(CNN) -- The Chinese Foreign Ministry demanded Tuesday that CNN's Jack Cafferty apologize for remarks he made last week, in which he called the Chinese "goons and thugs" and said products manufactured in China are "junk."
"Cafferty used the microphone in his hands to slander China and the Chinese people (and) seriously violated professional ethics of journalism and human conscience," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said Tuesday, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.
She said Cafferty's remarks "reflected his arrogance, ignorance and hostility towards the Chinese people, ignited indignation of Chinese (at) home and abroad and will be condemned by those who safeguard justice around the world."
CNN issued a statement Tuesday saying: "We are aware of concerns about Jack Cafferty's comments related to China in the context of the upcoming Olympics, which were broadcast on The Situation Room on April 9, 2008.
"CNN would like to clarify that 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.
"CNN is a network that reports the news in an objective and balanced fashion. However, as part of our coverage we also employ commentators who provide robust opinions that generate debate.
"On this occasion Jack was offering his strongly held opinion of the Chinese government, not the Chinese people --- a point he subsequently clarified on The Situation Room on April 14.
"It should be noted that over many years, Jack Cafferty has expressed critical comments on many governments, including the U.S. government and its leaders."
Cafferty, who appears daily on CNN's "The Situation Room," made the remarks as host Wolf Blitzer was comparing today's China to that of 20 or 30 years ago.
"I don't know if China is any different, but our relationship with China is certainly different," Cafferty said. "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.
"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."
He issued a clarification of his remarks on Monday's "Situation Room," saying that by "goons and thugs," he meant the Chinese government, not the Chinese people. It was unclear whether China's Foreign Ministry was aware of the clarification when it held the Tuesday news conference.
In the days following his remarks, however, the Legal Immigrant Association launched an online petition condemning his statements as "racist" and "despicable" and demanding that CNN discipline Cafferty and apologize to the Chinese people. Nearly 45,000 people had signed it as of Tuesday afternoon.
In the petition, the association describes itself as "a leading organization of legal immigrants mainly comprised of people from China." According to its Web site, the nonprofit group is based in Santa Clara, California, and was founded in 2007 as an organization "dedicated to the social well-being of employment-based immigrant professionals."
The state-run English-language newspaper China Daily also said in an editorial Tuesday that an apology is called for, calling Cafferty "pathetic" and noting, "it is rare for the world audience to hear such a blatant discrimination against an ethnic group of people with such a derogatory connotation."
Others angered by Cafferty's remarks were urging a boycott of CNN's advertisers. E-mail to a friend