MSNBC staff went too far this week in what MSNBC later admitted in an apology was a “disrespectful” and “sarcastic” segment on Cinco de Mayo. The May 5 segment, aired on MSNBC’s Way Too Early program, featured MSNBC’s Louis Burgdorg donning a sombrero and throwing back tequila shots and dancing with a maraca. During the segment, MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts called Cinco de Mayo “an excuse to drink tequila on a Monday morning at work” for MSNBC’s Burgdorg.
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists’ president, Hugo Balta, had slammed the segment in a statement yesterday but told iMediaEthics by phone today, “I’m grateful for the quick response from the MSNBC leadership, not only to my inquiries about the Cinco de Mayo segment, but also to the outrage from the Latino community in regards to the insensitive segment.”
Balta said he hopes this incident will serve as a learning experience for other newsrooms.
“Unfortunately, these types of mistakes do happen, and it’s important for those involved to take responsibility and be accountable for it,” he told iMediaEthics. “But the bigger picture is to ensure that it doesn’t happen again and that others learn from it.”
When asked if the NAHJ or he would be working with MSNBC to prevent future incidents, Balta said the organization isn’t currently involved but would be willing to help. The NAHJ has had a “good relationship” with NBC, he said. “I’m happy to say we’ve worked with them on internships and recruiting, and in regards to programming and content, we are available.”
Balta added that “it is fair to point out that MSNBC is not the only” network to have aired an inappropriate segment like the Cinco de Mayo one. He pointed to the importance of diversity in the newsroom to help newsrooms be “reflective of the community that they’re covering.”
MSNBC published an apology on the website for its program Way Too Early with anchor Thomas Roberts. The apology stated:
“On Monday, Cinco De Mayo, ‘Way Too Early’ made sarcastic references to the way some Americans celebrate the holiday. It was not our intention to be disrespectful and we sincerely apologize for the ill-advised references.”
A similar apology was also read on air on May 6.