Venezuelan chef and cast member of Telemundo’s morning show “Un Nuevo Día” James Tahhan was placed on indefinite leave following a racist gesture he made on air after South Korea’s victory of Germany in the FIFA World Cup. Weather reporter Janice Bencosme was also placed on leave.
The offense occurred during the transmission of a special edition of the program on Wednesday, which was celebrating the qualification of Mexico, thanks to the triumph of South Korea over Germany. While his companions celebrated, Tahhan said “Korean food for everyone” and then stretched his eyes. Janice Bencosme joined in, as the video below shows.
While @MARCOREGIL was thankful, grateful for the Korea team, urging mexicanos to celebrate in a restaurante coreano, @ChefJames Tahhan tarnished this wonderful moment by mocking Koreans stretching his eyes. Una #tarjetaroja @Telemundo @UnNuevoDia para tu chef. #MexicovsSuecia pic.twitter.com/ID7BW7g3Zh
— Xolotl Tuchi (@Canine_Enigma) June 27, 2018
The indignation and the accusations of racism spread across social media and the controversy led Tahhan, Bencosme and Telemundo issue statements.
A post shared by James Tahhan (@chefjames) on Jun 27, 2018 at 9:19pm PDT
“While celebrating Mexico’s qualification, I made a mistake and did a gesture that was inappropriate and insensitive to the Asian community. I recognize that I committed an error and I want to offer my sincerest apologies to anyone i offended,” wrote Tahhan on his Instagram.
“We are extremely disappointed by the gestures made by our morning show collaborators James Tahhan and Janice Bencosme when referring to the South Korean national soccer team. Our company takes this type of inappropriate very seriously because it goes against our values and standards. As a result, James Tahhan and Janice Bencosme have been suspended indefintely,” said Telemundo.
Sources from the network informed El Nuevo Herald that Telemundo is considering permanently removing them from the program.
The scandal comes just over three years after Univision fired Venezuelan Rodner Figueroa, in March 2015, for racist comments against the then First Lady, Michelle Obama.
That incident provoked a dialogue on racism and intolerance in the Latino culture, of which Figueroa himself participated, assuring that his intentions were not racist, since his father is of African descent.
Figueroa has been working for a few months on the program “Al Rojo Vivo,” on Telemundo.
It remains to be seen now what permanent measure Telemundo will assume and what Tahhan will have to do to recover his image. For now it does not seem that it will be an easy task.