Outraged American Indians are demanding a public apology after a character on the CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly" made a joke calling Arizona "nothing but a furnace full of drunk Indians."
In an episode that aired last week, Mike's mother Peggy, played by Rondi Reed, cracked the joke, saying, "Arizona? Why would I move to Arizona? It's nothing but a furnace full of drunk Indians."
Meant to poke fun at a pervasive stereotype, the line angered American Indian organizations in Arizona, which serves as the home of 21 federally recognized tribes.
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"You can see somebody who is drunk and tripping over themselves and it's easy to make fun of them," Erny Zah, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation, which extends into Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, told the Associated Press. "But the disease itself isn't funny, the coming home late at night, possibly beating on family members, the absence of family members, the fear it instills in a lot of children."
American Indians and Alaska natives reportedly die at a higher rate from alcoholism than other Americans, according to federal data, and authorities say alcohol fuels a majority of violent crimes on reservations.
"I think a lot of times people make excuses for when they do those type of jokes or sarcasm," Rhonda LeValdo, Native American Journalists Association president, told the AP. "To me, it's not funny making fun of a minority group. Are we supposed to be the entertainment for mainstream?"
CBS has declined to comment.
Though an apology would be appreciated, it won’t fix the persistent negative perception of American Indians, Zah said.
"I would hope the rest of the country would be educated enough to understand we are more than what that comment made us out to be," he told the AP. "We have educated people who are in the highest parts of the government, science, everywhere within this country."
"Mike and Molly" premiered in 2010 and stars Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy as two people who met and fell in love at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting.
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