The City Council approved a resolution yesterday urging conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh to apologize for mocking Chinese President Hu Jintao during his visit to Washington, D.C., last month to meet with President Barack Obama.
Council members approved the nonbinding resolution 8-1. Councilman Tom Berg cast the lone no vote.
Limbaugh was criticized by Asian groups last month over his use of mock Chinese to imitate a speech by Hu.
Citing the more than 170,000 people of Chinese ancestry in Hawaii and noting that 58 percent of Honolulu’s population is of Asian ancestry, the resolution urges Limbaugh "to apologize to United States citizens of Asian ancestry, President Hu Jintao, and the citizens of the People’s Republic of China for his offensive and derogatory remarks."
The resolution also notes the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference scheduled for November in Honolulu.
Introduced by Councilmen Stanley Chang and Romy Cachola, the resolution further urges Clear Channel Communications to implement policies against racial discrimination in its radio programs and for sponsors of radio talk shows to implement policies barring sponsorship of radio broadcasts that permit racial bigotry and intolerance.
Berg said he voted yes when the resolution was in committee, but now believes the issue is not the responsibility of the City Council. "If this was someone on the Board of Education, or the superintendent, or (the state House speaker) or the Senate president, and they made those remarks, I could find this being in our arena," he said.
Berg said there are other examples of poking fun at other ethnicities that have not received Council reprimands, including the work of local comedians like Frank De Lima and a "Saturday Night Live" skit that also lampooned the Chinese leader.
"We don’t use resources of our government to take that action," Berg said.
But Chang said Limbaugh is not just an entertainer, he’s a political commentator. And Cachola said the resolution would bring about results. When the United Filipino Council of Hawaii raised concerns to De Lima about his jokes, Cachola said, the comedian toned it down.
Berg said despite his objection to the resolution, he did not want to be viewed as a bigot. "Please don’t call me a bigot, because I will stand up to all prejudice and racial epithets. I will be the first to sign a petition, but it doesn’t belong here."