Bob Beckel has form when it comes to upsetting the Chinese. The former deputy assistant secretary of state and currently a pundit on Fox Television caused a stir on his show The Five last year, when he talked about an experience in the pool. After his swim his eyes had blown up, Beckel claimed, giving him the appearance of an “Oriental”. Cue outrage.
Last week he caused more controversy by referring to “Chinamen” – a move that drew criticism from politicians in the United States as well as from media in China itself. The word – an old-fashioned usage from the colonial era – is loaded with racist overtones. The Oxford English Dictionary describes it as “derogatory”.
Indeed, there were calls for Fox to fire Beckel, reports Politico. “I am outraged and disgusted by Fox News commentator Bob Beckel’s use of the word ‘Chinamen’ and his other racist and xenophobic comments,” said California congressman Mike Honda. “The ignorance and hatred in his comments are repugnant,” he added. “As the founder of the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus, I know that words hurt, and slurs are used to intimidate. Fox News needs to do the right thing and fire Bob Beckel.”
China News Service noted it wasn’t the first “indiscretion” from the pundit, while China’s state broadcaster CCTV called it a “slur”.
Chinese netizens were angry and perplexed in equal measure. Blogger Liu Dahu thought Beckel must have eaten “too much beef from a mad cow” to have made such an ill-judged remark.
Amid all the condemnation, what exactly did Beckel say? In a live discussion about national security and cyber-espionage, he let rip with the following: “As usual, we bring them over here and we teach a bunch of Chinamen – er, Chinese people – how to do computers and then they go back to China and hack into us.”
In the wake of his faux pas, Beckel offered a qualified gesture of contritition. “I made some comments last week about Chinese people which apparently upset some people, for which I apologise,” he began on Monday’s broadcast. “However I do not apologise for things I’ve said about China and won’t go into the litany of it now, because there’s too many China apologists in this country.”
“I will continue to warn the American people about how dangerous China is to US security and to our business community but to those who are offended, I apologise,” he continued.
“But I will not apologise to the Chinese government, or for their habits, or for their murders.”
Such hostile views may be in step with the majority of Americans, however. In Pew’s just-released Global Attitudes survey only 35% of US citizens had a favourable view of China. That was down from 50% in 2011.
But the Global Times said Beckel was faking his fears about China. “It is the Chinese who should be careful instead of the Americans. To China, the US is the permanent threat,” it commented.
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