October 24, 2013
Nigerian Americans Offended by Senator's Joke
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."
Mr. 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 released a statement calling Mr. Cruz's remarks "unguided."
Ambassador B.E. Archibong, the embassy's deputy chief of missions, told VOA the embassy plans to register its displeasure by mailing a statement to Senator Cruz's office.
"Senator Cruz, some papers reported that it was just a casual comment. But to me, I would say it is a joke taken too far."
Senator Cruz's comments were also criticized by the Nigerian-American Leadership Council.
In a VOA interview, Executive Director Sam Okey Mbonu said Mr. Cruz should issue a "clarification."
"It is certainly not the most responsible statement from a United States senator. 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. 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.