- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 7, 2014

MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts was forced to issue a quick apology for an on-air Cinco de Mayo segment that featured a sombrero-wearing, tequila-swilling correspondent — a stunt seen by at least one Hispanic group as downright discriminatory.

“This is simply the worst example I have seen of a discriminatory stereotypical portrayal of any community by any media,” Hugo Balta, the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, told CNN. “The fact that this was done by a news organization is abominable. This wasn’t a chance occurrence. This was a planned segment where many decision-makers at MSNBC’s ‘Way Too Early’ program agreed on the content and execution, which concluded on what was seen nationwide.”

What made matters worse was that Mr. Roberts was actually advised not to air the segment, CNN reported.

In a couple of tweets, he sent out an apology: “On Monday, Cinco de Mayo, ‘Way Too Early’ made sarcastic references to the way some Americans celebrate the holiday. It was not our intention to be disrespectful and we sincerely apologize for the ill-advised references.”

The segment featured correspondent Louis Burgdorf in a suit, a tie and a sombrero, saying” “Happy Cinco de Mayo. Let me just take a shot here to get the thing started,” CNN reported. Mr. Burgdorf then appeared to take a drink from his shot glass, saying “Ole,” CNN said.

Mr. Roberts, for his part, was later shown on air dancing with a maraca while the camera lens picked up the background props on his desk — margarita glasses and bottles of tequila. Mr. Burgdorf’s head at one point popped into the camera shot, and he was shown pretending to swill from the tequila bottle, while Mr. Roberts explained the meaning of the Mexican-based celebration.

In a Skype interview with CNN, Mr. Balta expressed more disgust.

“It made me ashamed for the journalists, for this network MSNBC, to show a segment that is full of stereotypes about the Mexican community,” he said.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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