Friday, June 19, 2009
The Republican National Committee has issued an unreserved apology to Japanese-American actor Robert Ito, after numerous GOP activists confused him with the late Pat Morita, famous for his role as Mr Miyagi in the film "The Karate Kid".
The mixup stems from a recent incident at the White House, in which President Obama swatted a fly during an interview with CNBC. Commentators quickly likened Mr Obama's actions to that of the fictional Mr Miyagi, able to catch a fly in flight with only a pair of chopsticks. Evidently, several Republican operatives were eager to exploit the incident and solicit a condemnation from Morita, who in fact died in 2005. However, a lack of research led GOP staffers to distribute contact details for Robert Ito, famous for playing Sam Fujiyama in the 1970 series "Quincy M.E.", instead.
An email circulated by the GOP and forwarded to Newsifact reads: "If we can get this Miyagi guy to call Obama a clown, we might be able to dent the president and help stop the government takeover of healthcare...we need to contact him and get him on our side, even though he is gay." Curiously, the final part of that sentence appears not to refer to either Ito or Morita, but in fact to fellow Japanese-American actor George Takei, famous for his role as Sulu in Star Trek, who is openly gay.
"Suddenly, my phone started ringing all the time," said Ito in a recent interview, "First it was young Republican staffers, but eventually it was people like congressional representatives John Boehner and Eric Cantor. All of them were begging me to dismiss President Obama - to call him a fraud and his actions - quote - 'totally uncool'. I didn't know what they were talking about until Newt Gingrich called and told me bluntly 'Listen, we know you are Miyagi - you could really help us to take this guy down a little. You and I both know that the presiden't killing of a fly was wrong. So let's try to keep this civil and figure out how you can help us.'"
Ito said that he was both appalled and angered, by what he viewed as not only poor research by the GOP, but also "bullying, intimidation and willful racist ignorance". Ito soon filed a formal legal complaint, resulting in a printed apology on the GOP website and also a swift apology from GOP chairman Michael Steele. "Look man, we messed up on this one," said Steele "But we really were trying to do a good thing."
Posted by Footstep at 6:52 AM