Venezuelan celebrity chef James Tahhan has been suspended from his TV network Telemundo after he made a racist “slant eye” gesture while celebrating Mexico’s entry into the next round of the World Cup thanks to South Korea’s victory over Germany.
The chef made the gesture on the morning show Un Nuevo Dia, which he co-hosted with journalist and model Janice Bencosme, who laughed and seemed to copy the gesture.
The clip went viral in an immediate backlash against the network.
- “They should be immediately fired. @NBCUniversal , @Telemundo , @cesarconde_ know this: If these people are ever on the air again on your network you will have lost any right – any right at all – to EVER criticize ANYONE else about their own racist statements and policies.”
- “I’m Latino and ofc I see this as racist and ALL other Latinx folks I’ve talked to agree. It’s not who we are and why I put this offensive action on blast. They shouldn’t get a pass. ‘Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.’ Your move, @Telemundo, we’re watching.”
- “It’s 2018 Telemundo, ew.”
- “So inappropriate.”
Many called for both of the hosts to be fired from their posts for their offensive gestures.
— Jimmy Sanchez (@JimmyJam99) June 27, 2018
@Telemundo @UnNuevoDia Both James Tahhan and Janice Bencosme need to be fired immediately, and everyone that were all dancing and laughing, should all be suspended. It shows the world how racist they are. They can apologize all they want but it wont matter.
— Kong Vang (@Rogue_JDM) June 30, 2018
After receiving backlash from worldwide viewers, both hosts were placed on “indefinite” suspension in response to the controversy.
“We are extremely disappointed with our morning show contributors James Tahhan’s and Janice Bencosme’s gestures referring to the South Korean national soccer team. Our company takes this type of inappropriate behavior very seriously as it is contrary to our values and standards. As a result, both James Tahhan and Janice Bencosme have been placed on an indefinite suspension.” — Telemundo
But some netizens are demanding the hosts be fired completely.
His name is James Tahhan and has been suspended. Hopefully fired soon.
— Robert Riz (@ufcfightfan) June 29, 2018
In the name of equal justice you should loose your job, just like Roseanne. She mocked one person based on politican grounds, you mocked a whole country based on physical differences. One isn't really worse ot better than the other, and selective outrage makes the problem worse.
— Elfi Wittig (@EWitti) June 28, 2018
— yazziestarr (@YAZZIESTARR) June 29, 2018
Unless you don't fire them your gesture means nothing!
I bet they gonna be back in 3,2..
— Dragonfly (@dragonflyutopia) June 29, 2018
James Tahhan and Janice Bencosme weren’t the only ones who made the gesture, with images of Mexicans celebrating the victory immediately after the World Cup game appearing online.
In response to the immediate criticism, many of the original posters claimed they did not mean to offend and were unaware it was a racist gesture. Images were deleted and apologies posted.
“I apologize to all Koreans who were offended by my action. I didn’t know that the gesture is offensive and racist. I am ashamed of what I have done and promise nothing like it will ever happen again. I’m sorry.” — @emmanuelojedalopez
For his part, James Tahhan officially apologized for his gesture on daytime television.
“During the celebration for Mexico’s qualification, I made a mistake and made an inappropriate and insensitive gesture towards the Asian community. It was a lack of sensitivity on my part. I admit that I did something wrong and wanted to apologize to anyone who was offended by it. The World Cup is a great opportunity to bring together friends, strangers, families and entire countries, and not to divide our communities.” — James Tehhan
Janice Bencosme also posted to social media, apologizing for her actions.
— JaniceBencosme (@JaniceBencosme) June 28, 2018
Proving how divided the world community is, some netizens of Asian descent are defending the hosts.
As a man of Korean descent, I think him being fired may be a little too far as punishment. I don't think the man intended to offend us, it's just a silly mistake that was sadly broadcasted live on television! We all tend to make irrational decisions when we are overjoyed.
— LedJin. (@J1nNOS) June 29, 2018
Finally common sense. It's funny that most of this mob lynching comes from people with no ties to the Asian community. I don't feel offended, but I can't speak for the rest. My nickname is 'Chino' and proud of it. Everyone is too sensitive, there are more important things.
— Andres Lau (@AndresLauC) June 29, 2018
The World Cup is a forum for national pride, but that can bring it’s share of controversy!