MSNBC Thinks Cinco de Mayo Is All Tequila And Maracas, And It's Their Latest Of Many, Many Snafus

Cable news channel MSNBC has issued an apology for airing a racially offensive Cinco de Mayo gag Monday during its early-morning show, Way Too Early, hosted by Thomas Roberts. Criticism began flooding in not long after the MSNBC segment aired, which saw Roberts with a sombrero-adorned correspondent, Louis Burgdorf, who wandered back and forth past the camera, swigging from a bottle of tequila while Roberts briefly described the origins of the Mexican holiday. Oh, and there was a little maraca for Burgdorf to rattle, too.

It's hard not to wince watching the footage. There's a simple explanation, obviously — get a few cheap laughs off a white guy pretending to be a drunken Mexican, and hope nobody calls out the obvious racial offensiveness of doing so.

There's also the explanation that the Way Too Early website issued, in an attempt to tamp down the groundswell of criticism — that they'd intended to mock the way in which heavy-drinking Americans celebrate the holiday, and didn't mean to offend anybody else with their "ill-advised references." You be the judge.

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This isn't the first time MSNBC has found itself recently issuing apologies over segments deemed controversial or offensive by some. In recent years, the left-leaning cable news channel has made a number of snafus, whether on-air or off.

  • Melissa Harris-Perry host, well, Melissa Harris-Perry, has dished out a couple of apologies during her tenure on weekend mornings. The first was quickly offered, on-air, after a passionate statement about the risks of living in poverty, while the second, more controversial apology was for a segment which seemed to mock Mitt Romney's adopted black grandson. The latter apology was one of the most personal and emotional in memory on cable news.
  • Former host Martin Bashir apologized for an on-air insult directed at Sarah Palin — one of many he'd make throughout his tenure, but simply the one which went a step too far. Laying into Palin for her comparison of the rising national debt to slavery, Bashir concluded by implying that'd she'd be an "outstanding candidate" for torturous slavery-era punishments — specifically, for someone to take a "s-h-i-t" in her mouth. For real. He resigned just days later.
  • Chris Hayes, who now hosts in prime-time with All In With Chris Hayes, used to have his moniker on the aforementioned Harris-Perry's weekend lead-in, Up With Chris Hayes. On Memorial Day, Hayes landed in the midst of a media firestorm, after musing on whether all slain soldiers should be called "heroes," or whether doing so helped create a war-enabling climate. He apologized the next day, saying he fell short of his standards of "rigor, respect and empathy," and asking for forgiveness.

It's become easy for conservatives to mock MSNBC for their propensity to apologize. But in a certain sense, that track record is illuminating and positive in at least one way: When criticism descends — whether for cynical business reasons, or to right deeply-personal mistakes — MSNBC seems to listen. After all, how many segments through the years has Fox News run that merited an apology on grounds of offense or distortion?

In keeping with this pattern, MSNBC executive producer Alex Korson, who's in charge of both Way Too Early and Morning Joe, apologized to National Association of Hispanic Journalists President Hugo Balta for the segment, in a phone call Monday evening. Balta recounted the apology in a Facebook post Tuesday morning.

Image: MSNBC