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MSNBC apologizes for 'ill-advised' Cinco de Mayo segment

By Steve Almasy, CNN
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1245 GMT (2045 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A correspondent wears a sombrero and drinks from a tequila bottle
  • Anchor says the references weren't designed to poke fun at Mexicans
  • President of Hispanic journalists in U.S. says he's never seen worse depiction by media
  • Thomas Roberts reportedly will also apologize during Wednesday's broadcast

(CNN) -- The anchor of MSNBC's "Way Too Early" apologized Tuesday for "ill-advised" references to Mexicans and Cinco de Mayo.

Thomas Roberts, who hosts the show from 5:30 a.m. to 6 a.m., told viewers via Twitter that a segment that featured a correspondent in a sombrero swilling tequila was not intended to demean Mexicans.

"On Monday, Cinco De Mayo, 'Way Too Early' made sarcastic references to the way some Americans celebrate the holiday," he tweeted. "It was not our intention to be disrespectful and we sincerely apologize for the ill-advised references."

The apology came after Hugo Balta, the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said in a written statement, "This is simply the worst example I have seen of a discriminatory stereotypical portrayal of any community by any media. The fact that this was done by a news organization is abominable. This wasn't a chance occurrence. This was a planned segment where many decision-makers at MSNBC's 'Way Too Early' program agreed on the content and execution which concluded on what was seen nationwide."

Cinco de Mayo: What you need to know

Balta added in a Skype interview with CNN en Español: "It made me ashamed for the journalists, for this network MSNBC, to show a segment that is full of stereotypes about the Mexican community."

During several moments in the show on Monday, correspondent Louis Burgdorf appeared in a suit and tie and a sombrero.

"Happy Cinco de Mayo. Let me just take a shot here to get the thing started," he said before appearing to take a drink. "Ole!"

Later, Roberts was shown dancing with a maraca in one hand while there were margarita glasses and bottles of "tequila" on his anchor desk.

Burgdorf also popped into the closing shot, in which he apparently pretended to drink from one of the tequila bottles for several seconds as Roberts explained the background of the holiday.

Roberts also will apologize Wednesday on the air, according to several media reports.

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CNN's Catherine Shoichet contributed to this story.

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