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Canada calls Conan O'Brien show ‘racist’

A Triumph routine suggested that Quebec citizens are gay
/ Source: Reuters

Canada’s government  Friday condemned a show by U.S. late-night television host Conan O’Brien that insulted people in French-speaking Quebec and seemed to suggest everyone in the province was homosexual.

Ottawa and the province of Ontario paid C$1 million ($760,000) to help O’Brien — who appears on the NBC television network — bring his show to Toronto for a week to boost the city’s profile after a deadly SARS outbreak last year.

But the federal government said O’Brien had gone far too far with the show broadcast Thursday in which he went to Quebec, a province which has had separatist governments for much of the last 20 years and is a delicate political topic in Canada.

“We want to disassociate ourselves from the comments which were broadcast last night because we do not support them in any way,” junior government minister Mauril Belanger told Parliament.

At one point in the show, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog — a hand puppet that is a regular on the show — said to a Quebecer: “You’re French, you’re obnoxious and you no speekay English.” It told another: “I can smell your crotch from here”.

O’Brien’s team were also shown replacing street signs in the province with those that read “Quebecqueer Street” and “Rue des Pussies”.

Government wants its subsidy backAlexa McDonough, a legislator for the left-leaning New Democrats, described the program as “racist filth” and “utterly vile” and demanded the government seek the return of the C$1 million subsidy.

“There may be those who would say, ‘Isn’t this interfering with freedom of expression?’ It’s not interfering to say we will not publicly fund this kind of vile, vicious hatemongering,” McDonough told reporters.

Belanger did not commit to asking for the money back. No one at NBC was immediately available for comment.

The complaints over the puppet’s comments come on the heels of a similar uproar following criticism of European French-Canadian hockey players on CBC television by the country’s best-known sports commentator, Don Cherry.

The “Late Night” show, which taped in Toronto all this week and featured guests such as Jim Carrey and Mike Myers, was broadcast in Canada by CHUM television, which said it regretted any offense that may have been caused.

“We offer our apology and assurance that it is never our intention to air programming that offends any of our viewers,” the station said in a statement.

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has landed in trouble before, most famously when it had an altercation with rap singer Eminem at a music awards show in 2002.