'Mike and Molly' Indian joke angers tribes

March 5, 2013 at 4:24 PM   |   Comments

March 5 (UPI) -- A disparaging joke from an episode of the CBS sitcom "Mike and Molly" has offended American Indian tribes in Arizona, prompting calls for an apology from the network.

The joke had Rondi Reed, playing mom Peggy to the titular Mike, refuting the idea of moving to the Copper State:

“Arizona? Why would I move to Arizona? It’s nothing but a furnace full of drunk Indians!"

Representatives from Indian groups reacted angrily to the scene, which aired during the episode "Molly's New Shoes" on February 25.

"You can see somebody who is drunk and tripping over themselves and it’s easy to make fun of them,” said Erny Zah, a spokesman for the Navajo Nation, which has territories in Arizona. “It’s offensive, it’s derogatory, it’s deplorable."

"Ignorance is one thing, but this must have passed through a lot of eyes before it appeared on a network show," he added. "Alcoholism is a real issue on our reservations and it’s not funny.”

Zah told ABC News neither the network nor Warner Bros., which produces "Mike and Molly", have been in touch.

Though an apology would be appropriate, he noted, "it can’t fix the damage done."

The Native American Journalists Association released a statement condemning the line:

Why a highly entertaining show like ‘Mike & Molly’ would need to resort to humor at the expense of the first peoples of Arizona, is inexplicable. This comment shows blatant disregard for the original inhabitants of this land and perpetuates antiquated stereotypes of Native Americans. “We further urge screenwriters unfamiliar with Native people to contact NAJA with any questions regarding coverage of Native American and indigenous people.

A 2008 report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said a startling 12 percent of deaths in the American Indian and Alaska Native communities are alcohol-related. And a study out of Indiana University's School of Medicine pointed to genetic variables that may lead Indian populations to a propensity for alcoholism.

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