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CNN commentator's comments draw protests

  • Story Highlights
  • Protesters gather outside CNN's Los Angeles bureau and Atlanta headquarters
  • Commentator Jack Cafferty has drawn fire for his remarks about China
  • Cafferty, network have said comments referred to government, not people
  • Demonstrators demand apology and Cafferty's removal
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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- About 1,500 pro-Chinese demonstrators gathered outside CNN's bureau in Los Angeles on Saturday, demanding that a commentator apologize and be fired from the network over comments critical of China and the U.S. government's relationship with it.

On April 9, Jack Cafferty, a commentator on CNN's "Situation Room," used the term "goons and thugs" in describing the U.S. relationship with China as host Wolf Blitzer compared today's China to that of 20 or 30 years ago.

Cafferty issued a clarification of his remarks Monday, saying the comments referred to the Chinese government, not its people.

In the comments, Cafferty referenced what he called billions of dollars in U.S. debt and trade deficits with China.

"So I think our relationship with China has certainly changed," he said. "I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years."

During Saturday's protest, the crowd waved Chinese and American flags, sang songs and chanted "CNN! Liar!"

Los Angeles police said the rally, which ended about noon local time, was peaceful.

A letter taped to a door of the bureau demanded that Cafferty "openly apologize" and be removed from the air permanently, calling the demonstration "only our first step."

"If our demands are not taken seriously, we shall unite more public support to fight against such racial prejudice," said the letter, signed "All the Chinese of the Southwestern U.S."

A second letter slid under the bureau's door criticized CNN's coverage of unrest in Tibet and anti-Chinese protests that have followed the running of the Olympic torch in advance of this summer's games in Beijing.

Demonstrators in Paris, France; London, England; San Francisco, California; and other cities have attended the torch run, protesting China's human rights record and its crackdown on Tibetans publicly calling for democratic freedoms and self-rule.

A much smaller gathering of about two dozen people protested Saturday outside CNN's corporate offices in Atlanta, Georgia.

In his comments, Cafferty said that he doesn't know whether China is different than it was decades ago but that the United States' relationship with China is.

"We're in hock to the Chinese up to our eyeballs because of the war in Iraq, for one thing. They're holding hundreds of billions of dollars worth of our paper.

"We are also running hundreds of billions of dollars worth of trade deficits with them, as we continue to import their junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food and export, you know, jobs to places where you can pay workers a dollar a month to turn out the stuff that we're buying from Wal-Mart."

In addition to Cafferty's clarification, the network issued a statement saying the commentator was referring to China's government, not its people.

"It was not Mr. Cafferty's, nor CNN's intent to cause offense to the Chinese people, and [CNN] would apologize to anyone who has interpreted the comments in this way," the statement said.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry summoned CNN's Beijing bureau chief on Wednesday and said Thursday that the network has not done enough to ease its concerns over the comments. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Irving Last in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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