendary.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      I fully believe it.

      all he had to say was “I did a horrible thing and I have so much regret for it. I hope that man is able to forgive me”. and THEN shut it down with a “I don’t have any more to say on that”.

    • Anastasia says:

      Yep. I was finishing up at A&M at the time and it was all over the campus newspaper, the news on TV, radio, etc. Everyone knew about it. I even remember giggling at John’s name. John Hamm, tee hee. (I was 20, ok?)

      When he became a big actor, I didn’t put the two together, but ever since I’ve known THAT’S him, I can’t watch him in anything. I cringed through his brief scenes in Bridesmaids, because I think he was just playing himself–a douche.

      • stinky says:

        Lol – but he was douche-perfection … I wanted MORE scenes !

      • whatWHAT? says:

        I have a similar view of Ethan Hawke. he went to high school in my town. there was one public school and three or four private ones that all palled around and partied together because we were so small and because some of the private school kids had initially gone to public, so we knew them.

        he starred in his first movie while in HS, and he was SUCH A DOUCHE after that. I cannot watch him in anything because of how he was back then. and when he and Uma split up and the rumors of how he treated her?…I was like, yeah, that’s him.

  6. Igotbiglipsandicannotlie says:

    So, is he supposed to get on his knees and beg for forgiveness every time this incident is brought up for the rest of his life? I bet the victim in this case is sick of hearing about it too. Let it go for all involved, maybe? Not just Hamm but for the victim too.

    • Kata says:

      “So, is he supposed to get on his knees and beg for forgiveness every time this incident is brought up for the rest of his life?”

      Yes.

      • tracking says:

        Yes.

      • JennaR says:

        Yes!

      • Domino says:

        Fourth person to say, being remorseful costs you nothing. If it is painful for you to say, think about how painful it is for the person who was actually the victim.

        It is called empathy, and we could all use a little more.

      • imqrious2 says:

        If he would’ve “begged for forgiveness” ONCE, it’d be out there, but he hasn’t. It was a “bummer” that “just happened”… no mention that HE was the instigator! F**KING APOLOGIZE A$$WIPE!

    • Menlisa says:

      He does not seem remorseful at all

    • Alisha says:

      Well if you consider that the trauma will probably impact the victim for the rest of THEIR life, an he cannot even muster an apology or thought of regret, then yes.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      “So, is he supposed to get on his knees and beg for forgiveness every time this incident is brought up for the rest of his life? ”

      well, no, and that’s not what people are asking for, I think, but…

      …he could, at the VERY least, show some remorse for his actions. this comes off as “what’s the big deal? I got acquitted!” as if that dismisses his role in this. he may have been “a stupid kid in a stupid situation”, but that doesn’t excuse his behavior.

      As I said above, he can absolutely shut it down but first say something that acknowledges what he did (“I did a terrible thing and thoroughly regret my actions; I hope that man can forgive me.”) follow that up with, “I don’t have anything else to say on the topic”.

      would that be so hard? I mean, perhaps he HAS said something like that publicly and I missed it. but it would go a long way to regain some of the fans he lost. the fact that he “bristled” tells me that he hasn’t fully acknowledged his actions and doesn’t see it as something HE DID; rather, he seems to see it as something “that happened” and it was “a bummer”. truly remorseful people don’t “bristle” when their past bad behavior is brought up; most people (who aren’t sociopathic) will have a reaction much more like disgust for themselves, rather than getting annoyed that someone brought it up.

    • Spring says:

      No, and what you’re asking is a very different thing than taking full responsibility and expressing genuine regret, which he has failed to do. I, for one, am not sick of hearing about these types of incidents. After decades of my life when abuse was swept under the rug and abusers given a pass, I’m thrilled that people aren’t letting these things go.

      Jon Hamm could have owned his sadistic actions and could keep owning them to become a powerful anti-bullying advocate, but he’s all about Jon.

    • oh-dear says:

      my understanding is that the victim has asked that it not be discussed. He wants it to be forgotten. I imagine Hamm can’t say I did a terrible thing because he was acquitted – he must need to a walk a fine line in how he discusses it when it comes up.

      • Igotbiglipsandicannotlie says:

        @oh-dear That was a part of where I was coming from with my comment. I’m sure the victim doesn’t want to hear about it for the rest of his life either. It happened 30 years ago. I suspect he’s moved on with his life too.

      • Domino says:

        I don’t think we need to speak for the victim. They can do it themselves, no?

    • Bella says:

      Aw, you mentioned the victim for good measure. How nice of you to pretend to care about his well-being for the sake of defending your favorite.

    • whatWHAT? says:

      just to add, have you read the details of this assault?

      it wasn’t just setting his pants on fire and digging a claw hammer underneath his genitals to “drag him around”, although that’s bad enough.

      not sure if the esquire article has all the details, but beyond that, they paddled him to the point that he had a spinal fracture and almost lost a kidney. they also confined him, repeatedly, to a “pit” carved into the basement of the frat that they called “the grave”, and stood on his back while in there, Hamm and another fratbro lifted him up off the ground by his underwear and pulled it back and forth in a “sawing motion”.

      so, yeah, I’m going to go with “he needs to apologize and KEEP APOLOGIZING FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE” any time that this is brought up. EVERY TIME it’s mentioned, he should show remorse, not “bristle” and dismiss it. even if the victim doesn’t want to hear about it, it’s going to come up in interviews with Hamm and he should always be remorseful and NEVER be dismissive.

  7. Jay says:

    Trash person.

  8. Iknowwhatboyslike says:

    This stinks of Nate Parker’s response to his sexual assault case. I know he wasn’t accused of sexual assault or rape, but boy this, “I was a stupid kid who got caught up , but was acquitted” is the same bull crap.

    • kate says:

      Oh yeah, same mindset. Both seem intent on “moving on” from this ordeal without a thought for their victims. Sociopathic behaviour.

  9. QueenB says:

    Terrible, terrible man. Kathy Griffin also talked about him how he would whisper in her ear “you are ooooold”.
    She also fittingly described him as “he’s one of these hot guys who’s mildly funny but actually thinks he’s comedian-level funny”.

    • minx says:

      That seems right. At the time I thought he was funny on 30 Rock, but the writing was so good anyone would seem funny.

    • anon14 says:

      @Erinn and minx, I wasn’t a regular watcher of 30 Rock by any means but I think I happened to catch that episode (if in that episode he’s supposed to be ridiculously handsome and privileged because of that). I remember thinking that episode’s premise was ripped off from a Seinfeld episode in which Jerry dates a female model who lives in a rarefied bubble and gets her way all the time solely on her looks. The 30 Rock episode seemed to be copy of that (with the genders reversed ).

  10. JustJen says:

    Never liked him. Never will.

  11. smcollins says:

    I remember when this story first came out and I still don’t know how to feel about it (even though it’s not really my place, I guess, to feel anything). He obviously was a very lost and troubled kid/young adult who most likely did these horrible things through a fog of alcohol and possibly drugs. That doesn’t excuse what he did, of course, but it undoubtedly was a factor. His dismissiveness does come across as pretty cold, but maybe he just wants to leave it in the past during a time he’d rather not talk about or think about anymore (it was almost 30 years ago after all). I realize his victim may not feel the same way, but…..arggg! I don’t know! Just seems like it was a horrible situation the whole way around.

    • Shijel says:

      Maybe don’t put a kid in hospital for your ‘fun’ and malice then. A college kid is old enough to know better. Hell, a small child knows better.

      He doesn’t get to ‘leave it in the past’. That is only up to the victim. Some things you do not mend, some things you’ll never live down, and you don’t get reprieve. You carry that burden and what comes with it until the rest of your life – such be the consequences of such actions.

      He didn’t get convicted, did he. He’s lived a grand life, he’s rich, he’s still successful. All the crappy childhood in the world won’t ever be an excuse. I have sympathy for bad childhoods and the resulting behavioural problems, god knows I’ve had my share of both. But I’ve yet to drag a teenager around a room with a claw hammer hooked under their groin.

      And even today, it is clear that there’s less remorse and more ‘this is inconvenient for ME’ coming out of Hamm.

      • whatWHAT? says:

        “He doesn’t get to ‘leave it in the past’. That is only up to the victim. Some things you do not mend, some things you’ll never live down, and you don’t get reprieve. You carry that burden and what comes with it until the rest of your life – such be the consequences of such actions.”

        *standing and clapping*

        right, it’s like “oh, you poor thing, you…you don’t want to think about what you did to that young man? Well, NEITHER DOES HE, but he has to, for the rest of his life. so go “boo hoo” somewhere else.”

  12. Slowsnow says:

    When the person who plays Don Draper makes Don Draper almost seem like a good person.

    • Bella says:

      Right?! I was going to say, a terrible person played a terrible person greatly, but Don never dragged a man by his groin with a claw hammer, so…I’ll take Don over John any day.

  13. Jane says:

    Well, Hamm’s moved on from it, so I suppose that makes it ok. /s

  14. HK9 says:

    I find it interesting that a middle aged man still can’t apologize for his wrongdoing. Says everything I need to know.

  15. HadleyB says:

    He is such a sh*t person but to my shame… I would still bang all day every day.

  16. Mira says:

    “A 1991 lawsuit claimed that Hamm lit the kid’s pants on fire; physically abused him; and, along with his brothers in a part of the Sigma Nu house called the “Party Room,” hooked the claw of a hammer underneath his crotch and led him around the room.”

    Yeah, I’m sure it was SUCH a bummer, you f-cking bastard.

  17. JA says:

    Shit person who deserves nothing but shit the rest of his life especially when he takes no responsibility for his actions or has remorse about it

  18. Anastasia says:

    Well, what a BUMMER that so many people hate you, Hamm.

  19. Who ARE These People? says:

    He does such a disservice to the millions of people who survive violence and loss in childhood yet never harm another person. He was bad news then and he’s bad news now. Doesn’t seem to have learned a thing.

  20. Nicole says:

    Typical. There’s so many privileges layered into his ability to “forget” and move on. It’s like marky Mark when he whines about the fact that he has a record but he doesn’t give af about the person he injured and hurled slurs at.
    White privilege is a helluva drug.

  21. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    Frat bro is as frat bro does. Still sounds like one. Yuk.

  22. S&S says:

    I prefer his answer to some made up one to make others feel better. People do have a choice whether to consume his acting or not. I respect his hard work and perseverance. Besides most people choose convenience over responsibility by buying things without considering their origins. And scores of people have moved on very well from extreme trauma such as having their entire families wiped out. So in reality, people do delete and can be cold blooded for longevity.

  23. Amelie says:

    Knowing just how much hazing goes in in fraternities (and sororities) and how widely reported this was at the time, it makes me mad to see Jon Hamm not owning up to what he did. I was in a sorority in college, I was not hazed during pledging (which they now called new member education) but I heard the stories of what went down during fraternity pledging. Awful people like him give Greek life a bad rep which already has a tenuous reputation already on most college campuses. I get it, he doesn’t want to relive this incident every waking second of his life but the fact of the matter he and his frat bros ruined a young man’s life. Is it that hard to apologize?? So glad I never invested time in Mad Men.

  24. LittlefishMom says:

    No wonder he played Don Draper so well. What happened to his ex??? She stuck with him ALL those years and he dumps her? Eew.

  25. SM says:

    A lot of us have difficult lives, millions of childern around the world, but they never five into the urge to abuse anyone else for that and learn to be better people.
    I also am someone who absolutely loved Mad Med. The only show I watched from beggining to end. Hamm was indeed perfect in that role. Because of that I did want to give him the benefit of the doubt and I have in the past, becauae we all grow up and change and evolve. But not anymore. What a dismissive bitch he is for saying that. My biggest problem is with this:  ”It was a bummer of a thing that happened” – first, calling an assault a bummer is more that just a bummer. And it did not happen, you did it. If he had owned up to it maybe I wouldn’t be so appaled by him now. Ick. What a douch, he clearly still does not understand what he did. so not much evolving and becoming a better person there..

  26. paddingtonjr says:

    No, Jon, setting someone fire and using a claw hammer to lead someone around by the crotch is not part of the “weirdness everyone goes through in college.” There are people in prison who committed similar or lesser assaults; many of them also had terrible childhoods. Being acquitted of the crime does not lessen your guilt or complicity. I’m sure your victim would like to move on, but the memories of being attacked and probably having life-long physical scars kind of puts a damper on that. But you do you, Jon. For me, a former sorority girl, you are canceled.

  27. Busy Bee says:

    He was not acquitted! Let’s be clear about that. He took a plea deal for a lesser charge and no jail time but there was no acquittal.

    This asshole shouldn’t have had the career he did and should not be supported going forward.

  28. Busy Bee says:

    As an aside, I have a child that I will be putting through University next year. I have one condition. Under no circumstances can he join the Greek system. If he goes there all financial support is withdrawn.

  29. Lisa says:

    Nope. I used to find him attractive, but not since hearing that. Never again. No excuses.

  30. j says:

    i’m so surprised that this douchey alpha male that played a douchey alpha male used to be a douchey alpha male.

  31. serena says:

    ‘It was a bummer’.. not an apology, not a thought about that poor boy they victimized. YOU are a bummer, Mr. Hamm.

  32. paddingtonjr says:

    While re-reading the comments on this site, one of Jon’s H&R Block commercials came on tv. Guess I’ll be calling them tomorrow to let them know I’ll be using a different tax software this year.