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Nigerian Americans Offended by Senator's Joke

  • VOA News

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) answers questions during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, Oct. 24, 2013.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) answers questions during the Reuters Washington Summit in Washington, Oct. 24, 2013.

A comment made in jest by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz has offended some Nigerians in the United States.

During an appearance in his home state of Texas this week, the Republican Party lawmaker referenced what he called "Nigerian e-mail scammers."

Senator Cruz was speaking about technical glitches on a new U.S. government web site that have prevented Americans from buying health insurance under the Affordable Health Care Act, or "Obamacare."

Cruz, who has voiced opposition to the measure, jokingly said "You know the Nigerian e-mail scammers? They have been a lot less active lately because they have all been hired to run the Obamacare web site."

The Nigerian embassy in Washington has called Cruz's remarks "unguided." In a statement, the Deputy Chief of Mission, Ambassador B.E. Archibong, said the embassy views the comments as a "very expensive joke that was taken too far."

Senator Cruz's comments have also been criticized by the Nigerian-American Leadership Council.

In a VOA interview, Executive Director Sam Okey Mbonu said Cruz should issue a "clarification."

"It is certainly not the most responsible statement from a United States senator," he said. "We believe that partisanship has its limits and one does not establish credibility on a national platform by running down a section of the American community."

Okey Mbonu said some Nigerian Americans would consider the joke offensive.

"It is certainly insensitive," he.said "For a senator who perhaps has some medium-term plans for being in the public for a long period of time, we think that those kinds of comments should be well thought out."

The Texas-based KTRK broadcast station says a spokesman for Senator Cruz reacted, saying the senator was "making a joke based on the official term of a commonly utilized type of scam."

He said the senator did not mean to be offensive.

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