Elected officials and Asian-American community leaders are denouncing a Republican congressman’s use of a derogatory term to describe Japanese individuals.
During a panel discussion Friday morning on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Rep. Peter King (R-NY) used the word “Japs” when discussing presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Trump’s stance on national security issues.
“National defense and homeland security are issues that mean the most to me and there’s real issues with him, real problems with his views,” King said. “I don’t know if he’s thought them through, or it’s just like the guy at the end of the bar that says, ‘Oh screw them, bomb them, kill them, pull out, bring them home. You know, why pay for the Japs, why pay for the Koreans?’”
The term was most popularly used as a derogatory term during World War II to describe Japanese and Japanese Americans, and is still seen by many as disparaging.
The video of King’s comment was posted on YouTube, along with a statement from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Executive Director Nihad Awad urging King to “refrain from further use of derogatory language targeting any national, ethnic or minority group.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, issued a statement Friday afternoon to NBC News, calling on King to apologize.
“Mr. King knows his words have an impact. Using the J word is disgusting and harkens back to a shameful time in our history when violence, xenophobia, and the internment of Japanese Americans were everyday phenomena. These words are not only offensive, but they also isolate and divide us as a nation. Mr. King should leave this racist terms back in the last century and apologize to the Japanese American community for his comments,” Chu said.
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) called King’s words unacceptable, telling NBC News, “Representative King became yet another voice adding to the hateful rhetoric used to describe Japanese Americans and other minorities. In the past few months, we have seen major national leaders propose banning Muslims, building walls, and even invoking the Japanese American internment, one of our nation’s most shameful actions, as a reason to keep families fleeing war from seeking refuge in the United States. These statements betray the values our nation was built on.”
In a statement to NBC News Friday evening, King responded to the backlash: “The remark is entirely in the context of saying why I am not campaigning for Trump, defending the continued presence of American troops in Japan and Korea and criticizing the candidate who like the ‘guy at the end of the bar’ is unthinking and mindlessly anti-Japanese. It is absolute intellectual dishonesty to characterize my comment as anti-Japanese or anti-Asian when I am satirizing and criticizing bias and ignorance.”
King previously defended his use of the term to The Hill, saying, “We’re getting too politically correct. Let’s not get overly sensitive here.”
In an interview with NBC News, Priscilla Ouchida, executive director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL), said King was missing the point. “These types of words translate into hate speech,” Ouchida said. “Hate speech is different than ‘political correctness.’”
Ouchida said the JACL was “appalled” to hear a public figure such as a congressional representative using a word “that has its roots in the racism of the early 20th century.”
“It validates the use of the term for everybody,” Ouchida said, “whether you’re 90 years old or a 10 year old who will go to school and bully the Asian-American kid next to you.”
Christopher Kang, national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans (NCAPA), called King’s remarks an example of “how corrosive and divisive our political dialogue has become.”
“Earlier this week, Congress approved legislation to remove the term ‘oriental’ from federal law. We cannot take one step forward and two steps back,” Kang said.