Media pundits and politicians critical of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas for joking that "Nigerian email scammers" run the Affordable Care Act website are completely off base, says Noel Sheppard, associate editor of the media watchdog website Newsbusters.
Sheppard told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV that the FBI has warned about email scams originating from the African republic.
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"It was a very, very serious problem in the 80s. They typically were going after seniors. They would send a letter to a senior saying you've been awarded this, there's money that's going to be coming to you for this, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, all we need is your information," Sheppard said.
"This has been around for a while and it's so well known, it's so part of the culture, for lack of a better term. Late night comedians, comedians have been making jokes about Nigerian email and about Nigerian mail fraud for decades.
"I remember Johnny Carson making a joke about it. I've heard Jay Leno make jokes about this. But, no, Ted Cruz makes a joke about it, he's racist."
Cruz has been subjected to a firestorm of attention since the remark.
Rep. Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania told MSNBC's "The Ed Show": "I wonder how much off the cuff that really was, and how calculated it was to appeal to Senator Cruz’s base, many of whom believe that the president is from Africa."
Nigerian Ambassador to the United States Ambassador Ade Adefuye said he was "disappointed and shocked" and is demanding an apology.
A Cruz spokesperson said the remark was a joke "based on the official term of a commonly utilized type of scam."
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