Native leaders ask for apology for 'Mike and Molly' comment

By Bill Donovan
Special to the Times

WINDOW ROCK, March 7, 2013

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I ndian leaders have reacted negatively to a recent episode of the CBS comedy "Mike and Molly" that they said included racist statements.

In the episode in question, Mike's mother, Peggy, who is played by Rondi Reed, reacted negatively to remarks that she should go to Arizona.

"Arizona? Why should I go to Arizona? It's nothing but a furnace full of drunk Indians," the character says.

John Lewis, director of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, said he was "disappointed" to see that kind of quote in a show that was televised nationally.

"I thought we were beyond that sort of perspective these days," he said, adding that he thought that people were more enlightened.

In a statement released Tuesday, officials for the Native American Journalists Association also said they condemn any stereotyping of Native peoples by the media.

"Why a highly entertaining show like 'Mike and Molly' would need to resort to humor at the expense of the first peoples of Arizona, is inexplicable," NAJA officials said. "The comment shows blatant disregard for the original inhabitants of this land and perpetuates antiquated stereotypes of Native Americans."

A publicist for the Mike and Molly Show said Tuesday that her office has been fielding questions on the quote from various news media but decided not to make a comment at this time.

NAJA has called upon CBS to issue an apology but so far the network has refused to make a comment as well.

Erny Zah, director of communications for the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice-President, said the Navajo Nation is upset at the remarks and insensitivity shown by the writers and staff at the CBS show.

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse is not funny to the Navajo people, he said, pointing out that every Navajo has had to come to grips with the problem because of a relative or friend whose life has been affected.

"All of us have a story," he said, adding that trying to get a "cheap laugh" with this is "upsetting in this day and age.

"In the past couple of decades, the Navajos and our neighbors have made great strides to forge a new representation of the Navajo people which affects Native Americans as a whole," Zah added.

He pointed out that communities like Gallup and Farmington, although not in Arizona, have also dealt with problems dealing with alcohol abuse over the years but both communities have been working with the Navajo Nation to turn this around.

But statements like those made in the "Mike and Molly" show only open up old flames and doesn't do anyone - the Navajo Nation and communities like Gallup and Farmington - any good.

"An apology would be appropriate," Zah said, "but it can't undo the damage caused by the racist statement."

The controversy has been picked up by the national media with stories by the Huffington Post and most national television news programs.

Over at CNN, one of the anchors made a comment after the story aired saying that the Indian people should "just get over it," which again shows that non-Natives just don't realize how the issue affects Native Americans, Zah said.

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