Thursday, May 17, 2001
New York A David Letterman joke about beauty pageant contestant Miss Colombia has sparked an ugly international incident ï¿½ prompting a rare apology from the TV funnyman.
The controversy started Friday on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman" during a bit about the Miss Universe Pageant.
"You know what has really gotten impressive," Letterman told his studio audience and millions watching at home. "The talent competition. For example, Miss Colombia, she swallowed 50 balloons full of heroin."
But Miss Colombia Andrea Noceti wasn't amused by the drug-smuggling reference. "I'm totally outraged," she said in a TV interview that aired Tuesday in Colombia. "I don't know why we have this stereotype."
Colombia Consul General Mauricio Suarez responded with a letter to CBS saying Letterman's attempt at humor "hurt the feelings of our entire community."
In a joint statement, Letterman and CBS officials offered a mea culpa Tuesday.
"We apologize for the joke referencing Miss Colombia on our Friday, May 11, show," the joint statement said. "There was no intent to offend her or the people of Colombia."
But all was not forgiven.
Officials of the National Hispanic Media Coalition want to discuss the issue with CBS brass, and Suarez was still fuming Tuesday.
"Maybe it is difficult for Americans to understand why we take this so seriously," he said. "But I want to convey to them that to us it is very painful."
Noceti, though, might end up getting the last laugh. She's booked to appear on Letterman's show today.