Telemundo TV hosts suspended for racist slant-eyed gestures after South Korea World Cup win

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 8:26am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 10:14pm

A pair of US-based television hosts were indefinitely suspended on Thursday after using racist slant-eyed gestures during a live broadcast in the aftermath of South Korea’s World Cup victory over Germany on Wednesday that ensured Mexico’s passage into the knockout stages.

James Tahhan and Janice Bencosme, co-presenters of Telemundo’s morning show Un Nuevo Día, could be seen using their fingers to narrow their eyes amid the on-set celebration of the Asian country’s improbable 2-0 win over the reigning world champions.

The immediate outcry from viewers only redoubled as footage of the gesture spread on social media, prompting Telemundo, the Miami-based Spanish language network which is part of NBC Universal, to take disciplinary action on Thursday.

“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,” the network said in a statement issued on Thursday. “Our company takes this kind of inappropriate behaviour very seriously as it is contrary to our values and standards.”

‘Slant-eyed’ gesture is pure racism – and World Cup TV hosts have no excuse

Tahhan, the Venezuelan restaurateur known as Chef James, issued a statement on Twitter in both English and Spanish offering an apology for a “lack of sensitivity on my part”.

He added: “I admit that I did something wrong and wanted to apologise to anyone who was offended by it.”

Bencosme apologised in a Facebook post, saying her gesture was “inappropriate [and] offensive to the Asian community”.

The Taegeuk Warriors’ upset of Germany prompted wild celebrations among supporters in Mexico City, where hundreds of fans descended on the South Korean embassy and hoisted consul general Han Bjoung-yin onto their shoulders amid chants of “¡Coreano, hermano, ahora eres Mexicano!” (“Korean, brother, now you’re Mexican!”)

Argentina legend Diego Maradona was accused by an ITV presenter of making a similar gesture towards a group of South Korea fans during a group-stage match between Argentina and Iceland earlier this month, though the encounter was not captured on camera and he was not disciplined.

Last week Mexico’s soccer federation was fined US$10,000 for “discriminatory and offensive” homophobic chants during their opening win against Germany.

Last fall Houston Astros’ Yuli Gurriel was caught making the offensive slant-eyed gesture after hitting a home run off Japanese star Yu Darvish during the World Series. That earned the Cuban a five-game ban from Major League Baseball.