Oops! MSNBC Apologizes to Latino Reporter Lobby for Bad Cinco de Mayo Sombrero Stunt

In a quick trip from NewsBusters to the doghouse, MSNBC executive Alec Korson, who’s in charge of Morning Joe and its lead-in Way Too Early, apologized to angry Latinos at the National Association of Hispanic Journalists for mocking Mexicans by having a producer drink tequila in a sombrero in front of anchor Thomas Roberts.

He sent a note to NAHJ president Hugo Balta: “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 references. Thomas will be making this apology on Way Too Early tomorrow as well.”

Our Mark Finkelstein thought Fox News would go straight to the doghouse for a stunt like this. But MSNBC was also pressed into an apology at the speed of internet outrage. Balta, whose day job is producing at ESPN, said in a statement:

This is simply the worst example I have seen of a discriminatory stereotypical portrayal of any community by any media. The fact that this was done by a news organization is abominable.

This wasn't a chance occurrence. This was a planned segment where many decision makers at MSNBC's Way Too Early program agreed on the content and execution which concluded on what was seen nationwide. It feeds to the ignorant misconceptions of a rich and proud people who unfortunately are too often portrayed as caricatures to be scoffed at.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) denounces the actions taken by the MSNBC journalists for their capricious actions, lack of judgment, insensitivity and attack of the Mexican community. The segment clearly proves that diversity is lacking at the Way Too Early program. Too often mistakes like these are made because the people making them are not representative of the community the content portrays.

I would like to take Louis Burgdorf to Los Angeles county, San Antonio, Chicago or any of the dozens of Mexican neighborhoods in the U.S. as well as Puebla, Mexico City or Guadalajara to try to find the ridiculous character he so enthusiastically depicted. Who he would find is a celebrated people known for their work ethic, rich history, proud culture and resiliency which few others can contest. NAHJ demands that the employees involved in the planning and production of this segment be disciplined and made to publicly apologize for their actions.


I am reaching out to the MSNBC leadership today.

Balta posted on his Facebook page that Korson had apologized to him for the segment, and that that “while the props were planned, the anchors took it upon themselves to put them on and act in the manner they did.”

Was there a way a sombrero, a tequila bottle, and a noisemaker weren’t go to lead to trouble with the ethnic advocates? How would LGBT-sensitive Thomas Roberts not catch on that this would not be a gaffe? Will he bring in a Harvey Fierstein impersonator for Gay Pride Week?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis