New Desperate Housewives sparks race row

Desperate Housewives Filipino 'slur' causes diplomatic row

THE US PREMIERE of the new season Desperate Housewives has sparked a diplomatic row over a throwaway comment made about Filipino doctors.

The new series aired last Sunday and featured a scene where Susan Mayer, played by Teri Hatcher, throws a fit at her gynaecologist and questions his medical background for suggesting she is entering early stages of menopause. ‘Can I check those diplomas?’ she says, ‘because I want to make sure they’re not from some med school in the Philippines.’

The comment has caused outrage among Filipino Americans, triggering a minor diplomatic row between the government in Manila and the executives at network host ABC.

The day after the broadcast, a Filipino American performance artist and college lecturer called Kevin Nadal started an online petition describing the line as ‘unnecessary and hurtful, but… also unfounded, considering the presence of Filipinos and Filipino-Americans in the health care industry’. More than 50,000 people signed it.

The day after that, a spokesman for Gloria Arroyo, president of the Philippines, described the line as a ‘racial slur’. Several Filipino politicians demanded an apology from ABC. The Foreign Ministry in Manila pointed out that many Americans went to the Philippines for medical services they couldn’t afford at home.

The Filipino consul in Los Angeles, Mary Jo Bernardo Aragon, wrote a letter to ABC making further complaints. ‘The US recognises the students of Philippine medical and nursing schools and in general, does not require additional schooling in the US for Filipino healthcare professionals.’

The ABC abruptly issued a statement insisting no offence was intended. ‘There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines. As leaders in broadcast diversity, we are committed to presenting sensitive and respectful images of all communities featured in our programmes.’

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