Philippines: “Desperate Housewives” Apologizes Over Racist Slur

Desperate Housewives

At the moment, Technorati counts 499 blog posts on the racist slur in the season opener of the television show “Desperate Housewives“.

That's an awful lot and is yet another example of the progressive and forward advance of Filipino bloggers, especially after the bigotry of Malu Fernandez which got her pilloried and scorned for — well — her bigotry against her own people.

Read the online petition, now signed by 51,830 individuals, that sums up the protesters’ arguments. The specific scene in the popular TV program posted on Youtube has been viewed more than 81,000 times.
Let's listen to Pinoy Blog Machine, a Filipino doctor educated in the Philippines:

I am offended, because I learned my profession in the Philippines, and I refuse to be told that all my hard work and sacrifice amounts to nothing more than mediocre, if not questionable. Specially if these impressions come from those who fail to see from my end, or at least check, and don’t know what they are talking about. My textbooks came from the US of A, if saying so is any help to Teri’s understanding.

I can’t even speak for the millions of Filipino medical workers in America and all over the world, whose professionalism and skill have made them prime catch. And what of the thousands of foreign students who come in droves to train in the Philippines?

Even as she apologized from veering away from her blog's fashionista bent, took on the insult:

Sure, compared to USA, the American’s educational system may be better if not the best. But our doctors, nurses, and caregivers are among the best in the world; thousands of them serving, treating, and taking care of the US people.

I’m honestly not a fan of the show but I know a lot of Filipinos who are. Some say the show is a hit because of its mature and “intelligent” approach to the audience. Now with that, I guess we should all review what is mature and what is intelligent.

The rude remark was just a sign of irresponsible entertainment. Racism is never a witty and funny way of entertainment. If this is one of the show’s desperate ways to get ratings, then they’re getting one hell of controversy here.

The Broken Bow is also concerned and sees an opportunity for Filipino doctors to prove themselves:

Althought there might be some truth in the statement especially when placed side by side with the nursing exam debacle last year, I still find it offensive because it somehow committed the fallacy of over-generalizing. The fact is that there are a lot of great medical practitioners from the country and they must not be brushed aside especially when they outnumber the few who are otherwise. As for the said few, this might serve as an eye-opener and a signal to prove to those who are unimpressed that they are wrong to be so.'s Pinoy Abroad surveyed the blogosphere while in uproar. Blog Addicts also covered the burgeoning blog rebellion.

At the other side of the fence is The Sassy Lawyer who says:

Is it a racial slur? It may be a jab at Philippine medical schools, not Filipinos in general. Heck, not even Filipino doctors. And some people are already making it out as an insult against Filipino health workers IN GENERAL. My goodness gracious me…

Its not a racist slur, says The Anti-Niche Blog, but it's still offensive.

The office of the President of the Philippines also expressed displeasure and demanded an apology, even if Mrs. Arroyo herself is embroiled in her own scandals. The secretary of health also chimed in.

“Desperate Housewives” producers from ABC-TV today issued a one-paragraph apology hoping to calm the storm, but others have rejected it and have demanded a more appropriate apology that may be seen by the millions who watched the assailed episode on TV. Says the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, a US-based group that plans to picket the ABC-TV studios:

The simplistic nature of ABC's apology only insults our community even more. It is not proportionate to the damage it has caused. It is basically just a one-paragraph response, not just to the 2nd largest immigrant group in the US, or a third world country, but ALL foreign-trained medical practitioners in this country. This country thrives on the quality skills of foreign-trained doctors and nurses, and Filipino nurses are among the cream of the crop. We all deserve a decent, sincere, and proper apology.

Let's see what happens next.

UPDATES (5 Oct. 2007): The offensive portion of the “Desperate Housewives” that has roiled many will be deleted, according to a news report.  This comes at the heels of an announcement from Filipino-American group NAFCON that a top ABC-TV executive has agreed to meet them before a scheduled picket at the ABC-TV studios in Manhattan.


  • Free speech

    Kowtowing to complaints over what comes out of a fictional character’s mouth is wrong and dangerous. Those complaining who value artistic freedom should think long and hard about what they’re doing.

  • fob

    This is stupid. There are more pressing problems in the Philippines that needs more attention. I saw the clip on youtube. There was nothing offensive about it at all. Rex Navarette does things 100 times more provoking than this. Leave it alone, go home and cry about somethingf else.

  • jeffrey

    get over it. it was a lousy joke. why blow it up even further. why not use the energy to focus on the good filipinos do and write or blog about that!

  • JMM A P

    It was a nice move for ABC 7 to issue an apology but it did not repair the damage done because the apology was aired in the Philippines. Apology accepted, yes, but repair the damage done. The Americans, immigrants and people around the world where the Desperate Housewives shows are being shown will still have the wrong notion that Philippine Medical Schools do not meet the standards required to practice in America and that Filipino Doctors are just second rate physicians in America.

    Should we just be satisfied with this after all this uproar? ABC 7 should issue such apology over all American TV networks in America and not just in the Philippines. I did not even know that the apology was issued until a friend emailed me this.

    Thank you very much.

    Concerned Filipino in Maplewood, New Jersey, USA

    ‘Desperate’ apology over Philippines slur
    Thu Oct 4, 6:46 AM ET

    MANILA (AFP) – Makers of hit US television series “Desperate Housewives” have apologised for a slur against Filipino medical workers that caused an uproar in the Southeast Asian country. The apology was sent to Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN’s bureau in the United States and aired in the Philippines on Thursday following protests by the Manila government.
    “The producers of ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ABC Studios offer our sincere apologies for any offense caused by the brief reference in the season premiere,” cable news channnel ANC quoted the statement as saying.”There was no intent to disparage the integrity of any aspect of the medical community in the Philippines,” it said. The episode showed actress Teri Hatcher, who plays Susan Mayer, asking during a medical consultation to check “those diplomas because I want to make sure that they’re not from some med school in the Philippines.”

    The apology was made a day after chief aide to Philippine President Gloria Arroyo said the line of dialogue appeared to be a “racial slur.” Philippine Senators said the apology was not enough, and urged their Foreign Affairs Department to lodge a formal protest with the US government. “I am mortally offended by the statement because it betrayed the racial prejudice and denigrates the excellent performance of world-class Filipino doctors in the US,” said Senator Miriam Santiago, whose sister a doctor is working in Los Angeles.

  • Pighter Pilot

    You gotta be kidding me. Filipino medical schools aren’t that good, at least not up to US standards, and the line on the program was appropriate.

    I think Filipinos have enough real problems… i.e. poverty, corruption.

    Stop waisting your time.

  • I think Filipinos value artistic freedom. We even put the term “free expression” in our Constitution and we are always jealous about it. There is simply a problem about the program’s dialogue that was clearly offensive to Philippine-educated medical professionals.

    Racist remarks which disrespects others has no place in it. It belongs to the colonial, Nazi, apartheid, and segregationist eras.

  • Sue ABC, free speech my bee-hind

    Hey I’m an artist and I feel offended. Behind that fictional character’s mouth is the mind of filthy, bigot, and money-grubbing, hide-behind-the-skirt-of-artistic-freedom writer, director and producer. I’d like to treat them all to free proctology.

  • here

    Ok. On one side, the degree was gotten from hard work. As a doctor once told me, there’s no differences in professions around the world, its a matter of technological advances and capabilities. Just because a degree is from a developing country doesn’t mean its less than ones gotten from the US. I see why people would get offended though I think only those from the medical profession in the Philippines should go up in arms and really speak out. It’s the only fair thing.

    As for every other Filipino–who, I’m sure, will regard me as some sort of traitor–should just carry on and remind ourselves that it was meant to be a joke. A comparison to some dead regime (i.e. Nazi Germany) is much too harsh. If you’d like, boycott the show due to the writers’ “political incorrectness”. Then find a comedy show that offers political correctness!

    Taken out of context is the main point. Tell me if I’m wrong to criticize when the Philippines should not in the least divert their attention to bettering the lives of those who cannot even afford to buy a television set. I see the outrage from the Filipino doctors’ views. The other half are just outraged by the fact that Philippines is shown in harsh light.

    It’s the Filipino psyche to enjoy being talked about in a US show and be outraged when spoken of in any bad way. It just shows how much work we still need to boost our confidence because as it stands–we have to face it–the Philippines is really not looking good and hope is waning for a better life. We don’t want to say it and hearing criticism (even a joke) from another is scathing.


    The only way you stop racist comments is to FIGHT BACK.
    The statement was inappropriate and racist. It mentioned DOCTORS OF A PARTICULAR RACE, that is patently RACIST.

    If you don’t defend your honor and dignity it will be taken away from you in the form of a JOKE. Then the joke is mentioned so many times that is becomes a “fact”. How in the heck do you think the fictional character would use Filipino doctors in her beratement? It used to be a joke!

    Black jokes, Indian Jokes, Jewish Jokes, jokes about everyone except White American. What a joke!

    Disregard those who tell you not to stand up and FIGHT BACK. The character is fictional… THE MIND THAT CREATED THE LINE IS REAL!

    Racism is a CREEPY LITTLE SNAKE, you have to monitor it and let it know that it can not set up shop in your home. Don’t be SIDETRACKED. Fight the Fight. That’s what Americans of any ethnicity, black, white, jew, filipino, chinese, mexican MUST DO to gain respect.

  • JOhn

    Maybe we can look at this as a wake up call of how our image; not just the medical community in the Philippines, as the people and as a country in general is going down hill in the eyes of the international community.

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